LETS TALK ABOUT SEX, BABY… OR MAYBE NOT!

In July 2012 at 9:00 am, I walked into the Executive Director’s office to have my appointment letter signed and at 12:00 pm I strolled out through the gate for the last time. In the 3 hours of my employment as IT Officer, the Executive Director had tried to unbutton my blouse & skirt, stalked me to my work station, sent me lewd pictures & propositioned me for sex. It was the first time I realized that the stories weren’t lies; they were the honest, bitter truth.

This precise memory is what hit me hard while I was watching the Fasi Fas! show last Thursday on ‘Women & Sexual Harassment’. How is it that in Uganda 1 in 5 women (ages 15 – 49) have been sexually harassed at one point (this number scares me!)? Are we not using the proper technique of communication or are men simply ignoring the signs? Perhaps our customs and cultures are so embedded in patriarchy that it promotes a sense of entitlement without consent.

Conversations with my girlfriends have often revealed how we all constantly have to stave unwanted sexual advances in exchange for higher allowances, promotions or special attention particularly at the work place. I was glad to see that the subject of workplace harassment was broached on the show but disappointed that the options of tackling it are limited. While I did agree with Patricia Kahill Kuteesa’s approach of informing your significant other and Crispin Kaheru’s idea that it’s best to seek solace outside to avoid being the subject of office gossip, I was disappointed that seeking the protection of the Ugandan Law & Company policies isn’t a viable option. Why does the Employment Act & the HR Department exist if not to bring justice to survivors (I detest the word ‘victims’) & deter future perpetrators? Although the law is specific about sexual harassment, we live, as Arinda Daphine pointed out in a country that doesn’t enforce these laws.

Daphine spoke true on the element that speaking up about sexual harassment exposes you to the VERY HIGH possibility of being fired from your job on a fabricated pretext to rid them of the PR nightmare. Unfortunately the mechanisms of addressing these issues aren’t clear cut. Dragging a rich corporation to court for a matter that could last years and cost millions in legal fees is less desirable to polishing a CV and hitting the up streets for a new job.

📸 Credit: Fasi Fas! Maxima Nsimenta‏ (CEO & Founder of Livara Cosmetics)

I do feel though that we’re missing out on great women leaders who are ether afraid of being sexually harassed or are survivors that choose to change lanes and avoid the situation completely. While it would be easy to stay low, speaking up and joining the fight is the only thing that will bring change. Look at the revolution that the #MeToo campaign started. Assaulters don’t escape justice and everyone who attempts to try knows what punishment awaits them.

I thoroughly enjoyed and feel that this Fasi Fas! episode helped bring to the forefront how we as women are struggling to live in a broken society that doesn’t support our growth. I say instead of laying down in the filth, we take action, inspire action and start a revolution. Bring the judicial system to task to enforcing the laws & providing legal services to those wronged on speaking up about their assaulter. Company policies and cultures should have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment, investigate a reported case and take the necessary action.

What I’m curious to find out is Would you report if you were sexually harassed? Would you do it publicly (social media) or privately? Would you feel ashamed if others found out you were being sexually harassed?

Fasi Fas! is a talk show brought to you by ACFODE in partnership with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and UN Women and produced by Mango Tree Educational Enterprises. It aims at changing community perceptions and building up support towards women’s political participation and gender equality in Uganda. You can watch this episode and all the other episodes here

Feature 📸 by Fasi Fas!

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7 Comments

  1. This is really well written.
    My first job, we went out of town for work with the boss and he was under the assumption that we were going to share a hotel room.
    It was so far in a district I had never been.
    I was so mad and afraid because he had even had my bag moved to his room.
    According to him the room they had booked for me wasn’t as comfortable as his so he wanted me to be “comfortable”
    I told him I would rather sleep in the car and when I was finally given my bag and key after like 30 minutes of him hounding me to stay, I double checked the locks on my room.
    And he instead started calling me on the phone.
    Asking if I am sure, I don’t want to sleep with him.
    Sijui he is feeling cold.
    I spent the whole night praying, scared he would break the door and assault me
    The worst part is the next day he pretended nothing had happened.
    And no I didn’t report it, except to my mother and siblings.
    I went back to work and avoided him and the topic until I left.

    1. Thank you Fiona for reading & sharing your story. I can’t imagine the horror of finding yourself in a situation in an uncharted environment with a man pushing for sexual favors when all you wanted to do is work. Thankfully you made it out unscathed. If you would do it over again, would you have reported him? What do you think should change in dealing with sexual harassment?

  2. Fiona’s experience has left me thinking of how men(in this case) always make it seem like it’s y(our) fault, always making it seem like you’re imagining things which would in the end make you start to doubt that particular experience especially when and if they do gaslight you.
    I haven’t (I hate that I mentally inserted a “yet” here) experienced this and I hope to God I never do and pray and hope the survivors are safe in their work places (whether they’ve reported it or not). 😞😞

    1. That unfortunately is the narrative. Women are blamed as leading the men on & that is exactly what we must change. We need to create conversation and change the mindset. I do believe that you can make your communication clear & precise that would put the point across that NO means NO. This of course can only do so much! What we need is one piece to get the dominoes falling.
      I hope you never experience sexual harassment whether at the workplace or anywhere else. The experience is a very unpleasant one.

      What do you think would be the best strategy against sexual harassment?

    2. Given what I know now about sexual harassment and all the work I have had to put in to unlearn shame and shouldering the blame of the abusers, I would definitely do it differently.
      Especially in terms of addressing the issue the next day and making sure he knew it was offensive.
      He was the boss at work and I was the newest person so I didn’t have any one at work I would approach and address it, so that’s what I would really like to change.
      I would love work places regardless of the size of the organization to have an active sexual harassment policy that is actionable not a mere piece of paper.
      I would also like all males to take mandatory sexual harassment training every so often, because one of the most infuriating things is when women are harassed and it’s downplayed as flirting.

  3. I am at the point where I’ve allowed I have no answers to how this scrouge can be completely eliminated. For now, let #MeToo come to the local workplace, not just the high profile ones, so men can second guess themselves every time they are going to attempt some lewd behaviour.

    On a related note, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this segment by Bill Maher https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiYudywr_tQ

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