I grew up in Golf Estate phase one near Kenyatta Market in Nairobi. I remember hating been sent to the shops by my parents.There was always a group of older boys idling on the street corners who would whistle at me and shout all manner of words from across the street.I remember feeling my stomach constrict and my heart racing whenever I would approach that corner. It didn’t matter whether I crossed the street to avoid them or quickened my steps .Nothing was going to stop them from having their fun.Worst part was I’d have to go through it twice as I headed back from the shops. I remember always feeling scared, hoping and hoping with all my little heart that I wouldn’t find them.The relief I’d feel on the days that they weren’t there could fill up a whole room.
Fast forward to a few years later , I was now old enough to go for driving classes.My parents paid for me to attend them at a driving school on Tom Mboya street in town.It was an exciting time for me as this was my perceived first step towards independence.My dreams were shattered when I met my driving instructor.Every morning without fail he would find an excuse to put his hand on my thigh as I was driving. It made me feel so uncomfortable and scared.This stranger felt he had the right to do as he pleased without a care in the world.I would push his hand off and tell him to stop.He didn’t.I finally told my mum and the very next day she accompanied to the school and she raised hell in their offices.She didn’t even give the managers a chance to respond and we walked out of that driving school (thanks for defending me mum).I was enrolled into another school the next week to do the driving test, suffice to say I failed and after that whole unnerving experience, I decided I was done with driving. Until I met my husband years later and he encouraged me to resit the test and I finally got my driving license.
There are many many stories I could write about today , experiences that made me wish I was a man. Why am I telling you all these stories ? Because yesterday a lady posted on twitter about her experience with an Orange Kenya employee.This guy had the audacity to retrieve her number and send her his photo and a WhatsApp chat .He wanted to get to know her better. I was outraged at the breach of privacy.The level of entitlement that this man portrayed. It gets worse, the responses on social media were AGAINST her for sharing the whole experience on twitter.Very few people stood up for her.She was abused and told off.She should have been happy that a man was hitting on her , never mind how he got her number.What is wrong with the world today?My soul was bleeding by the time I went to bed last night.The saddest part to this whole story, majority of the stone throwers and the nasty insults towards this lady came from women.
We as women are taught not to get raped, to dress decently so that we don’t attract rapists and tempt men to act on their desire .That’s the message we hear growing up.
Boys will be boys.Let’s excuse their bad behavior after all that is how they were created. That is the message we hear growing up.
I learnt to be afraid at a young age ,and now this Orange Kenya experience has shown me that I need to be very , very afraid for my daughter.
The comments on social media are a mirror revealing our true nature.Our thoughts give birth to our actions.And judging by what I read last night. God help us all.
I will do my best to teach Taji to stand up for herself whenever she feels disrespected and to feel free to tell me about any incidents because like my mother before me, I will defend her honor.
Let us stop excusing any form of harassment and maybe one day the women can finally stop being afraid to be female.