COVID-19 Pandemic: Disheveled Economies, Disarrayed Polities & the Future By Sitati Wasilwa

What matters? Welfarism? Free markets? Democracy or just efficient governance systems? Individualism or communalism? The essentialism of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be underestimated.

The COVID-19 crisis has raptured globalization, disheveled economies, disarrayed polities and reorganized societies on massive scale. Pristinely, a global economic recession is looming.

Economic recessions or crises have always led to fundamental change in politics and thence a revision of the social and economic policies adopted to transition to the next chapter. The COVID-19 pandemic manifests itself as a social, political and economic crisis.

Socially, norms and routines have been altered. People are forced to adjust to unfamiliar lives: working from home; no more feeling of camaraderie from social gatherings; for others, it’s doomsday with their jobs wiped out by the monstrous virus; for some, readjusting to realities of life in the countryside is the new normal; and certainly, worries about the fate of tomorrow dominate our lives than ever before.

Politically, the frivolous nature of greedy politicians has been exposed. Politicians are now familiar with policies and terminologies of a functional healthcare system. State capture by big business is in plain view; financial bailout programmes are mainly targeting large corporations and not small and medium-scale enterprises. Democracy and authoritarian classifications no longer matter. It is how efficiently governments around the world respond to the crisis.

Economically, it’s evident that people should matter more than profits and this ought to be the primacy of policy. Global supply chains are disrupted. Organizations are scaling down their operations and unemployment is set to rise. Living standards are bound to fall and manacles of poverty are primed to handcuff more people. Developing countries are set to rack up more debts. In short, the COVID-19 pandemic has orchestrated a reversal of economic gains.

A Reflection of the Past

History matters, and it matters a great deal! In modern world history, economic crises or pandemics of human nature have often led to political, economic and social reforms. For instance, the deadly Spanish flu that ravaged parts of the world between 1918 and 1920 occasioned public healthcare reforms.

According to Laura Spinney, the aftermath of the Spanish flu prompted governments to adopt policies seeking to provide healthcare for all. Spinney notes that the post-Spanish flu period saw Russia become the first country to establish a centralized public healthcare system, a policy imperative adopted by some Western European countries. Such a healthcare system was fully financed by a state-run insurance scheme. Creation of Sweden’s modern welfare state is significantly credited to the depredations of the Spanish flu.

Across the Atlantic, the federal government of the United States of America opted for employer-based insurance schemes as part of the post-Spanish flu healthcare reforms. In Canada, the topsy-turvydom created by the Spanish flu pandemic led to the establishment of the federal Department of Health in 1919 with the state playing a primary role in advancing public healthcare.

Although information about the origin of the Spanish flu is still unclear, the first official cases were recorded at USA Army’s Camp Funston in Kansas. Large-scale mobilization of troops during World War I is thought to have catalyzed the spread of the flu.

A report published by the Federal Bank of St. Louis in 2007 documents about the economic effects of the 1918 Spanish influenza such as closure of grocery stores, an increase in drug store activities, a rise in demand for beds and mattresses, long hours of work for physicians, and closure of mines among others.

Despite the fact that the report entirely focuses on the American state, its praxis on the significance of the nexus of the 1918 Spanish flu and a modern-day pandemic is engrossing.

Africa also bore the brunt of the Spanish flu with a research study highlighting that in the coastal region of Kenya the virus paralyzed administrative operations, created food shortage, occasioned commercial losses and overstretched the healthcare sector. In South Africa, the flu led to the death of 300,000 South Africans representing 6% of the total population.

In an article published by Reuters Magazine in 2013, Begley warns of how a flu pandemic could trigger a global recession. The news feature is based on a 2008 World Bank report highlighting that the SARS pandemic of 2009 shredded global GDP by $33 billion.

