HomePOLITICSRwakajara Unpacks Strategy to Protect Workers, Calls for denouncing of sexual harassment.

Rwakajara Unpacks Strategy to Protect Workers, Calls for denouncing of sexual harassment.

By Jimmy Twist

Kampala

Workers MP Arinaitwe Rwakajara appealed to employers and Ugandans at all levels to denounce sexual harassment practices at workplaces that in most scenarios have seen a majority of women being victims of circumstances.

Rwakajara made the call at a hotly contested political debate for both incumbents and aspirants conversing for votes for the representation of workers in the 11th Parliament.

 Sexual harassment remains one of the most traumatizing practices in workplaces in Uganda. It normally takes place when an employer or boss puts a sexual favor as a condition for the female gender to get a job or an employment opportunity in a private or public office.

However, sexual harassment occurs in different forms which include verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive environment. On the other hand, it can also be seen as a form of violence against women and as discriminatory treatment.

Speaking at a hotly contested political debate for both incumbents and their political rivals for the workers’ representation in the forthcoming 11th Parliament of Uganda, incumbent MP Arinaitwe Rwakajara singled out the need to denounce sexual harassment practices in which victims are forced to do something they don’t want to.

 “First of all sexual harassment has been a serious case. Sexual harassment at all levels we should really denounce it and fight it all us. It is sometimes done in secrecy and most people fear to come out and say about it, but I think we should intensify the sensitize, the education to young and old ladies who are being sexually abused…” said Rwakajara Arinaitwe

Despite the repeated sexual jakes, constant unwanted invitations to go on a date, unwelcome flirting of a sexual nature involved, what’s Rwakajara’s proposed solution to the problem?

“And there’s one solution, the problem with Ugandan workers sometimes they don’t listen, a member of the Union can’t be harassment and we keep quiet that one is out, even if is a man. A man cannot be sexually harassed by a boss or by a stubborn lady and he keeps quiet.” Rwakajara said.

Many of the employers in Uganda hardly want to register their employees under trade unions neither employees are aware of the benefits of being registered under a trade union. In his remarks Rwakajara says it’s important for workers to be registered under unions, he argues it’s much easier to combat sexual harassment in workplaces where the workers are registered under a union then battling the problem as an individual.

 “Let me tell you the challenge we’re having in this country and really the request I want to request all workers who’re listening they should join the union because all this is training on how to defend yourself, on how to report, all these procedures through the union we really educate them. So sexually harassment really everybody knows its legally, if your taken to court you pay heavily. So the only way to discourage it is to join the union, if you join the union and you’re a member of the union you have a chine of reporting and you can defend yourself.” Rwakajara noted

In other jurisdictions women tend to use their beauty or sexual endowment as a bargaining tool for sexual favors like jobs, whereas the haggling is between two consenting adults, Rwakajara told the congregations that it’s not sustainable. 

 “This is between two elderly people or adult people at a work place, then that means it’s an abuse of office, as long as you consent and you’re an adult then you’re doing it at a wrong place and true there those who want to use that for promotions, for what…but as long as there’s this consent of adult people then that becomes complicated to manage as a trade union member. But as long as someone is not happy and contented and come out to complain members of the union will come out and stand with you to the end.” Rwakajara revealed

However, in some communities of Uganda, women who’re commonly the victim of sexual harassment tend to keep quiet because they are bound by their cultures to be submissive to men. While in other societies any act of sex between two adults is no matter how it occurred it is perceived as a mutual consent agreement between two adults literary meaning there’s nothing like sexual harassment between adults. But at what point can one establish that line between consent and no consent between adults?

“Honestly Ugandan workers in this modern world, honestly its unfair today if a worker can be oppressed to that extent of being sexually harassed and you think its ok because of your culture its very unfortunate. I encourage everybody who’s being sexually harassed and you think your culture that your culture doesn’t allow you to say such things then you better come out and really say it.” Rwakajara said

In another development women who’re breastfeeding while at work have often gone through traumatizing moments, however, Rwakajara says employers should create breastfeeding areas or zones for their employees who’re breastfeeding other than running them through trauma.

“Breast feeding areas for breast feeding mothers, I told you in the start that am a commissioner of parliament and I request all workers and employers to come and visit parliament and see where our mothers breast feed from, first class and we put it as a model and we’re requesting all employers to come and see, yes its your money but its helping the mothers who’re working there.” Rwakajara emphasized.

Meanwhile, the other issue that came up was the Shs5 billion that the government offered to the teachers at the height of COVID-19 Pandemic through teachers SACCO called the Walimu Saccos Union, however, to date the money has never been accessed by teachers. The money in question was meant to help struggling teachers during the lockdown. Several teachers endured months of uncertainty due to the closure of schools as part of the measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. In response to the query, Rwakajara was quick to tell the congregation that all efforts are underway through engagements with the line ministry to ensure the money reaches the intended beneficiaries.

“I have already started discussing with ministry of education about teachers money and your aware that am pushing the money goes through your hands not through Micro Finance Support center, not through other areas. We think it can be of use if it goes direct to the unions that organize in private teachers.” Said Rwakajara

Meanwhile, effective representation of the people at local council levels remains another setback among the pending business of Parliament that workers representatives ought to have handled among priority issues of the house. 

However, Rwakajara says some achievements have been registered though he still needs another to dispose of what is pending on his manifesto.

 “I moved an amendment in Local Government Act, today we have councilors representing workers, the next mission and what is in my manifesto is to move an amendment to have councilors at municipality, divisions, sub county like other interest groups.” Said Rwakajara

Unlike Kenya and Tanzania were the plights of workers has been adequately scattered for, Uganda still lugs behind with no minimum wage policy in place, but Rwakajara holds the belief that the minimum wage policy issue in Uganda that is shredded into vested politics can be handled with the federation of East Africa.

“Brothers and sisters, workers of this country if we’re to be liberated as Africans as black people we must unit and therefore will use my office as a trade unionist to reach other trade unionists in East Africa to first track East African Federation that is very important no matter what we do here if we’re not federated we shall always have challenges with our bosses who normally monitor us.” Rwakajara said

While the suffering of Ugandan casual laborers in the Arab world is still a matter of concern, efforts to have the sector that handles the externalization of Uganda’s labor have registered some success however, what’s remains a challenge at the tail end of the process is the absence of the law to operationalize the entire process, which Rwakajara says is top on agenda.

“I was a vice chair of the committee of gender and social development, I led a team to Iraq following Ugandan girls, we did our work we changed everything, we said companies exporting our labour should be registered, we have now regulations but we don’t have a law and that’s why am on leave in parliament it’s on record am bringing externalization of labour Bill any time we resume parliament,” said Rwakajara

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