End Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work

By: Monica F. Tejada, Associate Director, Gender and Social Inclusion, Millennium Challenge Corporation, and Denise Mortimer, Policy Analyst and Gender Advisor, Power Africa.

Power Africa
Nov 27, 2018 · 5 min read

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

This year’s theme, “End Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work” is a call to action for systemic change and accountability in the workplace. This call to action is one that can not be ignored by energy sector stakeholders.

All people have the right to a workplace free of violence, this includes freedom from sexual harassment.

The data also demonstrates that the energy sector is highly male dominated — with only approximately 20% of the global workforce being women³.

The Cost of Complacency

Workplace sexual harassment can reduce productivity, teamwork, morale, loyalty and idea generation; all of which negatively impact organizational effectiveness. Sexual harassment impairs an organization’s capacity to recruit and retain qualified women into its workforce and leadership; and evidence has shown that corporations with higher percentages of women in leadership have stronger profitability⁴. Furthermore, when sexual harassment cases are made public, organizations’ reputations are tarnished in addition to the costs associated with any legal actions⁵.

Given the statistically higher likelihood of harassment in male dominated work settings, and the cost of harassment to staff and organizations alike, it is critical that the energy sector take a proactive and progressive stance on issues of workplace sexual harassment.

Read on to learn how USAID and Power Africa are supporting energy sector stakeholders in efforts to address sexual harassment and gender based violence in the workforce.

Women in Malawi stand together. Credit — USAID.

Millennium Challenge Corporation — Power Sector Reform in Malawi

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) partnered with the Government of Malawi to establish the foundation for a modern power system to catalyze economic growth. Improving the availability, reliability, and quality of the nation’s power supply required not only modern infrastructure, but also policy and institutional reforms to change how the sector works. ESCOM, Malawi’s power utility company, adopted reforms to build capacity and improve its financial viability. Among these reforms, ESCOM developed and implemented a “Social and Gender Inclusion and Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy”.

The policy seeks to make all organizational policies and practices more socially and gender inclusive; ensuring that all managers promote a culture of zero tolerance to sexual harassment and discrimination, including incorporating social and gender inclusion in recruitment processes. A Gender and Social Inclusion Unit was established to guide implementation of the policy. Trainings for the new policy, which addresses prevention of gender-based violence in the workplace, have been held for the ESCOM Board of Directors, management and more than 600 staff.

Additional events and activities include a “Social and Gender Awareness Day” and an annual event encouraging activism against gender-based violence — with more than 1,000 staff across all three regions of Malawi participating.

Gender considerations are also being mainstreamed to broadly support women in the workforce. More than 100 women on ESCOM’s professional staff have participated in coaching and mentoring, and scholarships and internships have thus far benefited 37 women engineering students and more than 1,000 female students have been engaged in STEM career discussions.

Taken together, the policy and institutional reforms are developing new opportunities for ESCOM staff now and for the next generation of women in the workforce.

USAID — Engendering Utilities

USAID’s Engendering Utilities program aims to strengthen electric utilities by identifying and implementing gender equity best practices. Among the best practices promoted by the Engendering Utilities program is the development and implementation of Anti-Sexual Harassment Policies.

With support from USAID, Eko Electricity Distribution PLC (EKEDP) instituted a “Whistle Blower” policy and process for employees to confidentially report ethics violations, including but not limited to sexual harassment. The policy establishes procedures for reporting concerns around questionable acts and behaviors by employees on a confidential and anonymous basis. The policy was rolled out via a company wide socialization campaign; working to educate all staff on the need to observe high standards of conduct. While not limited to sexual harassment, the policy created the first opportunity for discussions around issues of sexual harassment within the company and resulted in EKEDP’s subsequent drafting for a comprehensive sexual harassment policy.

A Call to Action

Actors wishing to strengthen their commitment to preventing gender-based violence or sexual harassment in the workplace can access multiple tools and resources for doing so. Begin by considering a few basic principles of a strong sexual harassment policy⁶:

  1. Make a strong statement that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.
  2. Define the behavior, providing specific examples of inappropriate conduct.
  3. Outline reporting procedures, informing employees of a clear path to redress.
  4. Provide a safe and confidential platform to encourage reporting.
  5. Explain the investigation process.
  6. Socialize the policy with all employees, including senior leadership.

Learn More

Learn more about USAID’s contributions to combating gender-based violence here, and learn about USAID’s own zero tolerance for sexual misconduct and harassment among staff and implementing partners here.

To learn more about policies for promoting women’s engagement in the energy sector workforce, visit USAID’s recently developed tool: Increasing Women’s Participation in the Power Sector through Human Resources Interventions: A Best Practices Framework

To learn more about GBV and the energy sector visit Power Africa’s blog, “Exploring the Relationship Between Energy Access and Gender Based Violence

To learn more about integrating GBV prevention into energy and infrastructure projects visit: Building a Safer World

Interns at Malawi’s utility, ESCOM. Credit — MCC.


  1. Heather McLaughlin, Christopher Uggen, and Amy Blackstone, “The Economic and Career Effects of Sexual Harassment on Working Women,” Gender and Society, vol. 31 June 2017.
  2. Victor E. Sojo, Robert E. Wood, and Anna E. Genat, “Harmful Workplace Experiences and Women’s Occupational Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis” August 27 2015.
  3. “World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index” 2017
  4. Credit Suisse Research Institute. 2012. “Gender Diversity and Corporate Performance.”
  5. A Ramsaroop, “The Prevalence and Nature of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: A Model for Early Identification and Effective Management Thereof”. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 2007.
  6. “7 Keys to a Strong Sexual Harassment Policy”, Medical Economics: March 25 2018

Power Africa

Two out of three people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. Power Africa’s goal is to add more than 30,000 megawatts of cleaner, more efficient electricity generation capacity and 60 million new home and business connections.

Power Africa

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Power Africa is a U.S. government-led partnership coordinated by USAID to double access to electricity by 2030. https://twitter.com/PowerAfricaUS

Power Africa

Two out of three people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. Power Africa’s goal is to add more than 30,000 megawatts of cleaner, more efficient electricity generation capacity and 60 million new home and business connections.

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