Nigerian Activists Mobilize to End Gender-Based Violence at Work

Nigerian Activists Mobilize to End Gender-Based Violence at Work

Solidarity Center
Solidarity Center
Nigerian Activists Mobilize to End Gender-Based Violence at Work


After a coalition of unions and human rights organizations successfully campaigned for Nigeria’s government to ratify a global treaty on violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH), they knew that was just a first step toward ensuring violence-free workplaces in the country.

Now, the hard work begins to implement the protections in International Labor Organization Convention 190, (C190), speakers said during a panel sponsored by the International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) Network.

Addressing Gender-Based Violence and Harassment in the World of Work ILAW publication cover, April 2023“The campaign does not stop at ratification. It must grow at the grassroots level, at the [factory] floor level, at the [union] branch level,” said Rita Goyit, head of the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) Department of Women and Youth and secretary of the NLC’s National Women Commission. “The struggle continues.”

Goyit was among speakers at a June 21 event launching a new ILAW Network report that analyzes the current legal framework regarding violence and harassment at work, particularly GBVH, and the status of international treaty obligations in Nigerian law. The report identifies key areas of reform to bring Nigerian laws and policies in line with C190 provisions and how legal practitioners can utilize existing law to seek justice for survivors of GBVH and other abuses at work.      

The report, Addressing Gender-Based Violence and Harassment in the World of Work: An Analysis of Nigeria’s Legal Framework for Conformity with ILO Convention 190, was authored by Chioma Kanu Agomo, a preeminent legal scholar and the foundation Dean of the National Universities Commission (NUC).

It finds that “the government should work with trade unions, women’s right organizations and other human rights organizations to create safe, gender-responsive, effective complaints procedures, including measures to address barriers to reporting. There is a critical need for strong mechanisms to protect workers who report violence and harassment from retaliation.”

Speaking on the panel, Agomo advocated holistic legislation “that mainstreams health and welfare issues, safety issues, to include issues arising from gender-based violence and harassment.” She noted that C190, which the ILO adopted four years ago last week, is broad enough to ensure that all workers achieve violence-free workplaces, including while commuting to work and at related events. The convention covers workers in the formal as well as informal economies. Thirty-one countries have ratified C190, with the Nigerian government ratifying it in November.

Mobilizing Workers, Union Members to End GBVH

Even before Nigeria ratified C190, union leaders, together with the Solidarity Center, began training workers at the sprawling Mile 12 market in Lagos, seeking to put into practice C190’s extensive provisions on preventing and GBVH in the world of work.

Union leaders trained 25 vendors to form and lead a task force on GBVH in the market. The task force developed a code of conduct to prohibit GBVH and create a mechanism for reporting cases. They distributed information leaflets and helped raise awareness among vendors about their rights to a violence-free workplace. This resulted in the identification of multiple cases of rape and sexual assault against minors, who often assist their parents in the market. Five people have been arrested and now are awaiting trial for allegedly violating the rights of children between 9 and 14 years old, said Agnes Funmi Sessi, NLC Lagos State Council chairperson.     

“People are now being able to know their rights, there are mechanisms to report GBVH and there are people trained in the market for emergency response,” she said. The effort is now expanding to another large market in the area.

The NLC also is reaching out to unions to ensure their constitutions and collective bargaining agreements adequately address sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence at work and are training gender officers to educate union members on their rights to violence-free workplaces.

The campaign urging the government to ratify C190 involved a broad, union-led coalition, said Afusatu Shaibu, national chairperson, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) Women Commission. Among those organizations is the Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative. Women workers with disabilities face multiple hurdles when confronted with GBVH at work, said Patience Ogolo-Dickson, the organization’s executive director.

“It’s very difficult for a person with a disability to get a job, and when you are faced with speaking out, you fear losing your job and think it’s better to keep silent. Many don’t know about the need to access to justice and need to be educated on C190.”

The online panel was moderated by Jacquline Wambui Wamai, ILAW Network regional coordinator for sub-Saharan Africa, and a recording will be available in coming days.



Solidarity Center
Solidarity Center


Only a worker rights-based approach can ensure that Europe’s growing numbers of teleworkers can fully exercise their fundamental labor rights—including to decent work, which includes safe working conditions—said International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network (ILAW) members Mihail Cebotari, Inna Kudinska, George Sandul and ILAW Europe and Central Asia Regional Coordinator Tamar Gabisonia during the launch of three new ILAW telework reports last week.

