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Women leaders in South Asia learn to address gender-based violence in workplaces

Posted: 6 September 2022

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, APO, Inclusion,

Australia Awards works with local and international organisations to provide Australian Professional Opportunities (APOs) to participants from South Asia and Mongolia. APOs are learning and development activities funded by the Australian Government to support leaders from priority sectors with additional learning and networking opportunities.

Australia Awards recently supported female professionals from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka to participate in a regional APO on ‘Gender Equality and Respect in the Workplace’. This APO built the participants’ knowledge and capabilities regarding primary prevention initiatives to counter gender-based violence in workplaces.

The virtual program took place between 9 May and 15 June 2022 in the form of a webinar series. The course was delivered by Equalis, an Australian agency that works on intersectional gender equality and inclusion. Trainers Dr Anuradha Mundkur and Ruth Lancaster mainly explored with the participants how organisations can play a crucial role in the primary prevention of gender-based violence. The participants were human resources and diversity & inclusion staff working in government departments or non-governmental organisations, or as independent consultants.

The course covered different gender audit tools that can be used to audit policies and practices and to plan for organisational change in support of gender equality. It also provided an opportunity for the participants to establish a network among themselves and facilitate peer learning. One of the key components of the APO was a group mentoring session, delivered by two mentors, Jason Rostant and Stephanie Walters, who created a safe space for the participants to explore in more depth the gender audit tools they had been allocated.

Guest speakers were also invited to deliver sessions on various topics related to gender equality and prevention of gender-based violence. These guest speakers were Troy Roderick (from Champions of Change), Vanessa Patterson (from Workplace Gender Equality Agency), Professor Michelle Tuckey and Alice Rose (both from the University of South Australia), and Tim Fawcett (from Cisco Systems).

The final symposium offered participants the opportunity to share their learnings via a presentation of their gender audit tool and the context of how it could be used in their home countries. The participants were confident that they will use the insights from this course to make organisational changes in their workplaces to support gender equality.

One of the participants said, “I will do a gender audit to assess the existing policy and governing structure to promote a gender-equitable work environment in my organisation. Based on the audit, I will make recommendations to share with high-level management to develop or revise the policies to push for a gender-equitable work environment. I will also develop an action plan and conduct awareness on this subject.”

Another participant said, “In monthly staff meetings, I will share my learning from this course. I will also share my knowledge with peers and senior-level executives and try to use these tools with project partner organisations. I have already started to share my learnings with my family members, friends and neighbours.”

Speaking about how the course has helped the attendees, another participant said, “From this course, I have learnt about global best practices on gender equality and respect in the workplace that directly impact my professional development, professional knowledge, skills and understanding. [The APO also] helped me to build a new network with different professionals and Australia Awards.”

Course participants from Nepal meet with Ms Kavitha Kasynathan, Head of Development at the Australian Embassy in Nepal.

Last month, the participants from Nepal had the opportunity to meet virtually and share their course experience with Ms Kavitha Kasynathan, Head of Development at the Australian Embassy in Nepal. The participants discussed how they would use their learnings to take leadership roles in gender equality and respect in their own workplaces and networks. Ms Kasynathan congratulated the participants on their achievements and for taking the opportunity for skill development and encouraged them to keep in contact with Australia Awards – Nepal.

Australia Awards will continue to use APOs to broker, build and strengthen partnerships between Australian organisations and their counterparts in South Asia and Mongolia to demonstrate Australian expertise in key sectors.

*Participants feedback was collected through an anonymous survey

Image at top: Australia Awards alumna from Sri Lanka Anusha Nishanthi