Major economic crises always spark calls for reforms. Notably, the Great Depression resulted in the formulation of the New Deal which largely aimed at addressing the plight of the common Americans. In Western Europe, the economic crisis occasioned by World War II actuated the European Recovery Programme (the Marshall Plan). These two reforms laid the foundation for the Golden Age of Capitalism although Robert Reich in his book, Supercapitalism, refers to it as “Not Quite the Golden Age” since political and economic inequality was evident among women and minority groups.

The economic recession of 1973 changed the global political economy in fundamental ways. Economist and historian Marc Levinson writes that the early 1970s marked the end of the Golden Age of Capitalism with politics moving to the Right. The decline of the Golden Age resulted from stagnated productivity growth. The shift of politics to the Right resulted in a loss in social benefits such as health insurance mostly provided by governments across Western Europe among others. As such, the implications on public healthcare were significant.

The fundamental shift in the global political systems was also embraced by the Bretton Woods institutions which embarked on missions to spread the Washington Consensus gospel in Africa through the infamous Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs).

Failure of SAPs is evident especially in public healthcare and education systems leading to revision of the Washington Consensus with focus directed to a number of policy issues including provision of social safety nets and poverty reduction.

Financial crisis that precipitated the Great Recession in 2008/2009 led to advocacy for more government intervention in the economy with calls for provision of healthcare for all especially in developed economies. The austerity measures adopted by governments following the recession were germs for emergence of radicalized political movements across the global north.

William Davies contends that the financial crisis of 2008 failed to provoke a fundamental shift in capitalism but the COVID-19 crisis is set to bring about a sea change in the systems of global political economy based on high levels of international connectedness and the spatial nature of the pandemic. Retooling of social and economic life is certain with the pandemic serving as an inflection point “for new economic and intellectual beginnings.”

A Vision for the Future

Economic and political movements will emerge after the pandemic to vouch for reformation of healthcare systems all over the world. Governments and multi-lateral institutions will have to change their priorities and increase spending on public healthcare. Therefore, universal healthcare will emerge as a policy priority for state and non-state actors.

Governments and multi-lateral institutions reluctant to embrace healthcare for all will encounter opposition from social justice movements and disgruntled members of the public.

A paradigm shift in the systems of political economy is also bound to happen. Neoliberalism is set to reform or undergo decapitation. Political and economic ideologies that fashion people over profits will dominate public discourse. Could there be a re-emergence of democratic capitalism or will social democracy be the norm? Will the Chinese political economy model inspire states?

What is the future of big business in the global economy and national politics? Reformation of the healthcare system will most likely be derailed by the Big Pharma. Big Pharma may take hostage global politics and economics. The intricacies of the medical-industrial complex could go a notch higher.

Globalization will still be fashioned by state and non-state actors as a crucial step towards economic recovery and prosperity.

Immigration to the most affected countries especially the developed ones is set to take place. The Western world may review its immigration policies and make them friendly. But this will depend on the pace of economic recovery.

Is a new world order in the offing? Too close to call but possibilities are within the horizons; evolution and dominance of the world by the medical-industrial complex and not the military-industrial complex; the dawn of a multi-polar world; dissipation of democratic ideals and enchantment of political pragmatism; and establishment of welfare states.

Sitati Wasilwa is a political economist and consultant on governance, geopolitics and public policy at Savic Consultants and a youth leader at YMCA Kenya. Twitter: @SitatiWasilwa

The Power of the Web is in it’s Universality By Rose Anyango


“The power of the Web is in its universality access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect”. This was stated by W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. The above quoted is contrary with regards to the digital divide between men and women in the form of access to technology that has been prevalent over the years.

The concept Digital Gender Divide or Digital Split

This is a term that refers to a gap between the amount of information available between men and women with focus on access. It also refers to differences in resources and capabilities to access and effectively utilize Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) that exist within and between countries, regions, sectors and socio-economic groups.

United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan’s statement to the world summit on the Information society Geneva, 10 December 2003:

The so-called digital divide is actually several gaps in one. There is a technological divide, great gaps in infrastructure and there is also a content divide. Alot of web-based information is simply not relevant to the real needs of people. Nearly 70% of the world’s websites are in English, at times crowding out local voices and views.

