Author: Mary Mwangi, Flone Initiative program manager.
A few weeks ago, I was conducting interviews on sexual harassment in public spaces and it is frightening to note that almost all of the interviewees believe that it is a woman’s way of dressing that influences street harassment and violence.
Women have been harassed while wearing skirts, hijabs, dresses and trousers, this goes to show that street harassment and violence is NOT about dressing. It is important for us to call a spade a spade and not lay blame on dressing but to strongly condemn those who perpetrate such violence on our streets.
Today, some may think that since we have not heard the news of stripping of women and girls in public spaces that the vice is dead. Sadly, this is not the case as many women continue to face harassment every single day but due to fear of victimization by the perpetrators opt to be silent.
I sturdily feel that the root cause of all form of violence and prejudice between men and women stems from a patriarchal mind-set. Some individuals have expressed concerns that the media and westernization fosters a society that devalues women. But again, don’t you think this is misplaced blame? The media only represents women as the society sees them.
Unless we realize that patriarchal attitudes and beliefs cause a lot of harm than good, then a culture of fear will continue. We all need to take up the bull by the horns and work together to fight the vice of street harassment and violence. It is important to note that it isn’t only men who perpetuate patriarchy, women do it too. It is high time that we all worked as a team, as family and as a community since we now know better.
It is high time that we all encouraged sensitization and behavior change initiatives that allow and emphasize discussion on sexual harassment, patriarchy and the need to respect all genders. At Flone Initiative, we believe above being men and women, we are human beings. Yes, we are different, but respecting and celebrating our uniqueness is a goal we are working on. All we need to do is learn to respect each other. It is only then that our women and girls will walk along the streets without fear of being harassed, violated, raped or assaulted but with the assurance of safety, security and freedom.
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