Battling Sexual Harassment in Kenyan Public Transport: The Flone Initiative: An Interview with Co-Founder Naomi Mwaura

by nairobiplanninginnovations

Sexual harassment in public transport is a global problem.  Kenya is no exception. Every day tens of thousands of women making trips in Public Service Vehicles (matatus) face unacceptable behavior from their fellow male passengers making mobility a dangerous and uncomfortable experience.

In an effort to make travel safer and more comfortable for women, one Kenyan organization, the FLONE Initiative, is combating sexual harassment on public transportation in Kenya . NPI bloggers Seth  Kerr and Jacqueline Klopp conducted an extended interview with Naomi Mwaura, a co-founder of The FLONE Initiative. Naomi not only helps combat sexual harassment through this Initiative but is also committed to helping all people in Kenya have access to equitable transportation as a dedicated staff member for the Institute for Transportation Development Policy (ITDP) which recently set up shop in Nairobi.

Here is the full interview

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Women have played an integral role in the development and advancement of transportation. From wagons and horse carts to bicycles, automobiles, trucks, trains, ships, airplanes and space vehicles, women have served as inventors, pilots, engineers, drivers, administrative professionals, conductors, executives and in a host of other vital occupations.

Today, increasing numbers of women are making a critical difference in the safe and efficient movement of people and goods throughout the world. Flone Initiative wishes to salute all such women for overcoming the odds and proving that women can do it.

Transport jobs can be well paid, rewarding and offer long-term career opportunities. Unfortunately, and unacceptably, few women are employed in these jobs and some positions fall below the standard of decent work. Mostly, Jobs in the transport sector are highly gendered and unequal, as is access to transport services. As a result, women’s voices are all too often neglected when it comes to transport planning and the pursuit of decent work.

Sadly, transport industry is still regarded as ‘no place for women’ in many countries/sectors around the world. Women in the transport sector often find themselves stuck in low(er) paid status jobs with few, if any, opportunities for career development.

Additionally, violence against women working in the transport industry is one of the most important factors limiting the attraction of transport jobs for women thus making breaking the retention of those who are employed in the transport sector quite difficult if not impossible.Whether white collar or blue collar – engineer, planner, or skilled construction worker jobs in transportation are still disproportionately held by men.

So as to avert the above situation, Flone Initiative conceptualized the Women in Transportation Program aimed at celebrating the significant role women play in the transport industry, reflect on the current gender diversity and improve it further through initiatives, events and activities.

Through the Program, Flone initiative hopes to:

  • Attract more women by highlighting the careers on offer in the transport industry
  • Showcase the contributions women have made, and continue to make in the industry
  • Provide opportunities for personal development and progression at all levels
  • Run inspirational and thought-provoking events
  • Inspiring the next generation by:
  • Tackling the lack of understanding about what the transport industry stands for
  • Demonstrating why transport can be for anyone and everyone
  • Education, particularly of young people about the variety of roles on offer

Join us in making this a reality!

Your Support Counts!
Our new Women in Transportation program works to advance the transport industry and the professional women who are a growing part of it.
Good news! For our U.S.A supporters, your donation is now tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S.A law.
Try our new donation platform here!

 

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As Flone Initiative celebrates her fifth birthday, we wish to thank all our members and partners for the mileage we covered so far through your support. Though your support and the dedication of our staff we have been able to create significant changes in our Kenyan society.

So far we have been able to carry out several programs such as the mentorship and bodily integrity program which targeted adolescents (both girls and boys) in high schools. The program focused mainly on academics, life after high school and career opportunities, bodily integrity, sexual and reproductive health. Additionally, through our sustainability program we have been able to be financially sustainable by undertaking various income generating activities such as:  Organizing hilarious and candid Theatrical performances   selling of Flone merchandise (African outfits, t-shirts and jewellery). All this has been possible through your kind support.

Furthermore, in November 2014, Flone Initiative Founding Director was among the lead organizers of the #MyDressMyChoice protest that highlighted the sexual violence meted on women in the Kenyan public transport industry. The protest led to the passing of the anti-stripping law that made the stripping of women punishable to 10 years in jail. On November 19th, a lady was violently assaulted in Kayole public transport network and six offenders were arrested. Flone Initiative has been closely monitoring and mobilizing women to attend the court case hearings to ensure justice is served. As a result of these incidents, Flone Initiative initiated the Usalama wa Uma program aimed at creating safe spaces for women and girls who use the public transport.

