Not Afraid to Say “No”: A Brave Young Woman’s Story of Not Giving in to Sexual Harassment

Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Janneth Lawil
USAID Youth Leadership for Agriculture


She could have easily gotten the job; all she needed to do was agree to the terms. The job interviews were scheduled to take place during the week; however, the requests to meet after hours at a hotel in town were scheduled even before the interviews were supposed to take place. In other words, if she agreed to meet after hours, the job would be hers; the interview would just be a formality.

Janneth Lawil, 26, from northern Uganda, had finished school and was ready for the next stage in her life: to become a working woman. She had a certificate in ICT and a diploma in accounting. She hoped that finding a job would be easy—especially because she had the qualifications, skills, and passion to work.  

What she did not expect however, was interest from male interviewers in meeting her over the weekend at a hotel—not to discuss anything job-related, but to see what sexual favors she was willing to give up in exchange for securing a job. “‘If you give me what I want, the job is yours,’” she explains.

Janneth is just one of the many Ugandan girls who has experienced sexual harassment. A 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey found that 13 percent of women aged between 15-49 have reported experiencing sexual harassment. Many women remain silent on the issue largely out of the fear of stigma and lack of confidentiality that arises from reporting such cases.

In recognition that many of her peers face various forms of sexual harassment within the workplace and elsewhere, Janneth encouragingly advises, “Don’t sell your body for a job because the cost may be too high; start small and take your time to grow.” To employers, she appeals, “Don’t focus on a girl’s body; focus on her qualifications…”

Saying “no” to inappropriate sexual advances she received did not put an end to Janneth’s ambition to get a job based on her qualifications. She was sure that she had done the right thing and felt that she needed to preserve her dignity and stick to the principles and value system she had been instilled with.

Today, Janneth is an Administrative Officer with Jolah Company Limited and coordinates the company’s supply chain in Agago and Kitgum Districts in northern Uganda. She started out as an Administrative Assistant and her hard work resulted in a promotion. In 2018 the Feed the Future Uganda Youth Leadership for Agriculture (YLA) Activity partnered with Jolah Company Limited to strengthen its supply chain management system to increase access to input and output markets of sesame, sunflower, and sorghum to 3,000 youth farmers in northern Uganda.

Jolah Company Limited ensures that all their employees are safe and aware of the dangers of gender-based violence and sexual harassment. 

“We make sure that all our staff are oriented about the importance of respecting their colleagues. We have policies that protect both men and women,” says David Oceng, the Managing Director of Jolah.

YLA supports Ugandan partners like Jolah to identify and drive forward sustainable, inclusive, and cost-effective development models that put youth, especially female youth, squarely in the agriculture sector as leaders, farmers, entrepreneurs, and employees.

Janneth feels safe and respected at Jolah and looks forward to progressing in her career.

Last updated: June 18, 2020

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