This is how I was sexually harassed during interview

My name is Joanna*.  I am a bachelor graduate from med sciences. Couple days ago, I applied for a job and while I was at the final step, I unexpectedly found myself in a vulnerable position. Here is my story.

Finally, I was there. A bit nervous of course. But above all I was at the finish line and I could feel a lure of hope. I barely slept that night. Graduated in 2016, the only time I got a job was when I was connected by my uncle (connections…you know that right?). So, I got some temporary “ibiraka”. Now I was about to be hired, and above all, no family member was involved in the application process. I saw the job on website. After reviewing the terms of reference, I thought I could stand a chance to grab the opportunity and then I hit the apply button. I was not feeling super confident due to some awkward feedbacks I reaped in previous applications. But I applied again anyway and this time my application went through. I reached the interview stage.

 At the eve of the interview, I was excited to get the call from the company I could be the one. I woke up before the “Allahu Akbar”. Anyway, my eye was open the whole night. I had an appointment at 9AM but I wanted to get there 20 min before. The time to choose the best professional attire I can get in my wardrobe… Don’t they say that dressing well is part of the interview and that it makes the best impression? After a small tour on the internet looking for advice, I opted for a blouse and dress pants and a pair of high heels shoes. 

The interview

I showed up on time. I had a brief time to relax…so, the time for their catchy questions came. When I entered the room, there were two ‘gentlemen’. Both of them seemingly approaching their 40s. With a smile, they welcomed me in the room. I was a bit nervous but the first questions they asked were simple and made me rather comfortable. After 10 min, they had asked 4 questions about the position I was applying for and one of the men moved out. There then started the ‘taboo’ section questions. “What is your ethnic group?” The question smacked me in the face. I was not expecting such a question but I knew it is sometimes asked. I mumbled my ethnic group with less energy, this question made me lose confidence and hope.  

The nightmare

I wish it were the last question. The next one was even traumatizing. “Urazi kuryama?”. Jesus, Marie, Joseph…!!! It was in Kirundi while others were in French. No, this was probably a nightmare! Not a true interview, maybe I was dreaming…I asked him to repeat the question. With much energy and clearer than before, he repeated “Urazi kuryama? Ikibazo kirumvikana”. 

This time, I felt offended. I kept quiet for a while and he approached, he began to touch me convincing me that I am an adult and should not worry about the job offer.  Remember there were only two of us.  I had a little time to think about my next reaction. Accepting to be treated like a prostitute for a job offer? How will I work? Why is he acting like this? A flow of questions in a minute in my head. I loudly said “No, never, don’t ever come closer again or I will shout and call whoever is around to witness this,” I did not realise I was already shouting. The man walked back to his seat peacefully. I was already mad. I asked him how they can dare call for a job application to only end up demanding for sexual favor. “Can’t you guys separate profession and sexuality? You take this youth unemployment rate as an advantage to do your rubbish? Why don’t you make a call for application for your sex toys if you want to be satisfied…”? I did not even know where I got the energy and courage. The man seated quiet. After I emptied my head, I walked out quickly, shut the door violently behind me. People were staring at me outside, maybe they heard my shouting! Do I care? I went back to weep in my bed. I felt ashamed and even wondered if what happened wasn’t in some way my fault. But rationally, I knew it wasn’t. 

 

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