Kelechi Udoagwu vs Kendall Ananyi: Sexual Harassment and the Question of its Prevalence Within the Tech Ecosystem

Ejike Kanife
Kelechi Udoagwu
Kelechi Udoagwu

There’s a huge campaign on rape and sexual assault currently going on in Nigeria which has indeed made headlines around the world. This campaign followed the disturbing story of Vera Uwaila Omozua, a 22-year-old student of the University of Benin who was raped then murdered by a group of men inside a church.

As the campaign grew in intensity and spread even wider, several women have come out to narrate their experiences in the hands of men, mostly public personalities, celebrities and role models. Music celebrities, Peruzzi and DBanj were top on the list of those called out by different women for sexually assaulting them.

Members of the Nigerian tech community have added their voices to the outcry. Many have declared their stand against rape and sexual assault while expressing their desire to join hands in the fight as the society looks to stamp off the inhumane act.

Kelechi Udoagwu vs Kendall  Ananyi: Sexual Harassment and the Question of its Prevalence Within the Tech Ecosystem
Kendall Ananyi

However, when tech communications strategist, Kelechi Udoagwu, shared the story of a sexual assault she experienced at the hands of Kendall Ananyi, the CEO of Tizeti Network Limited, it wasn’t met with the outrage one would expect, especially from major players in the industry.

The assault, happened while Kelechi was undergoing a mentorship programme at MEST Africa. According to her, the Tizeti CEO approached her and thrust his p***s into her hand.

Kelechi Udoagwu who was Mr Ananyi’s mentee at the time, said she reached out to friends within the tech community and shared her experience. However, she got no actionable support.

While Mr Kendall Ananyi is yet to address the claims, a number of tech players have already added their voices in response to Kelechi’s story. Notable among them is co-founder of Piggyvest, Odunayo Eweniyi who expressed her sympathy. Other tech enthusiasts also expressed their sympathy while calling on the Tizeti CEO to respond to the allegation.

But the most notable of them was the co-founder of Jobberman, Opeyemi Awoyemi who seems to be working with Tizeti in some capacity and who has vowed to quit the company if the accusation turns out to be true.

“So sorry this happened to you. I know Kendall but won’t stand for sexual harassment of any kind. He should defend himself if this isn’t true. Moving from Tizeti till justice is done.

Opeyemi Awoyemi, co-founder of Jobberman

Actionable and impactful reactions like Mr Awoyemi’s are powerful responses capable of bringing the turnaround and change society is currently crying out for. From music to politics to tech and every other sector. But beyond that, one would be forced to ask, is Kelechi Udoagwu’s case a standalone or are there more cases of sexual assault bottled up in the ecosystem?

The tech ecosystem

The Nigerian tech ecosystem is set up in a way that encourages mentorship established relationships within the ecosystem. It is also a system where someone is always dependent on someone else either for funding, accelerators, bootcamps and the sorts. These programmes also have the (dis)advantage of putting people together in one place for a long period.

Thus, for this one experience shared by Kelechi Udoagwu, the possibility exists that many more have happened to other women. This tweet by the Africa Women’s Power (AWP) Network, an organisation which empowers businesses via training, funding and other support seems to suggest this is the case.

Thus, are there really predators within the tech ecosystem taking advantage of the vulnerabilities of women? Are women in tech going through hell in the hands of big shots within the tech industry? Are mentors and financier and employers taking advantage of women within the industry, just like everywhere else?

Ironically, this is not a problem that can be solved with tech software or hardware. It is a display of wrong mindsets and character deficiencies. No human, male or female, should be seen as a means to a sexual end.

While it is important to bring the assault to the public, Kelechi says her goal will be realised when more men make a “resolution to do right moving forward. Protect the women in your lives and teach your sons to do better.”

MEST Africa has since condemned the act and promised to stand by Kelechi if she decides to take further action. “We have zero tolerance for sexual harassment and assault at MEST and within the MEST community. We will stand behind you and help escalate action if you wish.”

TechNext tried to reach out to Ken Ananyi to get his side of the story but his social media accounts have been restricted. We will update this post as soon as we get a response.

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