SHE SHE SHE: Let’s speak out against sexual harassment at work

Thursday, August 11, 2016

There are lots of campaigns going on in the country that have led to enactment of laws to remedy the subject matter in question, such as Child Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation; but do we ever wonder or think of leading a campaign that will protect women and girls who are harassed on a daily basis by those who employed them.

Harassment in our various working environments has been on the increase, and very little or nothing is been done about it.

Women and girls working in various institutions and organizations have been harassed on a daily basis, and silenced by the perpetrators.

They are not only harassed, but threatened into losing their job if they speak against them.

The men that harass these women and girls are the ones leading these institutions, and they are the ones making decisions; so they use their power to harass these women and girls sexually, and reduced them into slaves.

They use them and dump them at their own discretion. These women are so powerless and voiceless that they accept it, and it becomes part of their life, which makes it very difficult for them to come out and speak against the perpetrator.

SHE-SHE-SHE had a chat with some of them, who pleaded for anonymity.

“I have always wanted to be a security officer. I don’t know why, but I just love the job. So when I received my WASSCE certificate, I applied to join a particular security force. When they called us for the first time, I met with one of their senior men and he told me that he loves me, and wants us to date; but I told him that to be frank he is not that bad, but I am not interested in him.

“He then laughed and said this was the first time, so he will let me think about his proposal. We started training and, after two weeks again, he called me in his office and repeated the same thing to me; and I told him again that I am not interested in him. He said to me: “All I want from you is just to spend one night with you, and we are done. 

“I looked at this man, and tears started running down my cheek and, for a minute, I was speechless; because never in my life did I think of such a day, when a man will bring forward such a request, as if I were some commercial sex worker.

“But then I tried to put myself together, and I said to him that I am not interested in his proposal, because I am a decent lady who is trying to make a decent living for myself.

“He looked at me, and said I am stupid; but let me stop coming for the training because at the end of the day I will not be shortlisted. I took it as a joke, but at the end of the day I was dropped.

“I did not accept defeat or give up; so I waited for another intake, and I applied again. I met the same man there again with the same proposal, and I was dropped for the second time.

“Since this is the only job I wanted to do, so I gave it a shot for the third time and, with the help of another senior man who is more senior than him, I got the job. I am now married, and still in the force.”

What a story; and there are millions of women out there with a similar story. They are harassed because they are women. I wonder if that man has no woman in this world whom he cherishes so much, and wouldn’t want her to be in this woman’s shoe.

As a man, why will you harass a woman sexually or intimidate her when you have a mother, wife, daughter, aunt, niece and sisters, and you will do anything to protect them!

Do we need to be reminded of these things all the time, when it is right there in front of them? For a woman or a girl who is trying to find a decent living, the least you could do for that person as a man is to help her, and not frustrate her.

Here is another story from a female Journalist (name withheld).

“I did a certificate and diploma in mass communication, and I always dreamt of becoming a journalist. So after my diploma in mass communication, I was sent on an attachment at a broadcast media house. I met a lot of young ladies like me there working as reporters, and some as news presenters in English and other local languages.

“I was attached to a senior woman there, and I hoped that this will be the right place for me to nurture my knowledge and become a professional journalist. My first days and months there were fantastic, but little did I know that all that glittered before me was not gold.

“When I first arrived there, I was always attached to anyone going to the field for coverage; but then all that stopped, and the woman I was attached to told me that she did not like the way I dressed when coming to work. I told her that I don’t understand what she meant, because I was told that Journalists dressed to suit the occasion; and that we do not dress to kill, but to impress.

“But then she told me that I should do away with my flat shoes, start applying make-up and put on nice clothes so that the DG will be impressed; and I will be trusted and given assignments. Since I was attached to her, and I believe everything she said I decided to change my looks a bit.

“There was even more than just looking good under the DG or dressing up to impress. In that particular media house, it is either you agree to have an affair with the senior men in decision-making positions, and become their favourite and be given lots of assignments or you refused, and be left out and totally forgotten.

“Ladies who are the same age with me accept the situation and feel relaxed as if nothing is happening or it is normal, and they make it part of their lives.

“It was a competition between them when it comes to bleaching, make-up, short and tight outfits and they enjoyed it.

“I could not fit in because I was not willing to become someone else’s slave. Every day I spent there, I was totally forgotten and when I approached anyone to talk to about it, they will tell me to stop being a child and be part of the system; because that is what everyone does to achieve what they want. When I found out that they are all in this together, I decided to quit and join another media house to pursue my journalism career in a decent way.”

What are we doing to ourselves, if we cannot let each other grow in peace? Can’t we hire ladies based on their qualification without exposing them to sexual harassment? As a Lady or a woman, is this the way you want your life to be? Do you want to be working under a man as a sex slave?

It is high time for women and girls who are harassed sexually on a daily basis, by the ones who employed them or the ones they are working with or living with, to come forward, break the silence and expose them so that those coming after you will not be subjected to the same thing.

Remember, even if you do not get justice at the end of the day; but by exposing a perpetrator of any violence perpetrated against you, you are saving a lot of women and girls out there.

Speak up today and get the freedom you deserve! You are a woman, not a sexual object; but an object of dignity, decency, purity and innocence. 

Author: Halimatou Ceesay