In Honduras, training helps to end violence in the workplace

A woman in apron spreads chocolate with spatula
Fernanda García is the owner of Chocolateria Ixchell. She was one of the first participants in anti-violence training developed by the Women’s and Family Development Unit (UDIMUF).
July 5, 2023

LA CEIBA, Honduras - "As a grassroots organization, this project has left us feeling uplifted and that is a great achievement," says Vanessa Silliezar, Director of the Women’s and Family Development Unit (UDIMUF). UDIMUF is a non-governmental, feminist, non-profit women's organization that works with and for women, the LGTBI community and youth.

She is speaking of the ‘Women entrepreneurs without violence’ programme which was supported by Spotlight Initiative and led by UDIMUF to collect data on women experiencing violence in the workplace, support them to advocate for their rights at work, and educate employers about the negative impacts of gender-based violence.

"We have learned that when there is a problem, we need to get together - employees and the company – and find a resolution.” - Alicia Herrera, Business Owner

"[The business sector] is always the most difficult sector to enter, because they think that we are going to speak negatively about employers," said lawyer and project coordinator Gabriela Figueroa.

Ms. Figueroa adds that "the first step was to explain to the companies that women are more productive at work if they do not suffer domestic violence.” This serves as a starting point for a conversation around women's rights and entitlements more broadly.

Alicia Herrera, a participant in the mentoring programming, said that as a business owner she learned to identify when her employees were suffering some kind of violence in their homes and how to support them: "I had an employee who would tell me what she was going through [at home], and I was able to refer her to UDIMUF".

"As a businesswoman, we look at how productive an employee can be, but we don't go into what he or she is thinking. Now, we have learned that when there is a problem, we need to get together - employees and the company itself – until we find a resolution,” concludes Ms. Herrera.

"Women now know that they can file complaints and what the procedure is.” - Vanessa Silliezar, Director, Women’s and Family Development Unit

Ms. Silliezar adds that violence and disempowerment has often been so normalized, many women simply do not see it.

“They don't see it as violence, the fact that they are not allowed to breastfeed their children [at work] or that the companies themselves do not have a health care plan,” she says.

The programme also targeted male business owners. "The common denominator of owners and entrepreneurs is that they are [often] men and so we have to keep insisting that they question their privilege and that the interrogation happens within the business as well,” she says.

"There were very committed men during the mentoring process in San Pedro Sula and here in La Ceiba. Almost all of them young,” shares Ms. Silliezar.

The project concluded with the signing of an agreement between the Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Cortes (CCIC), the United Nations System in Honduras and UDIMUF that the latter would provide a collaborative mentoring process to companies affiliated to the CCIC on gender-based violence in the workplace.

This is a big win for Ms. Silliezar: “It is very difficult for civil society organizations to work with the private sector.” Additionally, women “now know that they can file complaints and what the procedure is.”

Condensed and edited from a longer story in 'Stories of Impact in Honduras'.

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