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South Sudanese young women grapple
with sexual harassment in workplace

JUBA (Xinhua) -- Sexual harassment and other forms of abuse against women has become a nightmare for young women in South Sudan as they strive for career mobility in a highly patriarchal society.

Dozens of hardworking and entrepreneur young women who spoke to Xinhua on Monday recounted how some predatory men at workplaces often undermined their quest for upward mobility.

As the conflict and economic crisis in South Sudan enters its fifth year, many young girls are not only bearing the burden of war but are also being discouraged from attaining financial independence due to abuse and discrimination.

Mary Tabu Martin Junudio, told Xinhua in Juba that she was forced to quit her job because of sexual harassment from her male bosses.

The 24-year-old was pensive as she narrated how she deflected inappropriate overtures from her bosses and often contemplated quitting a well-paying job to preserve her dignity.

“I have worked for several organizations and as a girl. I have faced so many challenges in my lone of work. Dozens of my supervisors have always made sexual advances on me and I detested their behavior very much,” said Tabu.

As a high school graduate, she has been working very hard in order to raise university fees and achieve her lifetime dream.

“I am urging male bosses to stop their untoward behaviors that often crash the dreams of young women. I’m determined the break silence and lead a movement against sexual harassment in the workplace,” said Tabu.

She disclosed what upset her the most was how her boss expressed fits of anger and started quarrelling with her for no genuine reasons as well as forcing her to work on Sundays despite the fact that she’s a Christian.

“I started working well with him but at a certain point my boss started asking me to sleep with him, but I declined to comply with his demand,” Tabu told Xinhua.

She is not the only victim to experience toxic masculine behavior in the world’s newest country and lose her job, but her peers also shared similar sentiment.

Monica Achol Deng, an 18-year-old mother of a three-year-old daughter, also told Xinhua that she was made to close down her small juice cafeteria this year due to her male customer’s behavior.

“My work was progressing very well until some costumers expressed intention to date me although I am a single mother, others went as far restricting me from sharing any conversation with other clients,” Deng told Xinhua.

Speaking in Arabic, Deng said she opened her business to raise her daughter not because she wanted to hook up with a man.

Deng revealed that she closed the lucrative business after the level of harassment became unbearable although she was earning 20 U.S. dollars profit a day.

“Some male customers could without respect start touching me anyhow in front of my customers and start demanding for my contact. Others want to restrict me from serving my customers when in fact I am a business lady,” said Deng.

She said the reason she opened the cafeteria was to meet her three-year-old daughter’s necessities like food, milk, soap and clothes because her husband’s monthly pay could not meet the needs.

Despite the shortcoming, Deng sounded willing to seek a job from a female boss in order to meet her daughter’s needs.

Suzan William, a lawyer and a Women’s Rights activist said Sexual harassment in the workplace can prevent victims from earning a living, doing their job effectively, or reaching their full potential.

The feminist acknowledged that the menace is widespread in the workplace, saying the behavior is against human rights and perpetrators should be punished.

“Sexual harassment is one of the common practice among the communities and it is not only at workplaces but even also at homes. It is a crime and anyone found practicing such an act is actually a perpetrator and should be brought to justice,” William told Xinhua.

She regretted that sexual harassment in the workplace can prevent victims from earning a living, hence worsening their poverty and sense of marginalization. 

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