INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2023 DEBUNKS ONLINE VIOLENCE TO ADDRESS WIDENING DIGITAL GENDER DIVIDE.

The UN Women’s Gender Snapshot 2022 report indicates that online violence has largely contributed to the exclusion of womxn from online platforms and continues to widen the digital gender divide. This has resulted into a loss of $1 trillion from the gross domestic product especially in low- and middle-income countries in the last 10 years and will continue to increase to $1.5 trillion by 2025 if action is not taken.

In light of this background, we hosted our traditional week-long online awareness advocacy drive leading up to #IWD2023 under the global theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” by sharing some reflections, insights and recommendations using our resources to address the problem of online violence and widening digital gender divide in Uganda.

We also engaged in a special edition episode of #WomenSpeaking which aired on Civic Space TV YouTube channel in alignment with the year’s #IWD2023 international theme to celebrate Ugandan women breaking barriers in tech and what can be done to address the increasing issue of online violence to close the gender digital gap. To catch up with this conversation, check out 🔗 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjxaTQlwoHg

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us or scroll through our website to access publications for more information on the different forms of online violence and suggestions on how they can be addressed.

 

TRAINING WORKSHOP ON ADVOCACY STRATEGIES FOR CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS AND WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN UGANDA.

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.

CNN SYSTEMS ERROR DIALOGUE INTERROGATES HOW GENDER AFFECTS YOUR LIFE ONLINE.

On behalf of HER Internet, our Anchor, Sandra Kwikiriza joined Seyi Akiwowo (CEO & Founder, Glitch), Nina Jankowicz (Vice President, Centre for Information Resilience), Jac sm Kee (Co- Founder and Cartographer, Numun Fund) in an enlightening conversation online hosted by Eliza Anyangwe (Managing Editor, CNN’s Gender #AsEquals team ) following the ‘Systems Error’ investigative series which interrogates important issues and insights on “how does your gender affect your life online?” on Thursday 9 February 2023.

The gist of this conversation was that; gender and gender identity/ expression does indeed influence an individual’s access to digital technologies and further shapes their experiences online if they gain access, internet shutdowns have continuously been used by various state governments to exclude and surveil their citizens especially minority groups and also highlighted a positive note on the power of digital citizens to influence the current workings of various tools and platforms in favor of a safer and better internet environment for all in the future.

To read more on this; https://edition.cnn.com/2023/02/07/world/as-equals-systems-error-launch-intl-cmd/index.html

STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS WORKSHOP SERIES FOR GREATER INTERNET FREEDOM (GIF) CONSORTIUM PARTNERS.

Together with Data4Change, Internews organized a 3-day virtual interactive Strategic Communications Workshop Series for Greater Internet Freedom (GIF) partners to share knowledge, gain new skills and build on existing strengths in advancing internet freedoms across the globe from 23 January to 25 January 2023. The Greater Internet Freedom (GIF) Consortium is an initiative that was organized by Internews in 2020 for the protection and preservation of digital rights and safety of the civil society, journalists, human rights defenders, activists and structurally marginalized communities which rely on an open and accessible internet to fight and realize fundamental freedoms.

Some of the participants including our Notifier at HER Internet, Diana Karungi who took part in the Strategic Communications Workshop Series for GIF consortium partners.

30 internet freedom activists participated in this event through practical group and individual activities under three different themes;

“Connecting the Dots: Assessing your needs to communicate with Impact and the learning objectives” which looked at assessment of communication needs, fundamentals of strategic communications and experience sharing lessons and best practices.

“Bracing for Impact: How to Craft Compelling Stories From Your Numbers and the learning objectives” which indulged participants on how to find data to tell their stories more effectively, unearthing the story behind the numbers ways to communicate numbers effectively to make an impact.

“Social Savvy: Tailoring Your Approach to Your Audience and the learning objectives” which accentuated the significance of primary and secondary audience, identifying the most effective channels for communication using both online and offline platforms and development of social and platform targeted content.

The overwhelming positive feedback from this training signified that the goal set for this workshop was achieved, which was to strengthen the participants’ confidence in identifying and focusing on strategic communication goals, mapping out audiences, understanding how to adapt communication to respective needs and motivations of their audiences and using data to strengthen messaging frameworks and narratives.

Biannual Newsletter 2022 Issue 4.

Want to know more about recent updates in our work at HER internet? Well, the Fourth Edition of our Biannual Newsletter is finally here! Download a free copy now and stay in the loop about highlights that took place in the second half of 2022 by clicking: https://www.herinternet.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/HER-INTERNET-Biannual-Newsletter-Dec-2022-12.pdf

We remain grateful to all partners, allies and communities that supported our work throughout last year in all shape and form. Thank you! You can also reach out and engage with us through our socials (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp) or email: info@herinternet.org.

HER INTERNET HOSTS TECH FUN DAY EVENT TO COMMEMORATE 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM 2022.

