Unveiling “RIPPLES”: HER Internet’s Tribute on International Women’s Day 2024.

The UN report on Tech Facilitated Gender Based Violence in 2023, indicates that the impact of digital violence can be as harmful as offline violence, with negative effects on the health and well-being of womxn and girls as well as cause serious economic, social and political impacts. Online violence can limit the freedoms of womxn to fully engage and participate within digital spaces, thus, increasing the digital gender divide and shrinking women’s voices and spaces to fully express themselves. This is a significant concern given the majority of the estimated 2.9 billion people who remain unconnected to the Internet are women and girls.

During our conventional advocacy week under the global theme #InspireInclusion leading up to International Women’s Day 2024, HER Internet hosted a groundbreaking event on Friday 7th March, 2024, in Kampala to launch our new publication, a comic book dubbed RIPPLES in observance of the International Women’s Day #IWD2024. This event brought together a diverse array of voices and perspectives on how online violence manifests and echoed the spirit of ensuring the inclusion of all womxn in digital spaces as we combat violence against womxn and girls in all its forms.

This publication was birthed from a Focus Group Discussion that took place in August last year where a group of 20 womxn engaged in the creative arts, compelling storytelling and imaginative illustrations to develop a captivating narrative and visuals which explored some events and myriad challenges faced by womxn in all our diversities on the digital space, and, how this translates into physical spaces that we occupy.

In an experience sharing session, Samantha, one of the participants said that the creation of the comic book was characterized by relatable ideas and inclusive. She noted that the use of different images created a room for simplified and better understanding of the concept for all who took part, and furthermore, provided valuables insights into how the internet influences our offline lives.

A representative from Eastern region who was also one of the participants expressed her pleasant surprise to learn that the focus group discussion took on an art therapeutic dimension through the innovative use of various mediums like paint colors and pencils in crafting of the comic book. She also elaborated that participants were encouraged to reconnect with their childhood memories and unleash their imaginations through engaging in storytelling and drawing exercises.

The Board Secretary at HER Internet, Ophelia Kemigisha expressed her sincere gratitude to HER Internet for the inclusive process involved in developing of the comic book drawing from the shared experiences of the participants. Despite the challenges faced in the current context particularly referencing the unanticipated enforcement of repressive laws shrinking the civic space, Ophelia extended her appreciation to everyone in the attendance for their commitment to advancing equal rights for all. She also emphasized the importance of standing up for both digital and human rights for communities of structurally silenced groups as they ultimately serve and benefit everyone.

In a speech to commemorate the day, Sandra Kwikiriza, the Executive Director at HER Internet, acknowledged the need to address the gender gap of womxn and queer people hence demanding for an inclusive and diverse in technology development. “We must also ensure that womxn and queer people are involved in developing technology and resources, and that it is used in ways that do not perpetuate gender- based discrimination and stereotypes but creates positive change and breaks down the barriers to one’s empowerment. This requires a conscious effort to address the gender gap in the technology industry and to promote diversity and inclusivity in tech-related fields.”

It is disheartening to witness barriers hindering structurally silenced communities from reaching their full potential with digital technologies. However, matched with collective efforts, it is crucial to empower womxn and queer individuals in bringing about significant and necessary change in gender equality both online and offline. Sandra implored attendees to embark on meaningful transformations to create a more inclusive and equitable world for everyone. “As I am deeply committed to womxn’s empowerment and gender equality, I am saddened by how womxn and queer people are held back from their full potential. But at the same time, I am deeply motivated to work to empower us in any and every way, in both professional and in personal settings. I hope that you all feel and act in the same way as it is up to all of us to bring about substantial and meaningful change, that not only needs to, but must happen,” Sandra stated in her address.

As the world commemorates International Women’s Day #IWD2024, “RIPPLES” stands as a testament to the enduring power of storytelling and the transformative potential of collective action. Through a compelling narrative and indelible imagery, the comic invites readers to join in the movement for gender justice, inclusive and equality online and offline, one ripple at a time!

To read and download RIPPLES comic book; https://shorturl.at/dhzI5