There is a gender divide with women enjoying less access to information technology than men. The digital gender divide is characterized by poverty, cultural norms and stereotypical perceptions.Several media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube among others are used to market and distribute pornographic materials and prostitution and they can also facilitate human trafficking for sexual purposes.


Kenya has experienced an increase in the proliferation of ICT and social media due to affordability, easy availability and accessibility of gadgets such as internet enabled mobile phones (smart phones). This has however come without the necessary checks in terms of litigation and ICT policies to help mitigate the negative impacts that the growth may have on gender relations.

The available documented evidence points to a deficit in knowledge and understanding of the new and sophisticated permutations of violence against women as experienced on social media. In the Kenyan context, some of the acts of aggression were seen as isolated cases and reported as incidents that are not gendered. This points to a lack of acknowledgement of the harms that social media and the tools of ICT pose to women.

Many women have suffered online harassment in the hands of online bullies, anonymous or known to them. Some have been afraid to enjoy social media for fear of the dangers lurking within, some have suffered in silence with no knowledge of whom to turn to for justice. I am an example of those women who have suffered cyber bullying. This began from sexting, in the hands of an anonymous online bully way back in my teen age of seventeen. The supposed gentleman texted me on Facebook with sex texts which I found inappropriate to respond. Upon realizing I was ignoring him, he said he would edit the chat to make it look like I was warming up to him and attach nude pictures of me through morphing to the chats then share it to all media platforms. How frightened and worried I was imagining the shame that was awaiting me, I could not hold back my tears, I really wept in silence. I have also experienced sexting with a prominent person in Kenya whose name I withhold. I never knew I would ever find some platform to share these haunting experiences at least for relief if not for anything else.

Online harassment stands out as the main reason for the prevalence of digital gender divide. It takes the following listed forms;

  • Cyber stalking: This refers to repeatedly sending messages that include threats of harm, highly intimidating or engaging in other online activities that make a person afraid.
  • Denigration: Sending or posting cruel gossip or rumors about a person to damage their reputations or friendships.
  • Flaming: Online fights using electronic messages with angry and vulgar language.
  • Morphing: Is attaching a photo to make one image. For example, a face may be attached to a naked body or a pornographic situation. The software used in this is so advanced that it’s not easy to tell that the image is not real.
  • Outing and image circulation: This involves tricking someone to share their secrets or embarrassing information about themselves then you share it online to the public.
  • Sexting: The use of communication technology to send or receive sexually explicit messages and photos.

The above listed forms of online harassment explain why women are usually victims of the prevailing digital gender divide as illustrated below;

  1. Cyber laws are often gender blind

When new laws concerning the internet are introduced, it is often done through protectionist frameworks without consultation with women’s organizations. In Kenya, legal regulations serve to censor the internet broadly, which also affects women. Social media platforms are often reluctant to deal with misogynist expressions; expressions made by a person who dislikes, despises or is highly prejudiced against women (a woman hater or male chauvinist). Governments as well as the private sector have been reluctant in dealing with online harassment of women.

Any woman who experiences denigration may suffer shame and stigma thus making her shy away from online platforms thus widening the digital gender divide gap.

