Many of you probably don’t know this, but there has been a scandal brewing in the Kenyan tech industry.
I am surprised that the rest of us have not picked it up and made it a national issue. One of the “fathers of tech” has been accused of sexually harassing a young woman who worked in the company where he is the boss.
The woman has since left the organisation after months of waiting for investigations to bring the man to justice. From the look of things, the company’s board of directors appears to care little about this “small matter” and the accused seems to be going on with his life unperturbed.
Which brings me to my point. Can we please talk about sexual harassment now that it is becoming all too common in this country?
Every woman in Kenya, whether young or old, will tell you that they have at one point in their lives encountered some form of sexual harassment, most likely at the work place.
Whether it is in the form of a male colleague commenting about her body shape or the length and tightness of her skirt or the fragrance of her perfume, sexual harassment in the Kenyan workplace is common. Some women even think this is the norm and rationalise it by saying “that is just how men are”.
‘LOCKER ROOM TALK’
Female politicians are not spared either. They are routinely insulted even on live TV on the basis of their sexuality and also endure other forms of harassment on the campaign trail.
Then there is the “locker room talk” popularised by your favourite president of the US, Donald Trump. I have said in this column before that some Kenyan men are mini-Trumps, going by their penchant for objectifying women.
There are men who will deny a woman a job because she refused to go on a date with them, and worse, some who will refuse to write a recommendation letter simply because the beneficiary turned down their advances.
Other women will tell you of how they were denied career-making projects or were poorly reviewed simply because they turned down a boss.
So why are these things happening at such an age and time, yet nobody is coming forward to protect these women who are our sisters, daughters, nieces, wives and girlfriends?
And why is it that it is the women who report these cases of sexual harassment that are ostracised and put on the receiving end of opprobrium and often forced to quit their jobs, yet all they did was just do their jobs?
It appears, if the latest scandal is anything to judge by, that this is not the first time the suspect has been linked to similar accusations.
When news of the allegation surfaced, many of those who commented were not surprised. It appears to be common knowledge in his circles that he had a penchant for harassing women.
Sexual predators prosper only because they are living in an enabling environment, either because they are powerful or are being protected to preserve the status quo. It appears that taking action against such powerful sexual predators would upset the apple cart.
This is why it is always easier to encourage the sexually harassed woman to quit her job and find something else to do rather than encourage her to fight for her rights.
Let us not assume that sexual harassment is a preserve of powerful politicians in far away region. It is happening in the Kenyan context and the truth is that women are too timid to speak for fear of losing opportunities and jobs.
Also, I have come to realise that there is no greater career-limiting move for a woman than reporting a colleague for sexual harassment. I am told that potential employers avoid a woman with a sexual harassment case on her file because organisations would rather avoid scandal than deal with it.
We should treat sexual harassment with the same magnitude we treat matters like rape. We need to show such offenders that their female colleagues do not serve at their pleasure and that women must be respected. This is about respect. A society or organisation that does not talk about sexual harassment, is one that does not respect women. It is that simple. Respect women!