Have You Been Sexually Harassed at Work?

“I don’t want this to be a big thing.

The guy apologised.

It is fine!. I don’t want him to get fired. If the manager wants to deal with it, maybe they should just give him a warning.

He is already unstable. If he gets fired, he might harm me.”

The above statement was made by a woman at a local gym recently.

A colleague, who claimed he was drunk at the time, sent her inappropriate photos and texts, which made her uncomfortable, offended and humiliated.

Regrettably, this was not the first time the male colleague had done that to her.

What was sad about her story is the fact that she did not know that what she was experiencing was sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment, gender-based violence and workplace bullying have received considerable media attention lately.

Social change movements like the international #MeToo movement and the Slut Shame Walk empowerment organisation in Namibia, have brought about a resurgence and awareness to issues that were culturally not taken seriously.

Women were silenced for far too long by culture and society.

Abuse is normalised, and if a woman dares to defy the norm, she is castigated, vilified, hurled all sorts of demeaning and defamatory comments from the society and at times her family.

It is such abuse that made Tarana Burke, the actual founder of the #Metoo Movement, to assist sexual harassment and gender-based violence survivors, particularly young women in marginalised communities.

Burke formed this Movement in 1997.

A decade later, Alyssa Milano, a Hollywood actress, used Burke’s hashtag, which triggered 1,7 million tweets of #MeToo campaigns in about 85 countries.

Although the movement was not new, the tweet by Milano attracted more publicity due to the proliferation of social media channels, which reached more people globally.

Milano, being a celebrity, played a pivotal role in the resurgence of this Movement.

Although the movement made several strides in various countries around the world. The diffusion of this movement’s ideology was considerably slow in Africa.

Namibia caught up in May 2019, when a group of ladies led by several activists, spoke out about sexual harassment and abuse.

The Thompson Reuters Foundation Trust reported that Namibia was one of Africa’s first countries to launch the #MeToo movements.

The movement was set in motion by a Namibian student who spoke out on social media about being sexually abused on campus.

It is not surprising that Namibia was one of the African countries to lead such a movement. Namibia is one of seven countries (including Argentina, Ecuador, Fiji, Mauritius, Somalia and Uruguay) in the world to adopt and ratify Convention 190 and Recommendation 206, of the International Labour Organisation, which seeks to address issues of gender-based violence and all other forms of harassment.

It is indeed a blessing to live in a country that recognises and acknowledges the importance of addressing issues pertaining to gender-based violence and all other forms harassment.

The question is, how many organisations and institutions have adopted those conventions and recommendations in their policies?

For a country with such a small population, it is alarming to see the number of gender-based violence and harassment cases being reported.

Several cases are withdrawn, as the victims are either coerced by their families or perpetrators to drop the charges. Some of the victims are gaslighted to such an extent, they think it is their fault they were harassed or bullied.


Going back to the lady in the gym. Some might ask, well how is sexting sexual harassment?

Well, any sexual advances that are one-sided, unwelcomed, not wanted and cause offence and humiliation, constitute as sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment can be expressed in words, gestures, and images.

Given the description above, would you still believe the lady was sexually harassed or not?

I have been watching the Amber Heard vs Johnny Depp documentary on Netflix, and one of the people said, if you are not the perfect victim, your story will not be believed. Is there a perfect sexually harassed victim?

A significant amount of productive time was lost at work, because of distress the lady at the gym was experiencing.

As organisations, what are you doing to actively address bullying, sexual harassment and other forms of violence against not only women, but men and non-binary people?

  • Morna Ikosa is a communications specialist and is certified in preventing and responding to sexual harassment, workplace bullying and violence.
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