As development partners and CSOs working to end violence against women #EVAW prepare for 16days of Activism — an advocacy campaign that runs globally from 25th November to 10th December, we need to brutally remind ourselves that ONLINE VIOLENCE IS VIOLENCE.
Online gender based violence is the new face of Gender based violence around the world.
According to Plan International’s report on Online Gender Based violence:
51% of girls online have reportedly experienced some form of online GBV personally.
Of these, 85% said they have experienced multiple forms of harassment.
39% of girls across major cities in Africa are very concerned about their safety online.
Our work through LP Digital in Tanzania (an arm of The Launchpad Tanzania) works to promote women’s digital inclusion and according to the feedback from our programs, one of the major factors affecting effective and meaningful participation of women on digital platforms is online harassment/ violence.
Our target group is women from 18–40 across different fields and the recurring answer when asked why aren’t they active online across the group is ‘I ‘m not ready for the harassment’. We have learnt that we can support women to get online through digital skills but we also need to advocate for safe online spaces free from online gender based violence for women to truly thrive digitally.
In Tanzania even though we have the Cyber Crime Law 2015, and a tech policy that alludes to supporting women’s digital inclusion (although it doesn’t mention the word Women ANYWHERE which is inadequate as we need more deliberate targeted efforts and narrative to bridge the digital gender divide), we are yet to see visible efforts not just from law enforcers or respective authorities but the ecosystem at large.
Most of the focus for the #16daysofActivism has always been on physical violence, which is well warranted considering the still staggering numbers on intimate partner violence and violence against women not just in Tanzania but globally.
However, with COVID 19 which saw more onboarding of both women and men online, we have seen more occurrence of these digital threats particularly against women as a continuing manifestation of the position of women offline.
These digital threats and attacks remain difficult to address due to some limitations including the culture of silence on violence and the absence of structured reporting mechanisms and enforcement of the law.
It is crucial that we equally raise awareness and voice out the major effects of online violence against women and how it affects digital inclusion, personal wellbeing and livelihoods and design more preventive and responsive approaches to address this catastrophe.
#16dayofActivism is a uniqe advocacy platform that has had positive impact in raising awareness on gender based violence and as the theme for this year says “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls” it further presents an opportunity to really align efforts and partnerships towards collectively working to end all forms of violence against women.
I urge the ecosystem and stakeholders at large to include a component of online gender based violence in their activities planned for #16daysofActivism and to add onto what we are calling a holistic approach in ending violence against women.
We can no longer afford to treat this as a separate issue lest we put ourselves in a position of starting all over again in addressing this as a pandemic in the very near future.
Amplify the many forms of online violence against women, existing interventions currently in place to address this and a way forward of how we can collectively work to eliminate #OGBV.
As LP Digital, we will continue advocating for elimination of #OGBV as an enabling factor towards women’s digital inclusion and call upon other partners to join us.
We hope to see you online and looking forward to seeing the many activities from all of you during the 16 days 😁.