For a company helping other people and organizations report incidents of violence, harassment and crime, it could be so ironical that Ushahidi is mum about internal cases of alleged sexual harassment by its senior executive instead of asking him to step down to allow investigations into the matter.
Not that Ushahidi was supposed to report to the public about these cases but as one of the continent’s exemplary firms it was expected to listen, address the issues as reported by its staff and ensure justice is upheld.
The major problem, according to the reports, is that a victim reported to one of the respected board members of Ushahidi. The board member allegedly referred the victim to report back to the said predator causing the victim to resign. These has led speculators to think that the predator could be under protection of the board because he’s been this wayward for years now.
According to reports reaching TechMoran, even after the victim notified the board members, nothing was done. It’s reported that a majority of the female victims were told to keep their mouth shut or else they would never raise funding for their startups or they would end up ruining the startup ecosystem made popular by Ushahidi itself, iHub and M-PESA. According to the report, Nairobi female founders are not safe either as they are allegedly asked to be nice to raise funding or remain in poverty. Most of them oblige as these angel investors have networks for follow-on funding and bigger networks in the corporate world or to government executives important for partnerships, expansion and regulation.
The Kenyan case comes just days after Silicon Valley went up in flames on cases of sexual harassment at Uber, 500 Startups, Binary Capital among others.
Ushahidi describes itself as an organization helping people raise their voice and get proper response but it has failed its own if the allegations are anything to go by. Ushahidi translates to “testimony” in Swahili and was developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election violence in 2008. Since then, thousands have use the software to raise their voice. Silencing its staff would be the last thing the Nairobi headquartered firm would do.
Ushahidi which started as a social enterprise operated on the goodwill of donor agencies and impact investors until it launched an enterprise version for use by corporate firms globally and is least expected to go against its mantra of improving the bottom up flow of information. It’s unbelievable that a firm that believes in helping marginalized people easily communicate would block internal communications or just fail to believe or address them.
TechMoran has reached out to the accused (executive director at Ushahidi) for more details.