  1. Blackmails by boyfriends and ex-boyfriends: In the course of romantic affairs, lovers usually take pictures together out of which some may be seductive, others exposing more than necessary and some suggestive. These pictures are taken either with or without the other person’s consent. When things turn stale between the lovers, there is always a trend of the boyfriends revealing those nearly nude pictures they possess by posting them online to shame the lady in them. These photos may also be used to blackmail the lady to remain in abusive relationships with the condition that if they don’t remain with the boyfriend those pictures she would want no one to see will be revealed to the public. Chats are also revealed with abusive captions attached to them. This makes the victim to suffer psychological and emotional torture. As a result they may fully exit online platforms especially Facebook to hide from shame and to heal. This thus does more harm by further widening the digital gender divide gap.
  2. Partner rivalry: This is usually common among ladies who are fighting over a man.The victimized lady who feels the other party snatched her man may take to online platforms specifically Facebook just to shame her fellow through what was mentioned earlier as flaming. This is usually aimed at shaming the victim and diverting her attention so that he can leave the man to the claimant. It should be noted that it is not always men who perpetrate this digital gender divide but also women themselves. The victim will undoubtedly seek hiding away from the internet so as to deal with the situation and seek personal peace.
  3. Leaking sextapes: This is so common even among the prominent people in the country. Some ladies may be lured into featuring in pornographic videos and some who are unsuspecting may only learn of the videos after they get to the limelight. The perpetrators sometimes place micro cameras in the room where the action takes place and thereafter upload it to YouTube for monetary gains without the victim’s consent. This degree of online harassment results in societal stigmatization of women who may be innocent and also have far reaching consequences on ruining their reputation. Thus resulting in them having negative perceptions of using the internet and all related technologies hence the digital gender divide.


It should be noted that there is a greater need to bridge the digital gender divide as it can provide the basis for substantial progress in development. This is because women’s digital inclusion can help to catalyze broader gender equality in social, economic and political dimensions benefiting not only women themselves but also their families and the broader society.

This can be done through formulation of gender sensitive ICT policies and offering training to women in Kenya on how they can ensure their safety while online. Women’s rights matter online as much as they matter offline.


  1. Leavy, R. (2010, October 28).How Does Poverty Affect the Digital Divide.
  2. The role of ICT integration into classrooms in Kenya.
  3. Mutula, Stephen M. (2007)”Digital divide and economic development: Case study of Sub-Saharan Africa, “The Electronic Library, 26(4):468-489.

Written By Rose Anyango  |  Email:

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

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:

Online Harassment By Wanjiku Ng’ang’a

Can technology make people safer from threats like violent extremism, censorship, cyber bullying or persecution? Imagine this. You’re a woman, you’re married and you have a kid. You post something at work on social media and in reply you are told that you will be raped. Details of where, when and even your home address are sent for everyone to see. That feels like a pretty real threat, doesn’t it? Once the information is out there on the internet, you are most likely to lose control over it. Would you still go home that day or even continue with what you were doing?

Scrolling through social media feeds feels like a harmless part of our daily lives. But is it actually as harmless as it seems? Our growing and unchecked obsession with social media has unintended long-term consequences on our mental health. Online harassment is a worldwide problem that’s growing very fast. Research shows that nine out of ten victims don’t tell anyone that they are being harassed or bullied.

What is Online harassment?

Online harassment/cyber bullying has become this perverse art of figuring out what makes people angry, afraid, insecure and then pushing those pressure points until they are silenced. When this goes unchecked, free speech is overlooked and even the people hosting the conversation call it quits. They close up their comment sections and forums all together. This clearly confirms that we are losing spaces online to meet, socialize and exchange ideas.

This in turn enables the spread of miscommunication, lack of job opportunities and insecurity. What if technology could instead enable empathy at scale? If we had technology that understands the emotional impact of language, we can build empathy. We can have dialogue with people who have different politics, beliefs, values and personalities.

In today’s world, technology is so prominent that it’s easy for us to forget that it wasn’t long ago when the internet didn’t even exist.  Computers are just about in every home as well as most schools giving children access to technology they have never had before. Bullying is certainly not something new but it has changed over the years. Before this revolution, bullying stopped when the bell rang or when we had to go home after the end of the day.

But when it comes to online, bullies are not confined to any sought of playground or costumes. People, especially the young generation across the world are being tormented, threatened, harassed and embarrassed. Online harassment is seven days a week, 24hours a day. It can happen anytime, anywhere leaving silent victims with no place they can feel safe.

