It’s time to practice what we preach on equality

Can Europe be social if it still tolerates any form of violence or discrimination? Clearly not! That’s why Social Platform is taking measures to plant some seeds for change. When challenges are big and remedies varied, one concrete step forward is to start looking at one’s own practices and get the ball rolling.

Recent events have put the spotlight on cases of sexual harassment in the European Parliament. While the fight against violence is the daily battle of thousands of people around the world, in most cases it remains invisible and unreported. It gets traction when reaching the media, as demonstrated by the Weinstein case or reactions to recent articles published by The Times and Politico. This contributes to giving momentum to campaigns, such as #MeToo, based on testimonies from women all over the world. As violence and all forms of discrimination need to be known to be tackled, we support all actions encouraging victims to speak up. But that’s not enough.

What about us, as employers? Aiming for zero tolerance of violence, sexual and other forms of harassment should be the minimum requirement on all of us. For this, there are legislative frameworks and as far as employment is concerned the Belgian law on sexual harassment is part of wider legislation on well-being at work.

So no, it’s not just about the victims, but those responsible for protecting them. And no, it’s not limited to sexual harassment, which is the tip of the iceberg: it’s about well-being and relationships between people; it’s about how inclusive we want to be; it’s about building societies based on diversity and equality.

As managers of NGO networks within the social sector we should aspire to lead by example. And many of us do, as demonstrated by the very high attendance of our first workshop on ‘Equality in Practice’. As we work with people who face discrimination, violence and exclusion, we – if anyone – know how important it is to create an inclusive society as a whole, starting with our own workplaces and spreading the word throughout our constituencies, at European, national and local levels.

Together, we have decided to build forces towards more accessible and inclusive workplaces, where all employees can find their place and thrive: regardless of disability, ethnicity and religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, and socioeconomic background. As it is certainly easier to say than to do, we will develop a community of practices to share and learn from each other.

While continuing standing against the culture of silence and advocating for inclusive societies where everybody lives and works in a safe environment, we also want to lead by example. Any other employers ready to join?

Best wishes,

Kélig Puyet, Director of Social Platform