Dear Aunt Dora
I AM a night shift watchman in one of the ladies’ hostels in Technical University of Mombasa (TUM). I am having it rough at work, due to the sexual advances from the students. I have been been guarding the hostels for some time now and temptations are so open and so daring. Let me recount the most recent case.
It was at night when I was going to the ablutions. At the doors, I met with a lady who was coming out of the bathroom, a towel tied around her. Suddenly, the towel fall and she became naked, standing before me, unperturbed. She blamed me for making the towel fall, yet I had not even touched her. I had to pick the towel and tie it back around her,” he says.
I sometimes find some of the ladies outside in the late night, dressed scantly, thus putting me in an awkward situation. Moreover they come out dressed in costumes and other minute clothing, almost exposing everything.
There was a young man who was guarding the premises by night, who later quit his job, due to the advances from the students. I tell you, Aunt Dora, working there needs a mature man, who can control his feelings and act soberly.
However, my ‘woes’ are not from the students only. Even my female colleague at work tempts me quite much.
She can walk to my booth and change her clothes, in front of me, without any fear. When I try to protest, she rebuffs me saying that I am a man already and therefore I have seen it all already. She does this several times. I see a lot in this work,” he says.
I see the ladies here as my daughters, and I try to advise them. I am usually open with them and they have become so used to me, to the extent that some of the ladies hug me. I talk to them in Swahili but they respond in English.
Some of the students I have talked to, downplay my sentiments. They say that no one should limit how a campus girl should dress, especially when she is in the hostel premises. They mock me and say they cannot woo me to sex while TUM has many better men than him.
These women have no heart. Can you believe what they told me when I confronted them? They said even if they want to have sex they can do it anyway with their boyfriends out there. People can sleep outside. How can I make them leave me alone?
Frustrated Watchman, Mombasa.
Dear Frustrated Watchman.
What you are going through is sexual harasment and is against the laws if Kenya.
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:
- The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
- The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
- Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
- The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.
It seems like you have informed the harassers directly that their advances are unwelcome but they continue to violate you.
Have you informed your employer about the situation and what are the grievance mechanisms at your University?
Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation.
Evidence is substantial in building your case. How dark is your environment at night? How close can you see the perpetrator’s activities? Perhaps you could begin by joining the University labor Union and talking to their attorney.
Next time the women approach you, turn on your radio very loudly and do not respond to whatever they say or look up. Sing as loud as possible to the radio tune and drown their voices.
It is best to record an incident as soon as you believe you have experienced sexual harassment. Even if you have no intention of bringing a claim, or even if you aren’t sure whether something constitutes harassment, it is important to record it. Sexual harassment cases often start with one or two isolated remarks or incidents. You will want to be able to show the timeline and evolution of the harassment. It is also important that you write down what happened while your recollection is still fresh and accurate.
Buy several exercise books and pens or pencils and start recording these “advances”. Describe the way they are dressed in details, what they tell you, time, how they walk and the color of the towels, basins and pants..
When their boyfriends visit, warn them about the ongoing activities and read for them the juicy parts of your ‘evidence’. Also, dress in a suit on your day off and during the day, approach some of their lecturers with your note books. Ask them if they can help you publish your memoir. Tell them to be kind to your English. They will want to read every page.
I can assure you that these actions will stop.
All the best, sir!