What many of us fail to realize is that the root of the problem begins with the behavior of children and teens using social media. One of the unique things about cyber bullying is that it can be done anonymously. With resharing and reposting, things that are said online have the potential to go viral. When we create fake accounts just to abuse others, we really don’t know what they are going through. Words are hurtful, they impact people. Deleting inappropriate messages or pictures does not change anything. Nothing disappears off the internet.

How do we evaluate what we are saying online and while offline? Most of our young people don’t really think before they type or share something on the internet. Amy J. Martin, an American speaker and author once said, just as we teach our children how to ride a bike, we must also teach them how to navigate through social media. Raising children especially in today’s world can be very challenging. But what we are able to do is learn from people’s experiences, tragedies and triumphs.

Imagine if machine learning could give commenters real time feedback about how their words might land on others. Just like facial expressions do in face to face conversations. When people use technology to exploit and harm others, they are preying on human fears and vulnerabilities. If we want to build technology that can overcome the challenges that we face, we need to learn and understand issues and build solutions that are human as the problems they aim to solve.

The messages we post online about a person, a place or even an event are very important. Those few seconds you decide whether or not to post can mean a lot in the future. When we are online, we need to use words that are encouraging. If adults can be better listeners and students be empowered to stand up and intervene, we can change a person’s life. How amazing would that be? So, before posting something online, we need to ask ourselves about the consequences of our actions.

By Wanjiku Ng’ang’a  | Email:

Digital Divides By Sally Ogola

Kenya proudly boasts of its progressiveness in the internet space; with the introduction and subsequent enactment of the data protection act 2019, the state becomes one of the very few African countries that has institutionalized a legal framework of this nature. The legislation among other things, focuses on the regulation of data and its corresponding control. It further sets guidelines necessary for the collection, processing, storage, use, retrieval and disclosure of data within the country and/or of data whose subjects are located in the country. It is important to note that the act fundamentally encompasses the aspect of digital privacy; It generally gives effect to article 31 (c) and (d) of the Kenyan constitution 2010 amongst other provisions found in other statutes which explicitly or impliedly focus on the mitigation and/ or the prevention of data breaches and its corresponding effects.  Article 31 (d) particularly provides for every individual’s right to privacy which is expressly extended to the right not to have the privacy of any persons’ communications infringed. To understand the extent at which the data protection act gives effect to article articles 31 (c) and (d) of the constitution, it is important to read and interpret the act as a whole. Section 25 (a) of the act specifically obligates data controllers and data processors to ensure that any personal data is processed should conform with the right to privacy of the subject of such data. Section 26 of the act further provides for among other rights the right of the data subject to be informed of data, to object to the processing of any data and the right to have information forgotten. These subjects further have to explicitly consent to the processing of any data that is considered personal by the legislation or by the data protection commissioner failure of which controllers’ and or data processors’ will be held accountable and can be found liable of an offense. In simpler terms; the act makes service providers to a certain extent accountable for processing particular personal data and can accordingly be directed to pull down content on the basis of myriad reasons subject to the determination of the data protection commissioner. With the emerging spectrum of online related crimes, the data protection act will potentially promote the creation of secure online spaces for women that are free from online harassment and abuse.

While collecting and/or analyzing the extent of women’s participation in the digital space, I happened to trample on various articles which attempted to demonstrate and further explain the reasons behind the huge gap and/ or digital divide between men and women in the digital space. Out of curiosity, I resorted to collecting a little more data from individuals that were at my disposal at that particular time. Interestingly, I deduced that although most of these individuals had almost equal access to the digital space. Men unlike their women counterparts increasingly took part in online debates. Further analysis of this situation showed that the reason behind women’s laid back behavior was as a result of the harsh judgements meted particularly on women in these online platforms; simply put, the digital confidence of women is much lesser than that of men in these online platforms. Social media platforms which are currently common to the Kenyan youths and or young adults are increasingly being used as a tool for perpetuating cyberbullying and other related crimes/ vices of this nature with a majority of women becoming victims of such crimes. Online sexual harassment, stalking, offensive comments, manipulation of personal data and the distribution of intimate images and videos of women who were neither aware that data of this nature had been processed and or consented to the distribution of such data has increasingly become a norm in the Kenyan cyberspace. This trend has further been facilitated by the pure misogynistic culture in the country which treads back to our traditional conceptions related to the place of women in the society. It is not uncommon to find most women politicians being subjected to such online harassment and their opinions are more likely to be gauged with “out of the box” aspects including their physical appearance, their past and present relationships amongst other nitty gritty which rarely relates to their public work obligations. In comparison, their male counterparts are rarely subjected to such discussions neither are their abilities judged on the basis of the aforementioned aspects.

