Windhoek in landmark ILO move

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Windhoek - Namibia this week became the first country in Africa and only the third in the world to ratify the International Labour (ILO) Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment of 2019, a year after it was adopted by the International Labour Conference.

The only other countries to have ratified the convention before Namibia are Uruguay and Fiji.

Namibia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Penda Naanda, presented the instruments of ratification to ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, at a virtual ceremony this week.

Convention 190 is the first international treaty to address violence and harassment in the world of work, providing a common framework for action on promoting work-based and respect. It also includes the first international definition of violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence.

The convention requires ratifying member states to adopt - in consultation with employers’ and workers’ representatives - an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach to preventing and eliminating violence and harassment, through prevention, protection and enforcement measures and remedies, as well as guidance, training and awareness-raising.

Ambassador Naanda said, “The adoption of Convention No 190 has introduced an important overall framework within which Namibia can address deep-seeded social problems that have a unique impact on the world of work. For many years, our country has been grappling with the problem of sexual and gender-based violence and harassment.

“The legacy of apartheid in the form of racist violence and harassment is unfortunately still alive, particularly in the world of work, and bullying and various forms of behaviours that inflict physical, emotional, and/or economic harm persist.”

The diplomat also said: “At present, plans are underway to embark upon a programme of awareness-raising and the training of change agents, to commence in early 2021, while at the same time, draft legislation and regulations are being prepared to effectuate the right to a world of work free from violence and harassment and to establish a related occupational safety and health regime.”

Ambassador Naanda said there were approximately 50,000 domestic workers in Namibia, constituting seven percent of employees, of whom more than two-thirds were female. He said despite their importance, domestic workers generally fell within the ranks of the lowest paid workers.

“Namibia’s first post-independence labour law, the Labour Act, 1992, covered all employees, including domestic workers and farm workers, and afforded fundamental labour rights and protections, including a range of mandatory minimum basic conditions of employment.

“Namibia is proud to have participated actively in the two-year debate at the International Labour Conference that resulted in the adoption of Convention 189 in 2011. Thereafter, at home, a tripartite decision was made to support the process of introducing a minimum wage and supplementary minimum conditions of employment for domestic workers through the appointment of a tripartite Wages Commission as part of Namibia’s path to ratifying the Domestic Workers Convention,” he said.

ILO Director-General Ryder hailed Namibia for its bold step.

“The framework provided by Convention No 190 is, more than ever, of utmost importance during the current COVID-19 pandemic, since many forms of work-related violence and harassment have been reported across countries since the outbreak began,” Mr Ryder said.

He went on: “Convention No 190 has a crucial role in shaping a human-centered response and recovery that tackles injustice and supports the building of a better normal, free from violence and harassment. He noted that this ratification confirms the Government of Namibia political will and support towards the creation of a world of work free from violence and harassment, based on dignity and respect for all."

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