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A workshop trainer getting a point across

Commonwealth prepares Tongan civil servants to prevent workplace harassment

11 July 2019

A Commonwealth workshop has trained a group of Tongan civil servants on gender and development, and introduced the prevention of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

The Commonwealth hosted the two-day workshop in Nuku’alofa in collaboration with Tonga’s Public Service Commission, in line with the government’s 2019 national policy on gender and development.

Discussions focused on gender mainstreaming, an approach that considers the effects of any planned policy, programme or legislation on both women and men.

The workshop stressed the importance of placing gender issues at the centre of planning, decision-making, institutional structures and resource allocation in the public service.

Participants also learned about the types of workplace harassment and discrimination, ranging from physical assault to verbal abuse, bullying and intimidation. The Commonwealth’s assistance will support the development of Tonga’s forthcoming workplace policy and programme interventions to protect public servants from sexual harassment and discrimination, and create a safe place of work.

Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua, head of the Commonwealth’s gender section, said: “The Commonwealth is keen to keep the momentum of this partnership with the Public Service Commission of Tonga, as we seize this opportunity to support the country with its commitments to the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, as well as commitments to the Commonwealth Charter where gender equality is one of its key principles.”

More than 25 officials from various line ministries attended the workshop, as well as the country’s High Commissioner to the UK Titilupe Fanetupouvava’u Tu’ivakano. They discussed how to apply key concepts of gender mainstreaming to their policy areas.

The Commonwealth’s national consultant in Tonga, ‘Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki, said: “It became very evident from the start of the two-day training that there was a huge appetite for it.

“From the pre-survey we conducted, 80-90 per cent of the senior civil servant [participants] indicated that they had not previously attended a training on gender or sexual harassment.”

Participants left with a better understanding of how to:

  • develop and implement deliberate policies focused on gender issues;
  • leverage positive cultural values and religious principles to shape the social construct of men and women; and
  • gather appropriate data and undertake consultation on workplace harassment and discrimination.

The workshop is part of the Commonwealth’s partnership with Tonga’s Public Service Commission. The partnership provides a platform to work together to support the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 5 on gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls