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2018 Campaign against casual sexism at UN Geneva

In October 2017, a staff survey of perceptions about gender equality at UNOG revealed that one third of staff (39% of women and 22% of men) had felt uncomfortable about sexist language, jokes or comments made by supervisors or colleagues at UN Geneva.

As part as his 2018 commitments as International Gender Champion, the Director-General therefore decided to tackle this issue and launch a groundbreaking campaign to counter casual sexism at UN Geneva.

The term casual sexism denotes behaviour or attitudes that foster stereotypes based on sex and perpetuate unequal treatment of others, usually women. Casual sexism feeds into a culture and a mindset in which de facto discrimination becomes part of everyday life and opens the door to harassment and abuse.

Launched under the slogan “I say no to sexism, what do you say?”, the campaign intended to:
  • Position UN Geneva as a sexism-free zone;
  • Raise awareness of the harm done by casual sexism;
  • Encourage and empower UN staff to counter casual sexism.

The campaign was carried out both online (through video messages and a wide social media campaign) and in the Palais des Nations (with an exhibition and the display of logos on posters, table sets, phone screens etc). It consisted of awareness-raising and outreach activities as well as actions to encourage and empower staff to tackle casual sexism in their working environment.

Although the Director-General only has authority on staff and managers at UN Geneva, the campaign impacted all those who visit the Palais throughout the year (including other UN staff, delegates from Member States and NGOs, visitors, journalists, etc).

A year after its launch, some staff members have told gender focal points that they now felt empowered to speak up and call out sexist behaviors. A real cultural shift is underway at UN Geneva, and there is growing awareness of the nature of sexism and of its impact on all of us.

Maintaining a workplace free of any form of discrimination, harassment, including sexual harassment and abuse of authority, is a priority for the United Nations, as strongly and repeatedly reaffirmed by the UN Secretary-General. With the strong commitment from our leadership, the UN is stepping up its efforts to address prohibited behaviour in the workplace, protect its staff and ensure accountability.

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