Through the Usalama wa Uma Program, we have been able to engages public transport operators by offering them trainings on gender equality and prevention of sexual violence, improving customer service, and in personal and professional development. So far, 312 public transport operators from Bungoma, Githurai 45, Kisumu, Nyeri and Nakuru have been trained.  These are public transport networks with most recurring incidences of violence. Through the program men are encouraged to stop perpetuating violence and instead work to ensure the vices stop.

Moreover, Flone Initiative is also implementing the Women In Transportation Program (WITrans) aimed at advancing the transport industry and the professional women who are a growing part of it. WIT seeks to close the work force gap in the transportation industry by promoting life long careers in transportation for women. WIT ultimately works to attract, retain and advance women in the industry. Our first order of business is an upcoming WIT Conference, which will focus on critical transportation themes. The conference will provide a forum for the exploration of technical, policy, financial, and political aspects of emerging transportation issues while affording women in the transport industry outstanding networking opportunities.

As we continue to work to create safe commuter spaces for the Kenyan women and girls, your partnership and support will be highly appreciated. We say Asante  Sana!

Dates worth saving;

October 11th, 2016: #Njeris case hearing shall be at Milimani law courts from 9.am.( Nyeri who was 18yrs at her death was from Gatundu North. She was raped and killed at Kikuyu by a known perpetrator)

September 20th, 2016: #MyDressMyChoice Kayole striping case has been on-going. The 6 perpetrators are still in jail after being denied bail again. The mention of their case shall be at Makadara Courts on the 20/9/2016 at 9.am

5th October, 2016: #MyDressMyChoice Kayole striping case hearing  at Makadara Courts at 9.am.

Let us join hands to ensure justice is finally served!

Your Support Counts!
Our new Women in Transportation program works to advance the transport industry and the professional women who are a growing part of it.
Good news! For our U.S.A supporters, your donation is now tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S.A law.
Try our new donation platform here!

 

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Sometimes sexual harassment occurs without our knowledge!

Come be part of a gender forum like no other courtesy of Flone Initiative and Heinrich Böll Stiftung this Thursday 29th September 2016 at Lilian Towers, Nairobi Safari Club from 4:00pm – 6:30pm | Free entry to all audiences.

The goal of this forum is to bring together scholars, activists and women who have faced sexual harassment,to push the dialogue of rights further and explore alternative ways in which sexual harassment can be addressed.

Key discussion points:

  • Should sexual harassment be a political priority?
  • What are some of the ways that sexual harassment takes shape?
  • What are some of the ways that women can be assured of justice?

Invited Speakers:

  1. Esther Muthoni Passaris OGW
  2. Naomi Njeri Mwaura – Flone Initiative, a workforce development organization working in the matatu industry
  3. Fredrick J.K. Nyagah – Gender Advisor in Global Communities (formerly CHF International) and Founder National Chairman of MenEngage Kenya Network
  4. Saida Ali – International Policy Analyst
  5. Simon Mbevi – Founder and Director of Transform Nations

Moderator: Patience Nyange – Senior Human Rights Officer, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights

Format of Discussion:

A panel discussion contextualizes issues to the audience. This is infused with public dialogue and Q&A where the audience engages with the panel and forum.

Your Support Counts!

Flone Initiative  Usalama wa Uma program aims to create safe spaces for women and girls who use the public transport by engaging public transport operators by offering them training on gender equality and prevention of sexual violence, improving customer service, and in personal and professional development.
Good news! For our U.S.A supporters, your donation is now tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S.A law.
Try our new donation platform here!

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The problem for Kenya transport modes is not the network but the road’s standard and their maintenance; it is primarily a quality rather than a quantity issue. In most parts, the road network consists of paved, gravel and earth roads. The dilapidated, dirty state of public transport vehicles and terminals coupled with the poor service makes mobility for women a nightmare. Additionally, security is a serious mobility constraint for women, this because they suffer verbal and   physical harassment and theft in public spaces.

Though poor infrastructure and limited transport services hamper male and female mobility, women suffer additional socio-cultural constraints. Many women travel by foot in the village thus wasting a lot of time which could have been used undertaking productive work. Furthermore, the available modes of transport available in most rural areas are either bicycles or motorcycles which are culturally regarded as unfit for women. Sadly very few women in Kenya owns motorized mode of transport, thus have to depend on public transport or travel by foot to reach markets to sell produce , buy food and to engage in jobs in urban centres.