With support from Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and African Women Development Fund (AWDF), HER Internet hosted a Tech Fun Day event under the theme “Reimagining an internet free from Online Gender Based Violence” in Kampala on Friday 9th December 2022 in commemoration of this year’s 16 Days of Activism following the global theme: #UNiTE: Activism to End Gender Based Violence against Women and Girls”. The playful advocacy event was among the activities entailed within our collaborative campaign with Digital Dada Podcast and She E-Secures and it aimed at raising awareness on the on the curtailing online gender based violence against structurally silenced womxn and girls and how it can be addressed.

In her welcome remarks, the Executive Director at HER Internet, Sandra Kwikiriza noted that the playful advocacy event was a culmination of this year’s #16Days collaborative campaign with Digital Dada Podcast and SHE E-Secures based in Kenya and Ethiopia respectively. Some of the activities that took place within this campaign included; a podcast session under a Town Hall Meeting theme which was hosted for female journalism students by Digital Dada Podcast at the University of Nairobi in Kenya to discuss all matters concerning OGBV and the launch of a Telegram channel in Ethiopia which will widen the shrinking civic space online as well as offer support to womxn who are more vulnerable to online violence.

Sandra further shared her hopes for the day as a start for reflections and conversations on how to build a united block through collaboration and collective power towards the creation of a safer internet for everyone regardless of who we are. She encouraged participants to keep the conversations going and emphasized HER Internet’s commitment towards creation of a safe feminist internet for all users especially those from systematically marginalized communities in the efforts to eliminate violence in all its forms.

Among the highlights of this action-packed event were games such as Take Back The Tech, a card game in which participants shared diverse scenarios of online violence and how they can take charge of digital spaces to mitigate the issue. And it was peaked with a panel discussion based on the theme of the day in which discussants shared their personal lived realities with #OGBV, how to build a supportive online community and innovative ways on how to revolutionize online spaces to eliminate violence against structurally silenced womxn and girls.

Panel discussion on the theme of the day “Reimagining an internet free from Online Gender Based Violence”.

#16DAYS 2022: COLLABORATIVE CAMPAIGN ON ELIMINATION OF ONLINE GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE.

The annual international campaign, 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is known to begin every 25 November which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and runs until 10 December which also marks Human Rights Day.

Under this year’s global theme UNITE! Activism to end Violence against Women And Girls, HER Internet in partnership with Digital Dada Podcast (a platform based in Kenya that  focuses on discussions around Online Violence and Digital Security with a special interest in female journalists) and SheEsecures (an Ethiopian social impact driven feminist online platform that advocates for the digital rights and internet freedom of women through creating awareness of online safety and mitigating online gender-based violence) recently ran an online campaign to call action to the alleviation of online gender based violence against women and girls under #BanOnlineViolence and #SeeSomethingSaySomethingUG.

During a Twitter Space @HerInternet that took place on 8th December 2022 as we drew the curtains on our Digital Rights Advocacy campaign, the Founder of Digital Dada Podcast, Cecilia Maundu shared that the goal of this #16Days collaborative advocacy campaign was to create awareness on the issue of online gender-based violence which for so long until now is still perceived to be a fallacy and yet, it affects people in real life. Cecilia also stressed that the use of online platforms as the digital drivers considered for the campaign was intentional to ensure the inclusion of everyone beyond just the three countries (Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia) since the internet is an equalizer and speaks to millions of people.

Further in her submission, Cecilia emphasized the involvement of minority groups in the advocacy efforts towards the elimination of online violence so that their voices are not lost in the near future since the technology that they are being called to embrace is the same one being weaponized and used against them. “My hope is that in 5 years, we shall not be talking about the same thing because we have seen the trajectory of online violence getting worse. We are trying to look for the right mechanisms whereby we can actually end this problem because if we keep going this way, we are going to lose out on voices of minority groups online.” Cecilia concluded her remarks with a call for more voices to be heard and more platforms to be used to spread positivity which will in turn encourage others to join digital spaces rather than shunning them due to fear of online violence. And hence, contribute to the alleviation of online violence in addition to all forms of gender-based violence against women and girls.

Among the activities within this campaign, we held a live Town Hall podcast session with female journalism students in Kenya. The conversations were around how to mitigate the Online Gender Based Violence often experienced by journalists.

We also launched a Telegram channel in Amaharic, a language commonly spoken in Ethiopia. This Telegram channel will be a source of information on Online Gender Based Violence for women as well as offer a community of support to those experiencing any form of online harm. We know women in Ethiopia have long suffered with inequality brought on by limited access to technology and digital platforms as well as censorship, which is made all the more difficult by language barrier. Hence, this channel will bridge that gap.

In Uganda, this collaboration hosted Tech Fun Day but with a side of advocacy against Online Gender Based Violence. Some of the games played were geared towards increasing our understanding of online harms, how they manifest and possible solutions to dealing with them, both social and technological. Overall, in line with the theme of the day, “Reimagining an Internet free from Online Gender Based Violence”, we need to start building the blocks that will see us have a safer internet and digital environment than we do currently.

 

PRESS RELEASE: HER Internet calls for continued organization amongst minority groups to create free and safe online spaces.