Women like their male counterparts have a voice in public discourse, and their opinions matter. With the enactment of the data protection act, the full participation of women in the digital space will potentially be encouraged. Most importantly, such participation will accelerate the ability of women across the board to take part in empowerment and development activities in the country through the internet without the apparent fear of being judged in a certain way, or being harassed or even being dismissed in an abusive and/ or intimidating manner. Kenya in the spirit of progressiveness ought to not only recognize that online violence should be constructed and be included as another form of gender based violence, rather, parliament should additionally formulate more elaborate legislations which link digital related crimes to violations of this nature. The bottom line however is; digital gender inequality still remains to be a prominent issue in the country and it should be addressed as soon as possible.

Written by Sally Ogolla  |  Email:

Online Harassment and Women’s Online Participation By Edna Asesa

Online social networks are increasingly becoming a vital part of our everyday life as they have transformed how we interact with each other and go about our everyday lives. These networks are providing a platform for current events, digital activism and comedic conversations. These social platforms also aid in the creation of networks and formation of new alliances with people who share common interests, ideals and beliefs. Many people have been able to grow their careers through these networks. These opportunities and positive outcomes created by social networks are mostly attainable by having a presence and engaging with other people on these platforms. This makes it necessary to ensure that there is equal participation online for the purposes of online inclusivity and ensuring that everyone can enjoy the positive aspects of online social networks. Various studies have demonstrated the huge disparity that exists between the level of women and men‟s participation on online platforms (Herring, 2000; Broadhurst, 1993). According to these studies, there is a low level of online participation among women, despite the fact that women may be accessing these platforms just as much as men do.

While there are institutional and social influences to blame for this disparity, this digital divide is largely attributed to the online harassment that women experience. This was acknowledged in a joint statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Violence against Women and Freedom of Expression that highlighted how the “online participation of women journalists, activists, human rights defenders, activists, and artists and other public figures and private persons” is disrupted by violence and abuse against women online. With the increased access to technology and the growth of social networks connecting people from all over the world, there is a growing phenomenon known as the online disinhibition effect. Online disinhibition effect is characterized by the tendency of people to behave online in ways that they would not when having in- person interactions. This has in turn resulted in online incivility which has brought with it vices such as online harassment, which is becoming increasingly rampant.

There has been increased awareness of the online harassment women face with the aim of bursting the bubble created by the online disinhibition effect and making platform users understand the harm caused by their words. One of the ways of creating awareness has been through hashtags on twitter such as the #mencallmethings which provided a platform for women to recount their personal experiences of online harassment and #morethanmean which was used to raise awareness about online harassment of women in sport journalism. These hashtags succeeded in showing just how much harassment women go through online.

Harassment of women online is partly attributed to the patriarchal political systems that exist online. These are the same systems that exist in in-person environments and become replicated and amplified online due to the amount of people with access to these platforms and the loosened inhibitions that come with online anonymity. Some societies such as African societies are still largely patriarchal and therefore women speaking up in public is viewed as going against the traditional boundaries, especially if they challenge patriarchal beliefs. Women who dare to challenge patriarchal beliefs are subjected to online harassment. I have personally observed this phenomenon among the Kenyan demographic on twitter where women who identify as feminists and publicly tweet about their feminist beliefs are insulted and even threatened. Hash tags such as #TakeBackTheTech, #ImagineAFeministInternet, #LiesToldByFemales, #IHateFemalesWho and #ThatsWhatSlutsDo have all been used in the past to spread misogynistic and sexist tweets and all began as a response to a particular opinion or campaign by a woman on Twitter.