Motorized transport costs more per trip for women because they need to use more expensive modes of transport. Consequently women are forced to dig deeper in their pockets to access the safe and comfortable mode of transport. Lack of appropriate transport severely limits female access to employment, markets, education and health care. Subsequently, women’s productivity is greatly affected by the mode of transport available.

Flone Initiative hope to create a situation where women and girls can comfortably use the available transport modes thus enhancing their productivity.Let’s all be Safe!

Dates worth saving;

October 11th, 2016: #Njeris case hearing shall be at Kilimani law courts from 9.am.( Nyeri who was 18yrs at her death was from Gatundu North. She was raped and killed at Kikuyu by a known perpetrator)

September 20th, 2016: #MyDressMyChoice Kayole striping case has been on-going. The 6 perpetrators are still in jail after being denied bail again. The mention of their case shall be at Makadara Courts on the 20/9/2016 at 9.am

5th October, 2016: #MyDressMyChoice Kayole striping case hearing  at Makadara Courts at 9.am.

Let us join hands to ensure justice is finally served!

Your Support Counts!
Our new Women in Transportation program works to advance the transport industry and the professional women who are a growing part of it.
Good news! For our U.S.A supporters, your donation is now tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S.A law.
Try our new donation platform here!

boda_2A Boda-boda Ride!

Ever had a ride on the famous boda-boda? I know most of us have had it as it one of the most used form of transport in the city and in the rural areas.  I have always wondered why the title boda-boda until I learnt the title goes way back to 1950s as people crossing the border between Kenya and Uganda used bicycles or motorcycle couriers to either dodge customs officials or beat the fatigue of walking through the various checkpoints of the two countries’ borders. Thus, the name boda-boda.

Boda-boda later resurged around 1997 when after several years of using bicycles for the business; its players explored with buying motor cycles. The rising urban populations necessitated the use of this type of transport as it is convenient for moving across a large area without spending much.

The Boda-boda industry has become an expansive employing quite a large number. Most youths have ventured into the boda-boda business as a way of getting employment. Many have been successful and are able to support their families comfortably.

Regardless of its attractiveness, the boda-boda industry is seen as a bother to areas where they operate. While boda-boda have proven to be the most convenient mode of transport in recent time, not so many people are happy with the antiques being displayed by some operators.

Women and girls are now living in fear of riding the boda-boda due to sexual harassment. Fingers are being pointed at boda-boda operators as the notorious perpetrators. Some female users of boda-boda claim that some riders go as far as ensuring that they struggle to get on board the motor-bike so as to expose their inner wear for other riders or colleagues to see. Sadly, the other operators then giggle and some go to the extent of shouting the colour of the inner leaving the women embarrassed.

Once the victims report the incidents, the suspected boda-boda riders usually go on exile by changing the route of operations once word gets out that a warrant of arrest has been issued. Some go as far as changing their boda-boda plate number to avoid being traced. Notoriously, some go as far as offering women a ride in exchange for sex, while others rape and defile women and girls customers on the way.

So as to have safe rides the following is recommended for the women and girls;

  • Do not entertain sexual advancement from the boda-boda operators
  • Only use familiar boda-boda operators
  • Do not to entertain riders who take wrong routes or talk vulgar.
  • Wear protective gear; a Helmet, Eye and Face protection, long pants, gloves, boots and a durable long-sleeved jacket

Boda-boda industry is a lucrative business in Kenya and it supports the livelihood of many families. However, if safety regulations were to be followed the business would be a venture in which women would feel safe and comfortable to venture into. Let’s all be Safe!

Research by:

Lucy Wambui,  B.A in Gender and Development Studies graduate from Kenyatta University. She is an intern with
FloNe initiative. She has also worked with Kenyatta University Gender  Association  Movement as a Trainer of Trainers. All her work has been based on creating awareness on Gender Based violence, Sexual harassment  and social cohesion.She has also been involved in research work on gender and transport with he latest work being on ” effects of boda boda caused accidents on men and women a case of Githurai , Nairobi County.
Her motivation is drawn from personal experiences and her passion on women and girls’ issues.

Your Support Counts!
Our new Women in Transportation program works to advance the transport industry and the professional women who are a growing part of it.
Good news! For our U.S.A supporters, your donation is now tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S.A law.
Try our new donation platform here!

