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“Who will speak up for the 70 survivors of systematic and horrific workplace abuse?” ask Nguvu Change Leaders

Byadmin

Jul 11, 2024

Expressing their shock at the Kenyan government’s inertia in responding to the public criticism of John Chebochok’s appointment as the Director of a Tea Factory, Nguvu Change Leaders have demanded that all authorities concerned should stop passing the buck and take decisive action.

Nguvu Collective’s Change Leaders Deborah Monari, Josephine Mwende, and Kerry Mwita are adding their voices to the rising public discontent on the Kenyan government’s silence in tackling gender crimes and sexual exploitation of women in workplaces.

Post the furore over BBC Panorama and BBC Africa Eye’s 2023 expose, ‘Sex for Tea,’ there have been demands seeking action against John Chebochok who has now been elected as the Director of Toror Tea Factory, an industrial unit under the management of the Kenyan Tea Development Agency (KTDA). In the expose, Chebochok and one individual named John Asava were filmed as they preyed on vulnerable women at a Finlay factory in Kericho in exchange for employment.

Last week, global tea suppliers James Finlay Limited and Lipton Teas and Infusions also called for the immediate removal of John Chebochok from his latest position. They also referenced allegations of sexual assault lodged against Chebochok following the BBC expose in 2023.

“Who is responsible for John Chebochok being promoted publicly into powerful positions? The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission says it only supported a process initiated by KTDA. Meanwhile, KTDA says the shareholders of the Torror Tea Factory were responsible for electing him and now have to decide whether he will become the director or not. And throughout, the government is missing in action. EACC has been quiet when the biggest question here is how did he even get ethical clearance to contest in the elections. It seems like a game of passing the parcel and washing hands from accepting any responsibility. Are we going to let the sexual abusers become more and more powerful? Are we sending a chilling message to women across Kenya that they are alone in their fight for dignity and safety at the workplace and beyond?,” the three Nguvu Change Leaders ask.

They have also initiated an online petition that has been supported by more than 4200 Kenyan citizens to urge the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and KTDA to revoke Chebochok’s election and prevent him from leading any tea factory. “This petition is a crucial step towards bringing public voices together in demanding that known abusers are held accountable and do not continue to wield power,” they say.

To present a powerful counterpoint to this administrative, legal and bureaucratic disregard for the safety of women working in toxic workplaces, the co-leads of the online campaign (Deborah, Josephine & Kerry) posted a collective statement on their social media handles to draw attention to the immense challenges survivors of sexual abuse in the workplace often face. They fear social stigma, the anxiety of not being believed and worry about the potential loss of employment.

The statement further says, “This environment of fear and silence allows perpetrators to escape accountability and continue their abusive behaviour. John Chebochok is a prime example of how the system fails to protect victims.”

The point Nguvu Change Leaders are making is that no arrests or prosecutions were made and even though Chebochok lost his job after the expose, he was elected as the director of Toror Tea Factory subsequently.

“Electing him is a monumental injustice to the women who courageously came forward to share their experiences. The torment and trauma endured by the dozens of women to expose the uncouth conduct of exploitative employers should not be compromised by allowing individuals implicated in such scandals to secure authoritative roles,” conclude the Change Leaders while adding that his election blatantly disregards the integrity of social justice and poses a major reputational risk to Kenya.

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