As we conclude our two-month long Digital Rights Advocacy campaign to build awareness on the digital right to freedom of speech and expression and the creation of safe spaces for expression for all online, we call on all stakeholders to speak with a united voice and do their part to create a free and safe internet. The campaign, ran via our social media platforms with funding from Internews under the hashtags #SpeakFreelyTypeFreely and #SeeSomethingSaySomethingUG, has built awareness on the importance of creating free and safe spaces for structurally marginalized womxn and the barriers encountered in making this a reality.

To further the campaign, we organized a physical space bringing together stakeholders under the theme “Understanding the Digital Right to Freedom of Expression: Opportunities and Limitations for Structurally Silenced Womxn” where the Founder and Executive Director at HER Internet, Sandra Kwikiriza, emphasized the importance of collective organization to protect the digital right to freedom of expression.

“What is important is that we must use our collective power to create an online environment that is safe for all of us regardless of our differences in gender, sexuality, choice of work or disability,” Ms Kwikiriza said.

A key theme emerging from the stakeholders meeting was the key tension between advocating for the digital right to freedom of expression and stemming online violence – sometimes, freedom of expression can come at the expense of the safety of marginalized people online, further othering them.

Alaine Kesh, one of the panelists shared, “I thought I was bringing in all this visibility and I’m showing them: “Yes! Whatever! No matter, we are there!” But the question was simple: what you trust because it’s going to come with an impact,” when talking about the real costs of expressing herself freely online.

To broaden the conversation around the emerging theme from the physical space, we hosted a Twitter Space on 09 December 2022 titled “Navigating the tension between digital freedom of expression and stemming online violence: How do we then build a consensus?”.

The Twitter Space generated rich insights from the speakers on how marginalized womxn are navigating the tensions around advocating for a free internet for all, while mitigating online violence that is often targeting them.

Deborah Leticia Akumu, a public health specialist, female sex worker, queer feminist and one of the speakers shared that this conversation is particularly critical at this time because marginalized womxn find it difficult to create safe spaces online and the time has come when their safety is  prioritized.

“We lack safe spaces online. I’ve been in some of the Twitter spaces where people have been organizing and we have had intruders coming in to get our information to hear how Leticia introduces herself because they have seen a poster that says Leticia is a Q, is an SW, things of that nature and we lack safe spaces. I am happy that we are trying to build that momentum to make sure that online spaces are very safe for silenced womxn,” she adds.

Monalisa Akintole, a feminist, Transgender Human Rights Practitioner, and speaker on the Twitter Space, also highlighted the lack of awareness around how gender based violence manifests online, tying into the on-going global 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence.

“We are raising the alarm around gender-based violence and the forms that he takes on online. So this could come in a sense of educating people around what violence is because you’d be surprised that sometimes what we feel like is normal is not normal; that people think they know but they actually don’t know,” Ms Akintole explains.

One of the key issues raised was the role of laws and policies in bridging the gap between creating a free and a safe internet for all, especially for marginalized womxn. Samantha Ainembabazi, an Editor at Kuchu Times Media and one of the speakers shared that laws like Computer Misuse Act and the accompanying Amendment are good on paper, but history shows that these laws can be wielded against the very people they were meant to protect because they are vague and subject to misinterpretation.

“I would say that unfortunately as law in Uganda goes, its cons still outweigh its pros. But if we have a voice, if we read and we all learn because most of the times what happens is we do not know what we’re dealing with. We don’t know the laws and so people can easily use them against us. If we actually do go back and read…we can navigate the Internet safely,” shares Ms Ainembabazi.

Ms Cecilia Maundu, a digital Security Trainer and Broadcast Journalist in Kenya also shared how beyond the campaign period, people can continue to raise awareness on creating a free and safe internet by using the same hashtag #SeeSomethingSaySomethingUG to speak up when people especially minority groups are being violated online.

“We who are online, we can be able to create that safe space. It is not a dream, it’s not a pipe dream. It’s actually a dream that can be realized. But for that dream to be realized, so many voices are needed, so many critical voices are needed, and there is no smaller voice. Just because you do not have 100,000 followers does not make you feel, does not make you less, you know, a person who can make a change,” says Ms Maundu.

To continue to contribute, get involved or participate in this campaign, follow HER Internet via our social media pages: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook through #SpeakFreelyTypeFreely and #SeeSomethingSaySomethingUG. You can also listen in to this conversation; https://twitter.com/HerInternet/status/1600860435787325440?t=vmj4WkEqTWD1Jt6TozGQMw&s=19

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS DAY 2022.

Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) are at the forefront of great crises. Today on 29 November as we mark International Women Human Rights Defenders Day and in line with #16DaysOfActivism, let us #UNiTE to end all forms of Online Gender Based Violence against WHRDs in all our diversity. Remember that our digital rights are an extension of human rights, hence, deserve support and protection both online and offline.

#BanOnlineViolence #SeeSomethingSaySomethingUG

#16Days 2022: Connect, Collaborate, Contract.

In this episode #WomenSpeaking on Civic Space TV hosted by Tricia Nabaye, watch as our Administration and Coordinations Lead, Murungi Sanyu joins Susan Achen (Uganda Women’s Network) and Naima Isa Sebbi (Actionaid International Uganda) in a conversation that unpacks the importance and relevance of 16 Days Of Activism under the theme: Connect, Collaborate, Contract via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPDECLFroNM