Our six Safe Public Spaces Mentees are half-way through their projects. This week we are featuring their blog posts about how the projects are going so far. This second post is from our team in Kenya. Their projects are supported by SSH donors. If you would like to donate to support the 2015 mentees, we would greatly appreciate it!
We plan to hold a campaign about harassment on the ferry. Our pre-planning meeting in the community started with a word of prayer. Then Cosmos, the project manager, informed the participants that the purpose of the meeting was to learn more about street harassment, especially as we plan the five day exhibition at the stand on the ferry ramp dubbed “Stop gender based harassment on the ferry.”
Cosmos informed the participants that madam Holly at Stop Street Harassment had already raised and sent kshs. 22,000 which was for the support of the five day event. Cosmos expressed the situation on the ground that currently about eighteen women and two males had openly expressed their sadness on being badly touched or harassed on the ferry. Cosmos said that all was not in vain that fortunately one sex pest has been sentenced to two years prison term after a confident non fearing lady caught him and led him to the police post where he was immediately booked and taken to court the next morning.
Cosmos expressed that the reason for this campaigns is to have victims of this kind of harassment open up so that we can let people know that our Likoni ferry will not tolerate such kind of pests. He urged the participants to attend the exhibition in large numbers and support the campaign without fear.
The pre-planning meetings have gone on well so far we have been able to reach out to three hundred and fifty participants from our community. This has included 112 males and 188 females. The most successful meeting was at the Kwale Community Social Hall where over 200 participants came to deliberate on the “Stop gender harassment on our ferry” campaign. The participants arrived early and we discussed the topic in a participatory manner. One lady shared her story about how when she was carrying a baby in her back a man kept stroking her buttocks pretending he was playing with the kid. She expressed her sadness that no male who was around her on the ferry did anything but just stared at her and some laughed. She expressed her last sentiments with pain, “We are not toys to play with, respect our bodies” she pointed at the men.
A school girl also took the mike and expressed how a man old enough to be her dad kept rubbing his erect penis on her back in the crowded ferry. It felt so shocking and depressing she says. She ended with this message “Please, our fathers respect yourselves and we shall respect you. Zip-it-up”.
An elderly mother that we had invited to share her experience started by congratulating Teens Watch and the Stop Street Harassment campaign saying this campaign should not be a onetime event and we need to plan for it every year. She said she was one of the main victims of the sexual harassment on the ferry she said that it was around six o’clock when she boarded the ferry and as usual the ferry was packed with people, about two thousand to be exact. As a lady, she said, I tried my best to go towards where most women were packed. Of course the ferry as it is now it’s not a female friendly vessel. Soon the pushing and jostling started and I sensed a man patting my buttocks as if it was romance. I pushed further on and he kept following me pretending he was being pushed.
Suddenly I felt hard warmth pressing on me. By then the ferry was midway and everyone was concentrated on the ferry reaching the off ramp. The hardness was so uncomfortable I looked him straight in the eye harshly and he backed off. It was not until I reached the other side to get off that a lady screamed, “What’s on your back?” and as I turned and strained my neck behold a big lump of sperm was smeared on my back.
I was furious! Ladies came to my rescue wiped the sperm out. I tried to look for the man who had a yellow t-shirt on, but I couldn’t find him, there were so many people in yellow. In short, I am so annoyed with this pests, as you know I am not the only one. Many women are suffering quietly, but from now on, women I want to tell you to stand up for your rights. When a man dares to press on you, raise the red card, scream, and let his acts be known. And for the men and our brothers who are here, support us against this sex beasts that pretend to be men. She ended by saying, “a man does not count as a man because of pressing his penis on a helpless woman but by protecting women against harassment. Thank you.”
Resolutions passed in this pre-planning meeting
* That the Kenya ferry services should think about separating women from the men to avoid harassment.
* That the Kenya ferry should have CCTV cameras that work on the ferry and be operated at all times.
* That the Kenya ferry should allow the Teens Watch Centre to have posters displayed to Stop Street Harassment to create awareness and warnings to those intending to violate the rules.
* That the county senate should debate on a policy towards making street harassment or sex pest an act punishable by jail in Kenya.
* That women should speak up when assaulted or harassed and that men should support them when need arises.
* That we should identify a local women leader to push this campaign.
* That the five day exhibition and campaign should be held in December when schools are closed and more people are free so that they can participate.
Mr. Cosmus W. Maina is the Project Co-ordinator for the Teen Watch Centre in Diani Beach, Kenay, and the lead for the Safe Public Spaces team in Kenya.Share on Facebook