Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) hosted a training workshop on Advocacy Strategies for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and partners under their #FemTech project on Thursday 9th February 2023 in Kampala. The #FemTech project which is currently supported by Internews in Uganda aims at empowering Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) to fully engage and safely participate in digital spaces through digital safety trainings and long-term systemic policy advocacy to help women survive and thrive in a digital world.

In her introduction, Sandra Aceng, the Project Manager at WOUGNET shared an overview of the project and noted that the current rise of Online Gender Based Violence against women especially WHRDs and female journalists is a pervasive threat worldwide especially in Africa due to the acceleration of technology through harassment and hate speech which stifle women’s ability to participate freely online. “If these trends continue, instead of technology empowering women, online spaces ‘may’ actually widen sex and gender-based discrimination and violence in the global society,” Sandra cautioned.

The increasing levels of online harassment, unreliable legal system and availability of few female digital security trainers are among the current challenges faced by WHRDs in protecting themselves online. The discussions in this meeting also explored the limitations in filing complaints about online violence to local law enforcement which constituted victimization, trivialization of cases and effects of online violence, compelling victims and survivors to collect evidence, interrogations in abusive or belittling ways, non-consensual sharing or distribution of content or images among police officers for their own entertainment and double standards in enforcement of the cyber laws which continue to make efforts against online violence more futile.

To counter the issues raised above, suggestions on solutions called attention to the enactment of laws that can deter online violence, provision of training materials and resources to help close the digital gender gap, documentation and fact finding by recording of information on incidents, trends and patterns of online violence, mass digital safety trainings and education of stakeholders that specially target legal practitioners and law enforcement officers and embracing the power of strategic litigation. It is also essential for digital security trainers to address the barriers of access to information for particular marginalized communities such as differently abled persons to make certain that the information availed to them all inclusive.