Recently, the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) hosted a Zoom meeting featuring men who courageously shared their experiences with sexual harassment. Gender-based violence (GBV), specifically sexual harassment, has been proven to have lasting repercussions. It affects the physical, psychological, and sexual well-being of both men and women, impacting their self-esteem and capacity to function effectively and make informed decisions.
Patience Nyange, the Executive Director of AMWIK, offered various definitions of sexual harassment, emphasizing that it encompasses inappropriate behaviors. Sexual harassment can manifest as offensive jokes or comments and extend to cyberbullying, even on social media platforms. She highlighted a concerning trend: an increasing number of men reporting sexual harassment by women in the workplace. Nyange stressed that gender-based violence can affect anyone, irrespective of their gender or identity. Sexual harassment allegations are not determined by the gender of the victim or perpetrator.
Sammy Muraya, a Project Manager and Human Rights Journalist who himself experienced sexual harassment, bravely shared his story. He pointed out a prevailing issue: when a man comes forward with a complaint of sexual harassment by a senior woman, he is often met with ridicule and stigmatization, labelled as weak. Muraya recounted his experience during an internship at KBC, where he and fellow male interns faced harassment from a female producer. Despite their discomfort, they felt compelled to endure it because she held the authority to hire or fire them. Muraya revealed that he had a fully prepared proposal for a sports show but had to keep it concealed to secure the job. He stressed that it’s crucial to recognize that sexual harassment affects everyone, regardless of gender.
Muraya also shared an incident where he was denied a job opportunity at Metro FM due to a female decision-maker. He eventually found employment elsewhere years later when she was no longer in that position. He urged men not to remain silent when confronted with sexual harassment at work, emphasizing that they have the same rights as women when it comes to addressing workplace harassment.
AMWIK Board member Jane Godia, a journalist, editor, and trainer, addressed sexual harassment as any unwanted behavior, emphasizing that it can be perpetrated by both men and women. She emphasized the importance of firmly saying no as the first line of defense against sexual harassment. Godia discussed various forms of sexual harassment, including physical and verbal types.
Physical forms included:
- Non-consensual kissing.
- Unwanted touching, groping, and fondling of intimate areas.
- Inappropriate stroking of another person’s body.
- Unwanted neck massages.
- Unauthorized holding of someone’s hand.
- Requests for unwanted sexual favors.
Verbal sexual harassment examples comprised:
- Sexually provocative remarks.
- Loud kissing sounds and lip smacking.
- Intrusive inquiries about one’s social or sexual history.
- Unwanted questioning about sexual fantasies.
Godia noted that the “give me as I give you” mentality is prevalent, often referred to as “nipe nikupe” in Swahili, which is derogatory. She stressed the importance of individuals understanding their rights and their right to speak out against sexual harassment. Godia expressed concern about sexual harassment’s prevalence in newsrooms and called for a comprehensive commitment to combat it. She suggested creating awareness, sensitizing colleagues, and forming committees to address sexual harassment in all departments, emphasizing that sexual harassment carries consequences that must be addressed.
Machari Gaitho highlighted the sense of community that newsrooms foster, especially among those working late hours in close quarters. He emphasized the need for caution in interactions with colleagues of different genders in the workplace. Gaitho advocated for the establishment of clear regulations and for individuals to understand and adhere to these rules.
The accounts shared by men shed light on the importance of addressing sexual harassment openly in the media sector. It’s crucial to recognize that sexual harassment affects both men and women, and fostering an environment where everyone feels safe to speak out is essential.
By Issac Wabwire, Intern, AMWIK