Ilse Henar Foundation for Women’s Rights

Organization Profile Ilse Henar Foundation for Women’s Rights
Stichting Ilse Henar-Hewitt Juridische Bijstand voor Vrouwen – Ilse Henar Foundation for Women’s Rights located in Paramaribo, Suriname.

Mission statement
Though men and women are equal before the Surinamese Law, women more often than men, have a disadvantageous position in practice. Our foundation aims at creating awareness with women, men and children about their rights and at eliminating these inequalities. In view of this, the foundation aims at improving the position and serving the interests of women and subsequently the position and interests of our entire society.

We offer our services to the community, which include legal aid and legal information to individuals, groups and organizations.  In addition, our foundation carries out scientific, legal research and lobby activities, very much in collaboration with partner organizations, in order to support the services on the one hand and to contribute to the amendment of the existing or introduction of new legislation.

• Legal advice and assistance: We offer legal assistance to the entire society, in particular to underprivileged women dealing with legal issues. They may change their situation or position, using our information, assistance and advice. Our office is open daily to the public, while legal advice is also being provided by phone. In order to increase the access to legal assistance we offer service by means of a mobile unit (vehicle) in some remote neighborhoods in Paramaribo and in the districts outside the capital. After having evaluated the pilot phase of our mobile legal assistance, we are now aimed at outreaching to more locations.

• Legal information: Through regular education on various laws, in particular those vital for a better position of women, we aim at creating awareness in the community about its rights. In this context we provide legal information through educational meetings and fairs to various target groups at various locations in and outside Paramaribo. We furthermore use mass media in order to reach a larger crowd, i.e. through newspaper publications, radio and TV productions, leaflets, brochures, etc.

• New laws, amendment of laws: Our foundation focuses specially on those laws and provisions which are prejudicial and discriminating to women. Currently, we carry out activities in the field of pension rights, sexual harassment at the workplace and the right to paid maternity leave. All activities aimed at legislative changes are based on research and studies.

Brief summary on the current status of sexual harassment at the workplace in Suriname

NGO’s in Suriname like the Foundation Stop Violence Against Women and the Ilse Henar Foundation for Women’s Rights have concentrated their activities and services on counseling and legal assistance when dealing with violence against women, especially domestic violence An NGO Coalition succeeded in the Domestic Violence Act that was accepted in 2009. Sexual harassment was not included in these actions.

Until 2005 when the Ilse Henar Foundation was approached by a national company to inform its personnel on the issue of sexual harassment and help develop options in tackling this issue. On a seminar regarding the subject in 2006, stakeholders were of the opinion that this issue should be tackled in a more structural manner and on a national level.  It was clear that sexual violence at the workplace is an issue that needed extensive attention, both in the interest of employees and in the interest of the employers.

Sexual harassment at the workplace is one of the most insulting and humiliating experiences for working women employees. In Suriname there is neither relevant national policy nor policy within companies or the private sector on dealing with violence when related to workers. This makes it uncertain for the victims as how to put an end to sexual molestation at the work place. Also The Ministry of Labor does not have a clear policy either regarding sexual harassment at the workplace. Furthermore, there are no policy guidelines which indicate which actions the Department of Labour Inspections should take in case of sexual harassment at the work floor. Nor is there a bureau for complaints on this issue. And, most importantly, the public is not properly informed on this issue.

Project description “Elimination of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace in Suriname”
The overall goal of the project is to contribute to eliminate violence against women, especially sexual harassment at the workplace in Suriname. The project objective is to contribute to effectively reduce of violence at the work place through the development of national legislation, national policy and company policy on sexual harassment at the work place.

The project in collaboration with government and the private sector and NGO’s, aims at creating an enabling environment (government and politics (Parliament) for drafting legislation specifically on sexual harassment at the workplace. Furthermore the project aims at developing clear policy at the level of companies. A model policy reducing sexual harassment will be implemented in ten selected private and governmental agencies. In these companies procedures, structures and mechanisms will be established in cooperation with the management, trade unions and women NGO’s, to enable victims of sexual harassment to file complaints and to facilitate several forms of support and empowerment to victims.

In addition trade unions and women NGO’s will be encouraged to organize vulnerable women’s groups such as domestic workers and migrant women workers, thus facilitating their information, awareness and empowerment on women workers’ rights issues, including the need to combat workplace violence.

The project will also invest in sustainable capacity building of key stakeholders and of project partners, i.e. those representatives of government, private sector, trade unions and NGO’s who will be in the forefront of the project. Also a nation-wide public education and outreach campaign focusing on ending of violence against women, including sexual harassment will be designed and implemented.

It will furthermore focus on embedding project initiatives and results in national development programmes and contribute to developing effective partnerships on a national and a regional level, both for the execution of the project, and for future activities in the field of eliminating violence against women. This project will gather all relevant information and documentation and evaluate the working of Caribbean examples in practice, using it as one of the tools to develop Surinamese policy. By linking the project to Caribbean stakeholders we will extend its success over the borders and promote the formulation and implementation of a regional project as a follow-up.

The contact person is:
Grace Boschman – The Project Coordinator

Stichting Ilse Henar-Hewitt
Juridische Bijstand voor Vrouwen
Verlengde Gemenelandsweg 132B
Tel. 532343, 432834, 433041
Fax. 433167, 433041