Sometime last week, I woke up to a long post from one of my Facebook friends with the hashtag Me Too. I didn’t pay much attention to it until I saw more posts and hashtags about the same. My curious mind caused me to want to find out what this hype was all about.
After conducting research, I found out that it was a campaign to raise awareness and address sexual assault and harassment claims by women. What many possibly do not know, the Me Too Campaign was started by a social activist, Ms. Tarana Burke, in 2006. It is a movement to help victims of sexual harassment and assault, especially among women of color.
Around October this year, accusations of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein, a film producer in Hollywood surfaced. One actress, Alyssa Milano, on social media, encouraged others to come out and share the phrase as an awareness campaign. And the phrase has since been adopted by many people in different countries the world over.
Well, the problem of sexual harassment has and still is, a challenge that we face as a society. In most cases, victims do not air out their cry for help for fear of being judged and the stigmatization that follows. It can affect both men and women, but I will give a female’s perspective.
In my opinion, one of the causes of sexual assault among women is that, we are yet to reach the proper level of gender parity in the world today.
Often, in the workplace, if a female colleague remarks about the misconduct of a male colleague and more so, if it is sexual, many are quick to blame the female. People start alluding to what the female colleague could be doing to invite such acts. Maybe it’s how she dresses, or it could be the way she presents herself, is in the mind of many.
In Kenya, specifically, the issue of sponsors, make the situation worse. Men who are in high positions in the corporate ladder, prey on unsuspecting new female workers. It has reached the point where an older man making sexual advances to a young lady, is a norm.
“One day, as I was traveling in a bus back home, I happened to sit next to a much older guy. He was probably around 40-50 years of age. He was old enough to be my father. Along the way, as he slept, I could feel his hand on my thighs. At first, I thought, it was by mistake and pushed his hand, and moved away from him.
Each time I did so, it would take about five minutes before his sweaty hand was placed on my thighs again and again. He would pretend to be deep in sleep until I had to slap the sleep out of his hand.” One friend narrated their encounter to me.
There have also been cases of men undressing or ripping the clothes of women in public. It’s not so long ago when a matatu driver and conductor were sentenced to the hangman noose, for such acts.
I know of guys working in reputable firms who pride themselves in taking count of the number of women they sleep with or are planning to sleep with at the workplace.
There was also an instance of another female colleague who was denied the opportunity to get practical experience in a reputable insurance firm in Kenya because she was female. What was astonishing is that it was a female worker who was given the responsibility to provide the company’s reasons for not accepting her.
Their actual words were “We only have one position available that requires a male intern.” Unless the internship was about carrying heavy boxes and sacks, then their reasons would be at least believable. But it turns out that after all, the guy worked at a desk and on a computer, during the tenure of the internship.
Women are still marginalized in the society. On social media, it is common to find men abusing a female for posting a contradictory opinion from theirs. If we raise the male children to view women as lesser beings, how then do we expect them to act any different?
As a society, we should champion gender equality. Give women the same opportunities as men, starting from the recruitment processes. Let us educate the community about fighting sexual harassment, encourage the victims and stand up with them.
Me too could be a clarion call to many of gender challenges that women face, today.