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This week in our new program Women In Transportation(#WITrans) program focuses on non motorized transport (cycling, walking, handcarts, wheelbarrows and animal drawn carts).  In Kenya, more than 90% of rural trips are on foot, 4% by bicycles and 2% by paratransit.

In Africa, women are responsible for most transportation demand yet they have been mainly ignored by the transport industry. Both rural and urban women carry out a variety of tasks that often require trips of considerable distance. Women traditionally have been responsible for almost all household production and transport labour associated with agricultural production.

Assessing and addressing the non motorized transport needs of low-income women are crucial to environmentally sustainable transport and economic development. Chores requiring transportation are carried out using carts, shoulder poles, and bicycles.

However, transportation planners, development professionals, and policy makers continue to address mobility needs with projects and policies that are based on motorization. If the intended outcome of transportation planning in Africa is economic development and an increased standard of living, alternatives to a transportation system based on motorization must be a primary part of any policy and planning effort.

On our International #WITrans outlook, we feature a quote by Shannon Galipin of Afghanistan Women’s Cycling Team:
“Riding bikes for girls is one of the most seated taboos that’s left in Afghanistan…..the girls (cyclists) have been slingshot, rocks have been thrown at them, they are insulted and their families are insulted. They are not cycling to be revolutionary, they are simply cycling because they feel they have a right to……Through cycling these girls are normalizing biking in the country, enabling young girls to bike school, midwives to use bikes to access rural communities…..literally changing lives”

Your Support Counts!
Our new Women in Transportation program works to advance the transport industry and the professional women who are a growing part of it.
Good news! For our U.S.A supporters, your donation is now tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S.A law.
Try our new donation platform here!

Forbes articleForbes 2

Forbes Woman features Flone Initiative Founder and Executive Director, Naomi Mwaura for the great work being carried out by the initiative  towards ending sexual harassment on our public transport terminals. She is at the forefront ensuring that women and girls feel and are safe while commuting using the public transport system in Kenya. In November 2014, Naomi was among the lead organizers of the #MyDressMyChoice protest that highlighted the sexual violence meted on women in the Kenyan public transport industry. Currently through Flone Initiative, Naomi is working with public transport operators by training them on gender equality and prevention of sexual violence, improving customer service, and in personal and professional development.To Join her in creating safe spaces for you and your loved ones sponsor a PSV driver or conductor/tout for Ksh. 1,000(USD$ 12.5) or a session by donating Ksh. 30,000(USD $375) here

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Flone Initiative is introducing a Women in Transportation (#WITrans) program. #WITrans mission is to advance the transport industry and the women who are a growing part of it.

This week’s newsletter focuses on the status of women in the Kenyan transport industry. The transport industry is predominately male dominated with women taking up lower management positions such as call girls, booking clerks, stage clerks, drivers and conductors. Women who choose  transportation as a career choice is a rarity not just in Kenya, but through Africa and the world. Women workers face sexism, physical violence, passive aggressive threats and stigmatization from their male counterparts. By entering a male dominated industry, women test boundaries, real and imagined, as their traverses streets and highways. Due to the sexism faced by female taxi drivers there are several sexual harassment and discrimination cases in the Kenyan court cases. Socialization and cultural restrictions still subjugate most Kenyan women and girls. Discrimination and limited access to opportunities are the norm.

WITrans aims to identify and bridge workforce gap in the transportation industry by promoting careers for women in the transportation industry. WITrans ultimately aims to to attract, retain and advance women in the transportation industry.

This week’s #WITrans quotes *Emma a taxi driver in Kenya:
“I have been beaten, spit on and my car hit by fellow taxi drivers. I have always loved driving and I love my job. Being a woman, a lot of clients prefer and trust me (as opposed to male counterparts). But it’s not an easy job for a woman” 
*The name has been changed.

Your Support Counts!
Our new Women in Transportation program works to support  the  professional women who are a growing part of transportation industry.
Good news! For our U.S.A supporters, your donation is now tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S.A law.
Try our new donation platform HERE!

 

 

 

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Sexual harassment in the public transport terminals and spaces is real. Most of us have been victims or have witnessed this vice in play. Join us in the fight against street and sexual harassment by taking part in this survey. Together we can ensure our women and girls are safe along our streets at all time. Support us to do so by participating in this simple survey.
The survey will take only a few minutes, yet you can change a life.

Join us in creating safe spaces for women and girls in the public transport networks and changing the public transport industry for the better.

Take the Survey