International Womens Day

March 8, 2022

The theme this year for International Women’s Day is ‘gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.’

In Africa, where the woman is looked down upon, forced to live a life that is oppressive and downright degrading, we are seeing positive strides each year. More girls are going to school, the rate of F.G.M has gone down, and women are taking their place in the workforce. More and more women are standing up for their rights and not allowing negative talk or prejudice towards them to affect their way of life. But even with the positive strides, a lot still needs to be done.

As we celebrated gender equality today, women in Kenya held a demonstration aimed at the Ministry of Gender asking that a stop be applied to rogue motorbike riders that have become a law unto themselves. In Africa, motorbikes are used as a means of transport by most of the middle and lower class. The motorbikes are famous for beating traffic jams and getting people where they need to be on time. The motorbike as a means of transport is an inexpensive way for people to get back and forth to their destinations.

Over the years, however, the motorbikes have taken over the roads. The motorbikes are dangerously driven by rogue and unqualified riders who have caused countless accidents. The motorbike craze has contributed to many schoolboys dropping out of school. Seen as an easy way to make money, most boys struggling in school dropout and opt to become motorbike riders. The problem is they do not go for professional training so cause a lot of accidents in the process. Young schoolgirls, enticed with ‘free rides,’ too often become impregnated by these riders.

The riders are known to harass women in almost every part of the country. If by bad luck, a driver hits one if these riders, regardless of whether the driver was right or wrong, the riders gang up, beat the party involved, burn the vehicle, and, if the driver is a woman, chances of her being sexually assaulted are high.

This week, we had an unfortunate incidence where a young lady hit a pedestrian on her way home from work. As she got out to help the victim, the motorbike riders, who typically jump out of nowhere, descended on her and harassed her ruthlessly. She clung to her car and begged the group of riders to let her go and to report the accident to the police. Her pleas were ignored. She was stripped naked, after which the gang began touching her inappropriately. She was surrounded by more than 50 men, other men passing by, joined in the fracas. Her cry, begging them not to harm her, fell on deaf years. One of the men took out his phone and started recording the incidence, which is how the horrific story got on social media.

Most of the women here could barely sleep last night after the video was circulated across social media sites. The woman’s cry for help and desperate screaming only served to get the men more excited; not one of them saw her as a mother, sister, daughter, or vulnerable woman. None of those men thought to help her. By the time the police arrived at the scene, she had endured terror and utter humiliation.

Women from all over the country stood up to show solidarity with the young woman’s plight. The women demonstrated and thereby, ensured that at least 30 men who were caught on camera were subsequently, arrested. Their motorbikes were towed into the police station, where they are now all waiting to face the judge on Monday. The demonstrators insisted that the trial judge be a woman and that request has been granted.

Gender equality. Had it been a man accosted, would the same scenario have played out? Definitely not. The men saw a young, vulnerable woman and harassed her, robbed her, ridiculed her, molested her, and caused her untold trauma. It will take a lot of time and effort for her to heal, and regardless, the incidence will forever remain etched in her mind.

Gender equality may sound farfetched, but women are standing up and fighting back. Our voices need to be heard. We need protection, and we need to be able to move around freely without fear.

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