“Cyberbullying is a bitter reality. Women must learn how to take part in debates on the internet, especially on issues that affect them directly. We have to acquire as many supporters as possible for this project “, says digital expert Okore Scheaffer, a participant from Kenya. Seven out of ten female journalists in Kenya have already been victims of cyber violence. This is the result of a joint study conducted by the human rights organization Article 19 and the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK).
With this in mind, 20 experts from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda at the three-day workshop discussed the problems faced by many women in East Africa who use the internet: sexism, cyber violence, digital security problems and a lack of internet knowledge. The key objective of the workshop was to explore the needs of women in East Africa and to develop solutions to the problems together with the expert group.
Working with the human-centered design method
The workshop used the human-centered design method (HCD) to reach its goals. Participants conducted interviews with women in the suburb of Machakos and interviewed them about their internet habits. Attila Mong, consultant and HCD expert at the DW Akademie, explained the concept: ”The user-oriented approach requires you to actively engage with and listen to the people concerned instead of giving your own answers.“
They identified cyberbullying, cultural norms, economic constrains and lack of a political will as substantial challenges. But the most prominent one was the lack of skills. “Most women in East Africa don’t have the skills to effectively maneuver online. They also don’t know how to harness the available online opportunities,” said Asha Abinallah from Tanzania.
A study is planned for the next months
Summarizing the key takeaways from the meeting, experts agreed that digital media literacy is the most important qualification East African women need if they are to use the internet successfully, create their own content and achieve the greatest possible reach. Thus, promoting digital media literacy is the most important aim, especially urban and semi-urban areas.
The goal is to empower women who only have basic internet skills and women who are active online but do not know how to deal with threats and cyberbullying.
A study is planned for the next few months. Its primary purpose is to show how many women in East Africa use the internet, how many women own smartphones, what websites they regularly visit and how they deal with online threats and violence. In the long term, comprehensive data could help to raise public awareness about cyber violence against women and to protect them more effectively.
c. DW Akademie