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HOWEVER I DRESS WHEREVER I GO, LET ME BE!

Annabel* 22

Annabel is a student at State University and she loves wearing fashionable clothes. From her style, one can tell that her sense of fashion is bold, classy, sexy and aesthetic —she likes to subtly show her skin. Annabel prefers walking to school since the university is nearby, except for instances when she foresees lateness. That is when she opts to board a public vehicle. 

Very often, when walking to school, Annabel experiences catcalling and vulgarity from men. They would say things like, “Huyu ni size yangu” (she is my size) or “Eii msupa hata si usmile?” (Pretty girl, can’t you smile? This makes her feel sick and angry, but she fears reacting to it. Provoking them would cause a more embarrassing scene. Sometimes they would go to an extent of touching her arm, trying to force a greeting. When she resists, they call her ‘proud.’ Other times Annabel gets long stares, which makes her uncomfortable.

There is this one time a guy grabbed her arm while trying to force her to board a ‘matatu’. She got irritated and responded aggressively. The guy refused to let her arm go and tightened his grip. At that moment she felt scared, weak and wished she did not respond in that manner. She yelled “Mwizi! Mwizi!” (Thief! Thief!) in attempt to free herself, and he eventually let her go.

These ugly encounters have made it difficult for Annabel to express herself. She is scared. She is always aware of her walking, dressing, showing her skin and avoids eye contact just in case she triggers the annoying perpetrators.  

Here are tips (5D’s) from L’Oreal’s Paris sexual harassment campaign which you can leverage in a similar scenario;

  • Distract the perpetrator – attempt to divert the attention of the harasser away from the victim to diffuse the situation.
  • Delegate by asking for help – seek assistance from others who can intervene or support the victim.
  • Document the harassment – keep records of incidents, including dates, times, locations, and any evidence, such as messages or witnesses.
  • Direct by speaking up – encourage the victim to assertively communicate their discomfort or disapproval to the harasser.
  • Delay by comforting – offer emotional support and comfort to the victim after the incident.

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