Online harassment has become the order of the day By Faith Ogega

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With the global rise in the use of the internet, 87% of Kenyans can now access it and freely interact online across different social media platforms. However, there’s a worrying digital gap between men and women.

According to research conducted by the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) and Article 19, Eastern Africa reveals that common attacks targeting women journalists were cyberstalking, sexual harassment, surveillance, unauthorized use and manipulation of personal information, including images and videos.

Looking into the future of digital space; men will be one step ahead of women in access to technology while women will still be struggling to secure their space. In this very advancing sector of our daily lives, men have acquitted themselves with the technological advancements hence their huge online participation across diverse issues.

Sadly, even in this era of the internet, access to the right information is still the major problem facing both women and men. Traditionally, women did not access education because their roles revolved around the home. Men, on the other hand, were the heads of the family and they were privileged to access education which has to date contributed to the lagging of women.

Although that was the case, things have now changed and there are no definite roles meant for either men or women. Down the years, new generations have emerged and to date, anyone can access the internet using their mobile phones, laptops and some visit the cyber cafes thanks to new technologies.

With the penetration of new technology, men and women have equal access to opportunities across different online platforms.  Though, this has not been the case because women have no access to these technologies. Yes, both men and women can access the internet but the male gender has taken the wheel, they are perceived as the smart type therefore any kind of opportunities are first presented to them.

As much as women are being encouraged to participate in the innovation of new technologies, the men have it all. Their innovations are incubated, unlike women whose space in the digital world is still uncertain. In addition to that, women’s participation in diverse topics is to date a major problem.

Online harassment has caused several women to withdraw from using the internet, and in many cases, women have stopped working for some time. It has also changed women’s patterns of online interaction, as they sometimes avoid engaging in online discussions for fear of being targeted.

For instance, let’s take a look at Twitter as a social media platform that now sets most of the agendas discussed in the media, not only in Kenya but also in the world. First, Twitter is known for its efficiency, effectiveness and timeliness when it comes to global communication. Secondly, it sets the agenda of the day, the majority of the issues discussed end up on the mainstream media. Therefore, anyone trading on this platform is always advised to be thoughtful.

According to an investigation I carried out on Twitter, I found out that 15 Twitter influencers 11 were male and the rest were female. Putting in mind that most of the conversations debated here end in the mainstream media it highlighted why women are still lagging.  Being a digital savvy and a daily user of twitter, I daily check the trends and the male interactions supersedes the female engagements.

On this very platform, online harassment is real; the majority of the women on this application are bullied. A recent case study would be the trolling of Neema Bosibori popularly known as Bosibori – a Twitter Influencer. A simple tweet from her was turned against her and as bullies are, they took it to her looks and said all sorts of body shaming words they could remember. That not being the only scenario, a lot of women who post their pictures on twitter are in one way or another body-shamed to an extent others pull down their pictures.

Online harassment has become the order of the day across digital platforms. To tackle such incidents its important counseling programs are established to offer psychosocial support to traumatized women. Also, victims are advised to develop anti-sexual violence policies to provide gender-responsive mechanisms for tackling harassment.

Written By Faith Ogega  |  Email: faithogega95@gmail.com

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Siasa Place is an NGO formed 2015 that aims to create an enabling environment for women and youth mainstreaming into our body politics.

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