Sexual Harassment is a worldwide conundrum for working women. But sexual harassment in Nigeria is hell. There are often no concrete structures for women to file proper complaints that will be dealt with.
To paint an accurate picture of the workplace sexual harassment problem in Nigeria, we asked five women to describe their experiences with sexual harassment in their jobs. Here’s what they said:
My supervisor was hounding me to sleep with him – Nneka, 22, social media intern.
It started with text messages. I thought they were harmless at first. Like he would just randomly send me a text to check up on me late at night, so I didn’t think it was a big deal. But they became quite suggestive and flirty. He would joke about having sex with me in the office and send me very lewd DMs. I didn’t want to come off as rude. A friend asked that I report it to HR, but we didn’t even have HR, it was a really small company. I didn’t know what to do. Omo, I was so distressed.
It was my first job after university — I was 20 at the time. It really affected me, especially in delivering at work. I was also afraid that he would rape me. At the end of the day, I left before my internship ended. I didn’t even resign, I just stopped coming to work. The memory still scars me.
He tried to kiss me during a work retreat – Dorcas, 29, lawyer.
I didn’t even see the signs that he was that kind of person. He was a very nice and helpful colleague. We were cordial. Then all of sudden, we go on a work trip and he tries to kiss me. He succeeded in grabbing my boob so hard it hurt. I reported to HR and the man asked me what I was wearing? The reaction to the experience changed my life, even more than the experience did: everyone started calling me names behind my back, saying I was trying to ruin a colleagues career. I still work there, but I know I’m on my way out. It’s not me they’ll kill.
He is very hostile to me, he says I know the solution – Bola, 26, office assistant
I don’t know what I did to this man, but he treats me anyhow. He complains about everything I do and embarrasses me in front of customers. I’m really tired. When he’s in a good mood, he says, “Bola, you know what to do now, you’re not a child.” He has never said it out loud that he wants sex, but I think that is what it means. No one warned me that this is what life is as a woman. If I had known, maybe I’ll better prepared.
My boss back in the day wanted the women to wear only certain kinds of clothes to work – Mrs John, 50, Banker
This was even before I got married. I once had a boss who thought he was at liberty to touch female staff as he liked. He actually treated us like we were his domestic staff, especially we single women — he would dictate that this is what we could wear, or this is what we couldn’t wear. He would tell us that our skirts were too long or that certain shirts didn’t suit our bodies. It was worse for us single women in the office. We were happy when he was transferred.
The worst thing my manager did to me was to send me nudes on WhatSapp – Chika, 32, product manager
The first form of sexual harassment was when he asked me the colour of my bra. I didn’t think it was a big deal because to be honest, I was already used to all the sexual harassment that comes from working in tech. Then my brain reset one day when I was talking to a male friend, and I realised this is actually sexual harassment. I wanted to report it, but a lot of time had elapsed between the time it happened and the time I realised. There was also the fact that I thought I encouraged him because I smiled and did nothing. I still feel like I should have reported it. That one went.
Then one day he just randomly sends me nudes. He said it was a mistake, but I didn’t wait before I reported it. It turns out that he had previously done similar things and had a record. He was fired this time and I was glad.
Sexual harassment in Nigeria is rife both in the University and in the workplace. People often say, “Just report it”, but it’s never that easy. We’re sending love to every woman that has experienced any form of sexual harassment.
• Names were changed to protect the identity of the subjects.