The International Labour Organization (ILO), Project Manager and Country Coordinator to Liberia Mr. Salif Haji Massalay has named Protection of Workers Right as enshrined in the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, Creation of Decent Employment Opportunities for all, Social Protection and Social Dialogue as the four key areas of ILO interventions as central for enhancing the labour sector.
“It doesn’t matter whether one have HIV and AIDS, they have fundamental rights at work, entitled to social protection programs and the right to social dialogue” he furthered.
The ILO Coordinator was speaking at the opening of the review and validation workshop of the National HIV and AIDS Workplace Policy and an Awareness Raising Campaign on Voluntary Testing. The Project is being implemented within the framework of the “United Nations Joint Programme on HIV and AIDS”. The workshop and awareness raising campaigns are being held in Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County and Kakata City, Margibi County respectively from November 22-27, 2021.
He said that the workshop is intended to review and validate the HIV and AIDS Workplace Policy which has since expired, noting that the policy takes into consideration the four key mandates of the ILO. He further echoed that policy which came into being in 2008 has since not been reviewed and validated. He added that the policy has outlived it life-sperm and hence the need to be reviewed and validated.
Mr. Massalay on behalf of the ILO Country Director for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Liaison Office for ECOWAS, Madam Vanessa Phala thanked the U N AIDS Country Director, Ms. Pepukai Chikukwa for her strong leadership in the fight against HIV and AIDS. He also thanked the Ministry of Labour for her leadership role played in the implementation of the old Workplace Policy and all key stakeholders that have been working to ensure the drafting of a new Policy. He noted that the work around HIV and AIDS has always been an intervention from the United Nations and key stakeholders.
Speaking further on the old policy, Mr. Massalay said that whether the four key priority areas of ILO as spelled out in the policy were fully addressed during its implementation remains a big question. Partners have once more gathered to review its impact and to make determinations on what needs to be done in those areas. He said that to ensure that people living with HIV and AIDS rights are fully protected at workplaces, the ILO have a number of conventions and recommendations on workplace policies when it comes to HIV and AIDS.
Also speaking during the validation workshop, the Director of HIV and AIDS in the Workplace at the Ministry of Labour, Madam Emma Lawson Benson said that regional consultations for the review of the old policy was done in 2015 and since then, the Ministry of Labour has been seeking funding to have the policy document validated.
She said that the policy is legally guarded by the Decent Work Act Chapter 2.4 and 2.10 which talks about equal protection for people living with HIV and AIDS and nondiscrimination as well as the ILO Code of Practice in the world of work. She expressed happiness that the validation of the policy is finally taking place noting that the delay has held back several support to the promotion of HIV and AIDS programs at workplaces in Liberia.
Madam Benson said that once the review and validation of the policy are completed, printed and launched, it will be disseminated to all workplaces in the Countries. She thanked the ILO, UN AIDS, National AIDS Commission, National AIDS Control Program (NACP) and other stakeholders for their support in ensuring that the document is validated.
Speaking on behalf of the National AIDS Commission (NAC), the Partnership Coordinator, Mr. Zubah Mulbah thanked the Ministry of Labour and the ILO for the new policy that has been long anticipated since the old one elapsed in 2013. He said that his institution is in partnership with the Ministry of Labour as such, as a lead focus person, participated in all of the Regional Consultations on the review of the policy.
He maintained that all work relating to HIV and AIDS activities in Liberia cannot be fully successful unless the workplace policy is completed. He used the occasion to give special thanks to the MOL and partners, especially the ILO in supporting government’s efforts in the review and validation processes of the document.
He appealed to would be implementers of the document not to place it on the shelf when completed noting that Liberians are noted for drafting good laws and policies, but their implementation are poor.
The validation workshop will be followed by an awareness raising campaign on voluntary HIV and AIDS testing using different methods in Kakata, Margibi County.
The validation workshop and the awareness raising campaigns were attended by ILO tripartite partners, officials from the National AIDS Commission, civil society, labour commissioners from the regions, other key stakeholders and more than 150 students from Kakata, Margibi County. The activities spanned from November 22 – 27, 2021.