I’d see women of all ages going to work around me. I felt proud that women can now fearlessly work, fend for themselves and be what they wish to be. I’d often read about workplace harassment on the internet and the newspaper. It saddened me but I felt that’s just a small section that has to face the horror of workplace harassment. I was happy. I was proud.
In the past 6 months, I looked up for opportunities to work for welfare of the world. Few months back I joined an international level organisation as an intern. We were all asked to join a Telegram group and as I joined the group, all that pride about women being able to work freely and fearlessly got washed away. There came a storm of messages asking me if I’m single, calling me, video calling me. I complained about them to the organisation authorities but I never got a reply. Now honestly, I respect the person who asked me if I’m single because instead of forcing me to connect with them via calls and video calls, they at least cared about my opinion. That’s the bare minimum.
Then there was a 32 year old asking me if I was married. Again, bare minimum, I respect that he at least cared about my opinion when I said I’m not interested. That day I realised that workplace harassment hasn’t gone away. Some would say harassment is too big a word. Yes, maybe. But think about the women or men (because workplace harassment doesn’t have a gender limitation) who go to office everyday even though they know that they’ll be made to feel uncomfortable, forced to interact at times and much more which we do not see coming. So the only change that has taken place is the survivors talking about it or answering back. Some silently go through the discomfort.
Okay yeah I believe that maybe it happened because I got in between the *wrong people*. Let’s take another incident. I got featured on a recognised page for my work regarding mental health advocacy. There were people in the comments section asking *what does she want to show* or *she is beautiful but I’m not desperate *. Some even commented things that were derogatory. Now was I amidst the wrong people again for the second time, that too on a recognised international platform? You got your answer.
These *wrong people* are everywhere. It’s time we speak up against them. An actor/actress posting a picture, an HR attending a meeting or an 18 year old raising mental health awareness, they’re all doing their jobs. Their comment section, their meeting room, their email IDs are a part of their workplace. So when you get into that space and say, write or do things that make them uncomfortable, right there begins what we call *workplace harassment*! It can be on different levels. From a lewd comment to a creepy text to physical assaults, all count as harassment. Survivors of harassment have to question themselves that whether what happened with them was worth being talked about or was it just a coincident. Yes I agree, it could be any of those but IT IS IMPORTANT to talk about it. People tend to talk about misbehaviour when it starts to haunt them day in and day out. If we talk about it, right where we see it begin, the problem can be reduced I believe.
I don’t blame parents for being protective about their kids working or staying out of home. That’s solely due to the kind of people who make all places including workplace unsafe and uncomfortable and hence, blocking the way to giving our best in terms of work. I don’t want young boys and girls who get into internships or fellowships to want to never participate in another event due to the discomfort and insecurity they experienced in the first ever event of their life. We don’t realise but such incidents bar so many young men and women from working for what they support, innovating and doing so many things!
There’s a NEED for a safer space for all to work and to live. We are instilled with the fear of harassment which leads to at times misinterpretation of the other person’s intentions. Talking comfortably and fearlessly about what made you feel uncomfortable is the first step towards a better workplace experience for all.