My name is Rosheni Takechandra. I am a woman, a sister, a friend, an auntie, a colleague and the programme director for the WITNESS Project.
I am NOT an object to men! I am not their “baby,” their “hey sexy,” their “I want to suck up your lips,” their “thick thing,” their “give me that ass.” NO, I am NOT any of that!
That Street Harassment constitutes those unwanted and vile behaviours that starts with thoughts and desires and then manifests into cat calls, whistling, name calling and leading to stalking, following women around, verbal abuse, cursing and threats and even further expressions of sexual abuse like rubbing the male private part against another person, rape etc. – makes it a concern for a society that strives to bring about equality of men and women and peace.
I have been harassed many times by men and boys. Some of whom could be my brother and others old enough to be my father or grandfather.
Such insolent behaviour which is believed by many to be “desired” or “acceptable” by women and girls- reflects the degradation of morals, values, ethics and strength of a powerful population .
Here’s one of my personal experiences:
On the night of April 13th 2015, I was on my way home from the University.
This man who was leaning against the pavement and drinking a beer, called out to me. I was not sure what he said initially but then he shouted:
” come give me a minute nah.”
This is a total stranger, so I clearly said no as I continued to my bus park.
He started to follow me… When I realised this I started to walk faster. He also accelerated. I refused to listen to the words spilling out of his mouth…At this point I was drenched in fear. I turned to him and asked him to leave me alone. But he insisted on trying to have a conversation with me, invading my immediate personal space.
Drowning in fear, frustration and discomfort, I turned and ran back where I came from. There were two men talking. One selling a DVD to the other. I interrupted the sale.
” Excuse me sir. Can you kindly ask this man to stop following me and to leave me alone?”
“I asked him to leave me alone but he’s still following me.”
The kind man observed my vulnerability then turned to the harasser:
“Ey left this girl alone. Why you following she around? She asked you to left she alone. Is wah happen to you? Leave this girl alone!”
At that moment the harasser turned to me, gave me a long stare then remarked:
” she coulda seh dah…”
I was upset and reminded him that I told him to leave me alone…
I thanked the kind man and walked away as fast as I could. Perhaps I ran…
With heart throbbing and tears in my eyes I reflected on how unsafe it is to walk on the street if you are a Woman…
No one said anything to that harasser until I ran for help. Did people pass by and notice his behaviour? Yes! Did they intervene? No!
I could not help but to think that because I am a woman my words and decisions are not taken seriously by those harassers… it’s all about their agenda and how they go about executing it. The woman does not exist. She is just the object at his disposal- at least that is how it appears.
Because I am a woman, I must be subjected to that harasser? Really?
I am not unique to such vile behaviours. Other women and girls experience this every day!
That the harasser did not listen to me, but he listened to the man who intervened on my behalf, made me realise the significant role of decent men in standing up to those harassers!
Men can definitely play a role in ensuring that women are treated fairly and with respect. That harasser will go on to harass other women. But if another man stands up to him and then yet another man objects to his behaviour, he will be forced to act differently- If not by will, then by the pressure around him to do differently; to control his words and actions, and to respect others especially women and girls.
I strongly believe that women working together can also teach those men what is and what is not acceptable. We can put up our boundaries and make it known. Even when it is tough and scary, we must still hold on to our standards and values.
It is not an easy one but when men and women start working together, we can and will surely have a safer society. One where the harassers do not have any power! They will be forced to change because men and women alike will no longer accept and condone such lowly behaviour!
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