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Tackling OGBV key to cushion women in politics

Tackling OGBV key to cushion women in politics

THE growth of internet users has brought about social and economic benefits on a global scale. Significant harms, such as online violence, misinformation, and hate speech, have, nonetheless, developed in these online spaces.

Discriminatory gendered behaviours are shaped by social, economic, cultural, and political systems, and they are replicated online across digital platforms in a similar way. Online harassment is on the rise in Tanzania, with high-profile women as well as average users being targeted.

According to Tanzania Police Force data, the Cybercrime Unit recorded 18 cases of Online Gender-Based Violence (OGBV) from January to October 2021, 16 of which were resolved and two of which were unresolved.

Understanding Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship are two crucial factors that regulate the digital world. Knowing what information to filter and what to publish on social media platforms not only broadens a woman's perspective, but it also aids in remaining informed, sharing updates, staying connected, and having access to the countless options accessible online. Women in leadership positions, particularly those in politics, value this beyond all else.

Challenges that women politicians face, has pushed several initiatives to take strategic measures, such as a recent study by Women at Web Tanzania on ‘The State of Online Gender Based Violence on Women in Politics’. The study addressed the digital gap of online presence and active usage of women in politics.

"Both men and women, whether in politics or not, have to take effective measures in combating OGBV and be part of fostering safe spaces," says Zitto Kabwe, the party leader of ACT Wazalendo.

Why women leaders in politics? Women in politics are one of the groups of women who have been overlooked when it comes to addressing OGBV; this is a focal area because there are a minimal number of active users online. Women at Web Tanzania plan to increase their online participation because the internet is the most effective global communication instrument.

"A safe Digital space creates an opportunity for women in politics to work socially and discuss various policies and pressing issues," says a political analyst, Ms Aikande Kwayu.

"There is need of addressing OGBV and its effects because people lack digital literacy." Women in political leadership are identified as key change-makers and development drivers by Women At Web Tanzania, powered by Media Convergency, and as a good target group to apply in reducing the gender digital divide because they possess all of the attributes necessary to grant them full access to the digital world.

Women in politics are the most important contributors to advancing gender equality; they are regarded as top influencers among young girls, and they can be counted on to raise issues that have previously been overlooked, such as OGBV and the Gender Digital Divide, and advocate for an end to such challenges.

One of the guest presenters at this year's 5th Tanzania Annual ICT Conference in Arusha, Special Seat Member of Parliament (MP) Neema Lugangira, underlined the prevalence of OGBV to women leaders in politics. She implied that despite women's participation in politics, the country is still lagging behind in terms of the online gender gap between men and women in politics.

"Unfortunately, when a woman in politics is attacked online versus a man in politics being attacked online, the man in politics tends to focus the agenda on the topic, but the woman in politics it would be sexualized based on her gender," Ms Lugangira said.

Measures designed to address OGBV among women politicians Conducting an OGBV study is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to promote safe online spaces and find ways to improve digital skills among women in general, not just politicians, on how to represent (brand) themselves online, and how to create and share quality, relevant, and valid content with the online community.

"Women in politics need to be aware of the rules that govern the Digital Space," says Ms Anna Agatha Msuya, a member of CCM's National Council. "When they confront OGBV, they can report these incidents to respective authorities." She also advises relevant authorities to provide full support by effectively responding to reported incidents. Women in Politics have the power to make significant positive changes to the community.

Women at Web Tanzania look at one of the initiatives that look forward to bridging the gender digital divide, but this cannot be accomplished alone without the support from the government and development partners.

Women at Web suggests that women in politics can stand as advocates in fighting against OGBV, the Gender Desk and Cyber-crime desk can collaboratively work together in collecting data and acting upon cases concerning OGBV.

The media can create platforms that will bring together all stakeholders in discussing the state of OGBV and also for lawmakers to reform laws that protect women online and ensure that they are implemented when cases of OGBV arise.

Women at Web Tanzania is a project that seeks to bridge the gender digital divide by encouraging women to participate online through digital literacy and citizenship. It began as a Women at Web initiative under the auspices of DW Akademie.

The initiative promotes digital literacy and digital citizenship in Tanzania as a means of providing safe spaces for women to participate fully in online activities and use the internet for personal and professional development. Women at Web is adamant about achieving gender equality online in the same way that it is campaigned for offline.

Politics is a hostile environment to women everywhere. An Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) global study published in 2016 and a 2018 study focused on European countries found that violence against women MPs is widespread, with varying prevalence in different regions and countries of the world.

According to IPU’s research, psychological violence -- which includes sexist and misogynistic remarks, humiliating images, intimidation and threats of death, rape, beatings or abduction -- is the most common form of violence women MPs face, affecting more than 80 per cent of the global survey respondents.

It also suggests that digital communication is the main tool used to deliver threats of death, rape and beatings against female MPs, and that most perpetrators are anonymous users.

Moreover, IPU reports that 58 per cent of the European study respondents and 42 per cent of those in the global study received online sexist attacks on social media, notably Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

DID YOU KNOW? Mangi Meli

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Author: WOMAN Reporter

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