Ushahidi which was founded on the premise of mapping violence reports in Kenya in the 2008 post election violence, and known for all the good brought on humanity, is back in the news. This time for the wrong reasons. As it turns out, there has been something really wrong going on in the company as far as human resource is concerned.
We got wind of information that there has been cases of an individual in the senior leadership being accused of sexually harassing women in the company. Something that has been brought to the attention of members of the board according to the reports. It is said that it’s not just one cases but the said person has developed this reputation for many years now.
Instead of dealing with the said employee to make the victims feel safe in the organization, it seems like the said senior team member is enjoying protection from the company, and instead of stern action against them, the women involved have got victim shamed.
It is alleged that the responses from the top leadership include threats and emotional blackmail. They were warned that if they spoke up they risked not getting investment for their startups. Other responses include loss of jobs in the organization in this case I assume that they believed that dealing with it firmly would ruin the reputation of Ushahidi among investors.
Ushahidi shares board members with BRCK, a company that designs portable wifi hotspots targeted at remote areas without stable internet connection and also recently got into the education space with BRCK education.
This association also brought in sentiments among the top leadership that it would make it hard for BRCK to fund-raise.
It is a courage act for a lady to bring up to the attention of a company’s leadership, a case of sexual harassment, knowing the potential outcomes ranging from protectionism to actually dealing with the situation. It’s even worse when it’s not just one but several women, on an ongoing basis. And the protection is all in the name of “protecting an ecosystem”. The ecosystem doesn’t need to be protected from such, and instead action should be taken since human resource is more important than funding.
It’s my wish that this doesn’t get taken too far and gets dealt with as it should. For an organisation associated with ”
Helping people raise their voice and those who serve them to listen and respond better’, it should be at the forefront of ensuring that these same voices are protected. Charity begins at home.
UPDATE: There is this document that has no letterhead, is unsigned and undated, titled Ushahidi Statement that’s supposed to be the Ushahidi board statement, shared by Juliana Rotich. See message below, and attached below, the document.
Statement from Ushahidi Board on alleged sexual harassment claim
We wish to make the following clarifications on the alleged sexual harassment claim: The Ushahidi Board is fully aware of an alleged sexual harassment claim lodged by an employee (who has since chosen to leave the company), against one of our senior employees and has prioritised an internal inquiry into the matter.
Ushahidi, as a matter of policy and practice, does not in any way condone sexual harassment and treats any such allegation seriously.
The Board has offered avenues for due process to the Parties involved, assisted by their Legal Counsel, and has undertaken reasonable steps to ensure they are afforded a fair hearing in accordance with the Laws of Kenya and our internal policies and procedures. Investigations are still underway and once they are complete, the Board will act appropriately as permitted by Law and Ushahidi Policies.
At Ushahidi, we pride ourselves in our efforts to help give a voice to those marginalised in Society and encourage those who serve them to listen and respond effectively. We consistently encourage all staff members to live by our vision and values and therefore welcome the transparency and candour of the Staff Members involved.
We wish to reiterate that we are taking this claim seriously and will strive to seek a fair and just conclusion to the matter in accordance with the Law as soon as is reasonably possible.