The webinar, centered on three new ILAW reports, surveyed the regulatory environment impacting teleworkers in MoldovaPoland and Ukraine.  Poorly regulated telework tends to shifts financial and labor rights risks onto workers, who can experience longer work hours and burnout, unsafe working conditions, and constant employer surveillance. Isolation, meanwhile, can increase workers’ vulnerability to exploitation, discrimination, harassment and other abuse, including domestic violence. And, say unions, without proactive measures teleworkers will likely have fewer opportunities to participate in union activities and develop the sense of solidarity that builds and supports collective power. 

“ILAW’s research findings allow all of us the opportunity to pursue better protection of teleworkers in our own countries and, through our participation in the network, to work on similar issues collectively,” says Georgian Trade Unions Confederation (GTUC) Deputy Chairman and founding ILAW Board member Raisa Liparteliani.

“Telework is not a separate form of employment relations and, therefore, all workers should enjoy all labor rights equally.”

Due to the COVID-19  pandemic—and, in Europe, the war in Ukraine—the share of the employed population working from home has increased exponentially. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that approximately one in six jobs at the global level, and just over one in four jobs in advanced countries, could be done at home, including telework. By the end of 2022, an estimated 31 percent of all workers worldwide were to be fully remote or hybrid.

Report recommendations include:

  • In Moldova, to bring national regulations on remote work into line with the European Union Framework Agreement on Telework, ensure that telework is voluntary and reversible, and that teleworkers be adequately protected by effectively enforced health and safety regulations.
  • In Poland, to prevent the misuse of civil law contracts to deny teleworkers their rights under law, adopt clearer health and safety protections that balance the employer obligation to ensure worker safety with the privacy rights of workers, adopt provisions to address overtime work and ensure the right to disconnect, and institute mechanisms to tackle the systemic discrimination, violence and harassment often directed at remote workers.
  • In Ukraine, to implement and enforce regulations in conformity with the best European and world legislative practices on telework and remote work—including fully incorporating the principle of voluntariness in remote and home-based work, adequately addressing discrimination and health and safety risks, and protecting workers’ right to privacy.

The new reports are part of an ongoing ILAW research series on telework and worker rights, which includes a regional report on telework in the Americas, along with ten national reports on Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Uruguay, released in 2022. Research on telework in Mauritius and South Africa is forthcoming this year. The ILAW Network’s Future of Labor Law Wiki also contains model legislative language and analysis of how to regulate telework.

The Solidarity Center’s ILAW Network is a forum for labor and employment law practitioners who grapple with the legal and practical issues that directly affect workers and their organizations.

[The Guardian] Courts Close in on Gig Economy Firms Globally as Workers Seek Rights

“Jeff Vogt, at the Washington, D.C.-based Solidarity Center worker rights group, said there was a clear trend toward recognizing improved rights and employment status for those working for gig economy companies dealing with food delivery and taxi hire. “These companies have gone to great lengths to insulate themselves from responsibility and have put an extraordinary burden on workers to claim their basic rights at work. Governments must step in now and enact legislation that protects the rights of all workers providing labor to a digital platform company,'”

Report: Legal Strategies Deny Gig Worker Rights

Report: Legal Strategies Deny Gig Worker Rights

Gig economy companies employ multiple strategies that undermine gig worker rights around the world, according to a new issue brief by the International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) Network, a project of the Solidarity Center.

Taken for a Ride: Litigating the Digital Platform Model,” released today, analyzes how companies such as Deliveroo, Foodora and Uber deprive couriers and drivers of their basic employment rights globally.

“The collection of cases analyzed in this report reveals the extraordinary extent to which these companies are embroiled in litigation around the world,” write co-authors Nicola Countouris, labor law professor at University College London (UCL) and research department director for the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), and Jason Moyer-Lee, a fellow at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.

The brief details a string of losses for gig economy companies, including before the highest courts of France, Spain and the United Kingdom, and in lower tribunals from South Korea to Uruguay. Such worker victories have come at great cost and, due to weak enforcement regimes, gig economy companies often do not extend rights even after losing cases, concludes the report.

In countries where companies have seen more success—such as South Africa and the United States—the analysis shows how gig economy employers have deployed multiple tactics to pull off the victories, such as forcing workers into arbitration, making them sign complex and convoluted contracts, or relying on an international corporate structure.

The brief recommends gig workers pursue strategic litigation, complemented by collective action, campaigning and communications strategies targeted at local lawmakers, with a special focus on enforcement. And governments, the brief states, “must proactively and rigorously enforce the law,” while applying penalties stiff enough to dissuade unlawful behavior.

