The Flone Initiative
The Flone Initiative, is a women led organization based in Kiambu, Kenya, working towards ending violence against women and girls in public spaces by influencing behavioral change and promoting tolerance and acceptance by strengthening capacities at the grassroots level. The Flone Initiative is currently pursuing 3 projects as taken from their website:
Gender Based Violence:
Flone Initiative Public safety certificate program (Usalama wa Uma) trains public transport providers on customer service, gender equality, prevention of sexual harassment, professional and personal development. As of March, 2018 conducted trainings for 554 public transport operators in Nyeri, Githurai 44 & 45, Bungoma, Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu, Kayole, Embakasi and Nakuru.
Women In Transportation (WIT)
The program seeks to attract, retain and promote women in the transportation industry by providing them with skills and support necessary to realize a safe, sustainable and lucrative working environment that is free from violence. The East African Women in Transportation Conference hopes to explore emerging transportation issues while recognizing and celebrating women working in the sector.
Report It Stop It!
Report it! Stop it! is a crowdmapping platform where survivors & victims of sexual harassment & assault voice out and map out their ordeals in public spaces, to seek redress and support.
You can read more about the organizations mandate at: www.floneinitiative.org
I had the pleasure of doing a bit of volunteer work for this amazing organization on International Women's Day and am excited to share with you the photos and videos I created which will be shared at the Women Mobilize Women Conference in Germany this May. I headed to Nairobi's hectic Central Business District (known as the CBD) with Valerie and Susan, where we interviewed multiple women working in the transportation industry. These women mainly work as conductors of matatus, ranging from privately owned mini-buses to corporate owned city shuttles. Many of them dream to become drivers, but this man-dominated industry does not make it easy for a women to gain these high in demand positions. The Flone Initiative is aiming to change these behaviours, encouraging more women to enter the sector, to understand and recognize the signs of harassment and how to deal with them appropriately. Most of the women we spoke with shared a love for the job and for driving, but each also had stories to share of harassment they deal with daily from drivers, other conductors and passengers who do not take them seriously because they believe this is a man's job.
Watch The Flone Initiative Video:
Sara Wanjiku has been working in the transportation district for 7 years now. She was gracious enough to answer some interview questions and pose for photos in between phone calls while relaying information on the City Shuttle bus routes in Nairobi’s CBD. The job can be stressful at times, dealing with phone calls, passengers, bus drivers and traffic all at once. She loves her work, but desires to be a driver, and for women it is difficult to gain this position. Men dominate the public transportation sector in Nairobi and women have reported many cases of physical, sexual and mental abuse by both industry workers and passengers. The Flone Initiative has a mission of changing these behaviors, envisioning a public transportation sector that is safe for women to work in if they so choose. Sara was excited about Flone's Women in Transportation (WIT) program as she too is an advocate for more women working in the public transportation sector.
Being a Citi hoppa conductor means being a part-time security guard, part-time sales representative. This woman attracts the attention of a passerby looking to take route 40 from the Kencom Bus Stage in Nairobi’s CBD. She conducts a quick security check with her metal scanner on every passenger entering the bus to ensure the safety of all travellers.
A young conductor waits patiently at the matatu stage in Nairobi’s Central Business District, also known as the CBD. As a conductor, it is her duty to entice travellers to choose her matatu out of all the rest, keep track of who has paid and where each customer’s departure point is. Matatu’s don’t leave until all the seats are filled, so it may be some time before she and the driver depart. Competition is high in the matatu scene, but so is demand, and her smile is an indication that the rest is well needed before the journey through Nairobi's afternoon traffic jam.
The Nairobi Hustle is a real phenomenon, which can best be observed in the hustling bustling district of Nairobi's business centre. Although the commotion can be a bit overwhelming for a newcomer, immerse yourself in the madness and it can be quite a joyful experience! Just don't don't get too distracted by the bright colours of the matatu's whizzing by, or else you may become a flat pancake! Competition is high in Nairobi for matatu transport, spurring a culture of creativity to attract passengers. The most appealing matatu’s are colorful displays of art with the latest music beats blasting on high volume. Many have themes too, so you can choose your ride based on your feels that day: gangster rap, chilled out reggae music, Swahili tunes and many more for your disposal! Make sure to pick something you like, because you may be on there for a while!