Gender-based violence, more specifically, violence against women and girls, is not new, and neither is the fight to reduce it or stamp it out.
Cultural norms, roles and attitudes frame social interactions, giving gender-based violence different meanings. Different are also the ways and tools used to combat it.
Using Twitter to raise awareness
In most cases, fighting gender-based violence requires awareness-raising campaigns among victims/survivors, perpetrators, authorities and policy-makers who can effect change. More recently, thanks to ICTs, a campaign to raise awareness can be initiated by anyone, from anywhere in world with a simple #hashtag and 140 characters, using Twitter.** Here are some examples of great campaigns:
#violenceagainstwomen || #violenciadegenero || #violencesurlesfemmes || #BringBackOurGirls || #IllRideWithYou || #indiasdaughter
Twitter campaigns have pressured politicians to act, as in the case of the gang rape that took place in India in 2012. They have also prompted the police to review their actions and apprehend perpetrators of violence, as in the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, who attempted suicide after months of cyberbullying. They also ignite worldwide demonstrations (online and offline) to draw the Nigeria government’s attention to the 219 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.
Empowering and protecting
APC has led the charge with its initiative #takebackthetech designed to empower women to take “control of technology to end violence against women.” This multilingual awareness and action campaign is deployed around the world. More recently, APC launched a campaign to influence the Commission on the Status of Women 2015 presenting change proposals to Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action to protect the women’s rights and address technology-base violence against women. For more resources and documents, visit the Gender.IT: Changing the way you see IT and read the Report on Violence against Women research.
HarassMap Egypt uses a combination of research, communications campaigns for grassroots action. This is a volunteer-based initiative launched in 2010 to engage the Egyptian society in the creation of an environment that does not tolerate sexual harassment. People can report a sexual harassment/assault, find help, and volunteer to support the work of HarassMap Egypt.
Reporting and raising awareness depend on activists being able to do their work safe from retaliation. For this reason, it is important to protect the rights of complainants as well as activists. Organizations like antivigilancia.org, protestos.org take on the challenge and provide spaces for discussion and tools to protect civil rights against any form or abuse.
New platforms for storytelling
Women around the world are attaining new levels of awareness and using the tools at their disposal. They reach wider audiences and their views spread. One such example is the webcomic Qahera – “the conqueror,” (image above), the work of Egyptian 19-year old Deena Mohamed, who uses her artistic talents to raise awareness and incite action against sexual harassment, misogyny, and cultural attitudes. Qahera became viral online and has received extensive media attention.
Women are aware, want to end violence against women, and are using new tools to do it!
Other links of interest:
- Gender-Violence 2.0: The Digital Safety Gap for Women (ICTWorks, 2015)
- Arab women superheroes define empowerment (by James A. Baker on the Baker Institute Blog, October 2014)
**Twitter has become the space that allows everyone to post a message and reach the world, except in countries where Twitter is censored. Twitter usage shows that 6,000 tweets are posted every second, reaching 200 billion per year. (http://www.internetlivestats.com/twitter-statistics/)