By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU- Last week saw the unveiling of a new project aimed at eradicating gender-based violence (GBV) and harassment in the workplace.

This initiative seeks to create safer, more equitable work environments by addressing and eliminating harmful behaviors and practices.

‘Supporting Safe and Inclusive of Work Environments in Lesotho’ is a four year project that is nationwide based and it will  be implemented by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The $3 million, about M53 million project is funded by the United States (U.S.) Department of Labor.

The Project Manager Ida Tsitsi Chimedza said the project’s three Focal areas are Occupational Safety and Health, gender based violence and harassment (GBVH) as well as countering discrimination.

Chimedza mentioned that the project’s stakeholders include the public sector, private sector, informal economy, civil society, urban and rural areas.

Regarding the project’s outcome, she said it is the strengthened capacity of relevant government institutions to monitor and enforce compliance with the international labour standards related to occupational health and safety, anti-discrimination, and countering GBVH in the world of work.

The project’s comprehensive approach includes education, policy reform, and support systems designed to protect employees and promote respect and dignity in the workplace as well as equality.

For his part, the Minister of Employment and Labour Hon Tšeliso Mokhosi praised the project and pledged the government’s commitment towards its implementation.

He said there is already a necessary legal framework that will ensure its smooth roll-out.

Speaking on behalf of the trade unions, Teboho Tolo said by joining forces positive outcomes of the project can be maximized.

He said the benefits of this project would have an impact on the country’s economy.

“We are committed to cooperate. We will bring to the table the voices and concerns of the workers,” he said.

As trade unions, Tolo said they will advocate for policies that enhance the workers’ livelihoods.

He said they are encouraged by the involvement of the Minister of Employment and Labour in this project.

Advocate Lindiwe Sephomolo King’s Counsel (KC) the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Association of Lesotho Employers and Businesses noted that the project is important as it attempts to enhance stakeholders’ collaboration through the implementation of policies, procedures and services to promote Occupational Safety and Health Act and counter discrimination and GBVH.

“We should institutionalize this collaboration and ensure that it lives beyond the life of the project,” she made a call to action adding that the project is going to equip the trade unions and employers organisations with tools necessary for promotion of a safe working environment.

She continued: “Workers, including through their representatives also have an important role to play in ensuring safe workplace practices and cooperation between workers and management is essential. Workers and their representatives should be provided adequate information on safety measures to be taken and given appropriate training.”

Advocate Sephomolo KC quoted statistics that everyday at least 6 300 people die as a result of occupational accidents or work related diseases in the world and this translates to more than 2.3 million deaths annually. She further mentioned that 317 million accidents occur in the workplace annually necessitating extended absence from work.

U.S. Embassy’s Political and Economic Chief, Jullion Cooper remarked that the project should not only be launched but must also fulfill its intended objectives and purpose.

This project is expected to improve labor standards and eradicate gender-based violence (GBV) and harassment in the workplace.

The unions representing both workers and employers have pledged their full support for this project and committed to upholding its objectives.

The United Nations (UN) Lesotho Resident Coordinator Amanda Khozi Mukwashi said “ensuring safety and health at work directly impacts women’s rights, including freedom from violence and their access to justice and economic participation”.