24 Hours Without Men. I Am Going for a Walk.

Recently, I read a post that asked women what they would do if there were no men in the world for 24 hours. My answer was simple…

…to walk {and wear whatever I want}.

Now, it’s not that I don’t walk. The issue is every time I walk my experience is made uncomfortable by a man catcalling me or saying/doing something inappropriate. Additionally, I have to be vigilant when walking to ensure that the street I am on has people, and when I notice I am alone I use shadows or my periphery vision to see if someone is following me. As much as I love walking it is often riddled with anxiety, fueled by the fact that ‘1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime’ (WHO).

I recently moved into a new neighbourhood, and I decided to explore and took a trail that had many trees. The trail did not have enough human traffic, so I was walking on high alert. First, we are in a pandemic and I was wearing my mask, people in my neighbourhood don’t wear masks, so I looked like an outsider. As I was exploring the new trail I saw a man walking towards me. I prayed for him to walk past me. My prayer was not answered.. the man came up to me and asked

‘Please stop I need to talk to you’.

I declined and continued walking and he retorted,

‘I need to talk to you.’

I declined again and fastened my pace, he turned to try to follow me and I started half running and walking, luckily he gave up and continued walking the other direction. I was spooked and I could not turn back in the event he was waiting for me, I continued walking on the same path. Fortunately, I came across two elderly ladies who were walking up and I followed them and half walked half run home.

That experience shook me and it’s safe to say I will not be exploring my new neighbourhood, I will stick to paths that have high human traffic.

Walking in high traffic areas does not necessarily mean that men will not disturb me. Try walking in the Nairobi CBD as a woman, you will have matatu conductors catcall or grab you to try and get you into their matatus (mini-vans) or male nail technicians shoving nail props on you and even go to the extent of blocking your walk path. I am also a petite girl, so as I walk in town I will hear some men shouting:

‘My size!’

Which is a sexual innuendo, that means they are able to carry me in bed.

You would think that a pandemic would stop men from making women feel uncomfortable as they walk, but it has not. Matatu conductors for example continue to hold and harass women and when they resist they will say,

‘Madam sina corona!’ ( Madam I don’t have Corona!)’

Which is a ludicrous thing to say knowing that Corona can be asymptotic and without doing a test you have no way of knowing whether you have it or not.

Men, you want to make women feel safe as they walk:

  1. Walk ahead of any girl in a less crowded area and keep a safe distance away from her, this way she does not feel like you are following her or will stop and surprise her.
  2. Keep your hands to yourself!
  3. Keep your unsolicited comments to yourself.

Words inspired by my feelings on life, gender, sexual reproductive rights, mental health, youth 🤓