“These companies have gone to great lengths to insulate themselves from responsibility and have put an extraordinary burden on workers to claim their basic rights at work. Governments must step in now and enact legislation that protects the rights of all workers providing labor to a digital platform company,” says Solidarity Center Rule of Law Department Director and ILAW Network co-founder, Jeffrey Vogt.

The report was made possible with funding from the Ford Foundation.

New Legal Journal Shares Strategies for Labor Justice

New Legal Journal Shares Strategies for Labor Justice

Labor lawyers and other worker rights advocates from around the world took part in the launch of a new law journal dedicated to advancing justice for workers.

The Global Labour Rights Reporter, a project of the Solidarity Center’s International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) Network, intends to be a global forum for labor and employment law practitioners, who also will grapple with the legal and practical issues that directly affect workers and their organizations.

International Lawyers Assisting Workers, ILAW, Paapa Danquah legal officer ITUC., LAW Journal launch, Solidarity Center

The journal “gives us the language to fight our battles, it gives us the language to discuss our struggles”—Paapa Danquah

Authors who contributed to the first issue, with its theme, “access to justice,” yesterday shared their contributions to the journal, which includes 10 articles and is available online in English, French and Spanish.

“The labor movement is about expanding justice for all workers,” Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau said in opening remarks. “The network is the first effort to bridge and build a pro-labor network of lawyers that has labor justice at its heart.”

The journal “gives us the language to fight our battles, it gives us the language to discuss our struggles,” said Paapa Danquah, legal officer for the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

The Solidarity Center launched the ILAW Network in December 2018 as a global hub for worker rights lawyers to exchange ideas and develop strategies to best represent the rights and interests of workers and their organizations. Since then, more than 600 hundred individuals and organizations from more than 70 countries have joined.

Justice Delayed, Justice Denied

International Lawyers Assisting Workers, ILAW.Matías Cremonte regional vice-president of the Latin American Association of Labor Lawyers, Global Labour Rights Reporter launch, Solidarity Center

Ensuring reparations are efficient and timely is key to achieving worker justice, says Matías Cremonte. Credit: Solidarity Center

Several participants discussed workers’ lack of access to courts and the legal process as a major block for workers attaining justice.

For instance, it took 22 years to get a judgment in the case of a manufacturing plant in Brazil, where 60 workers were killed, 59 of them women, said Matías Cremonte, regional vice-president of the Latin American Association of Labor Lawyers.

“When it came time to enforce the decision, it couldn’t be done because the conditions don’t exist anymore,” he said. “Unjustified backlogs and delays by the government led to very profound damage.” Ensuring reparations are efficient and timely is key to achieving worker justice, he said.

Cremonte and María Paula Loranzo co-authored “The Right to Fair and Satisfactory Working Conditions: Risk Prevention and Access to Justice,” which explores workers’ access to compensation for occupational safety and health violations in Argentina, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Lawyers Assisting Workers, Georgia, Raisa Liparterliani deputy chairperson Georgian Trade Union Confederation, ILAW journal event, Solidarity Center

Raisa Liparterliani shared how unions in Georgia succeeded in restoring many worker rights that were eliminated. Credit: Solidarity Center

In addition to the institutional and practical challenges the judiciary faces, “it is not uncommon that employers will maintain a blacklist of the so called unwanted and dangerous—those who have applied to court to defend their rights,” Raisa Liparterliani, deputy chairperson of the Georgian Trade Union Confederation, wrote in the journal.

Speaking today, Liparteliani also documented concrete measures to address worker rights, sharing how unions succeeded in restoring many worker rights that were eliminated during 2005 reforms.

Discussing his article on Zimbabwean court practices, scholar Munyaradzi Gwisai said limited access to courts has denied workers a cornerstone of labor justice. “You can have rights in the constitution and labor rights, but they can be frustrated by the judiciary.”

Holding Global Supply Chains Accountable

By bringing together labor lawyers and worker rights activists, the Global Labour Rights Reporter seeks to share new strategies for ensuring worker justice, and Avery Kelly at the Corporate Accountability Lab described one such effort to enforce the legal rights of garment workers and others in the corporate supply chain.

The program, which sought to address the lack of enforcement in supplier codes of conduct, involved 14 U.S. companies, including major apparel brands, signing contracts giving supply chain workers legal rights to enforce the supplier codes of conduct. Kelly and her co-authors documented the case study in their journal article.

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