The reality of many women is that they find themselves changing their behavior when they experience harassment such as “wearing less provocatively‟ and this translates to online behavior too as they become passive internet users so as to avoid online harassment. Women are choosing not to comment on online discussions even though they may be equally if not more interested and knowledgeable in the topic at hand. There is an aspect of intersectionality in this as Muslim women and generally women from marginalized communities are even more passive in their online participation. This is because they are viewed by some people as representing the views of an entire community and therefore for fear of being targeted if they say the “wrong‟ thing, they choose not to participate online. This also goes for women who are public figures such as women in politics.

The ripple effect of online harassment is clear from how low women online participation is affecting other aspects of the society. The low participation of women online affects the discourse on issues as the opinions seen or heard online fail to accurately reflect the actual views held by people. The freedom of expression of women is limited if they cannot freely express their views without fear of harassment. It also affects and stifles digital feminist activism as it poses a barrier to feminist voices. Online platforms have offered a voice to activists in various topics such as climate change but is still largely unwelcoming to digital feminist activists.

Online platforms such as Twitter can contribute to the achievement of online social equality by enforcing stricter rules on the platform users such as banning the use of hashtags or language that promote incivility against women. More organizations should also host online discussion forums targeted specifically at women so as to encourage them to participate in important discussions online. For instance Siasa Place can host online political discussions for women only, to encourage them to participate in political discussions. It is clear that online social equality can only be achieved when both men and women are able to occupy online spaces and to influence and speak within that space without fear of harassment.

Written By Edna Asesa |  Email:  

Cyber Sexual Harassment among Women in their Emerging Adulthood By Hudlyn Kwas Hagoi

The internet and other digital tools are playing an increasingly central role in how Kenyans interact with one another. Such interactions include but not limited to; how they find and share information, how they connect with friends, family and professional networks, how they entertain themselves, how they seek answers to sensitive questions, how they learn about and access the world around them. In short, the internet has made the world a utopian place where most of our needs are met through the online tools at our disposal. The internet is not only built on the idea of a free flow of information but also on the idea of freely flowing discourse. Despite this utopia that the internet has created, one persistent challenge to this ideal is online harassment and digital abuse. One type of many forms of online harassment is cyber sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can exist towards any gender; however, this paper explores cyber sexual harassment towards the female gender mostly among the emerging adult women.

Arafa, Elbahrawe, Saber, Ahmed & Abbas (2018) define cyber sexual harassment as the sexual harassment that primarily occurs over the internet. Arafa et al. posit that cyber sexual harassment is an act of violence that mainly targets females. Online sexual harassment can occur via different mediums, including chat rooms, social network sites, messaging, emails, advertising, automatic linking, or spams (Arafa et al., 2018). Emerging adulthood is the age between 18 years and 25 years (Arnett, 2004). Lindsay, Booth, Messing, and Thaller (2016) extends this age to 29. They remark that this is the age where people’s engagement with the internet is at its peak. While online sexual harassment is an issue that cuts across all developmental stages, this group is most affected. During this time, young people focus their energy on relationship building and begin to search for greater intimacy commonly through dating relationships.

Online sexual harassments takes different forms, but most of them take the form of either gender harassment through verbal or graphic means in which harasser use gender-humiliating comments or sexual remarks or images, online sexual attention using direct personal communication to convey sex-related messages or sexual coercion through pressuring the victim to obtain sexual cooperation (Arafa et al., 2018). Unfortunately, sexual harassment is challenging to tackle since the harasser; in most cases, is anonymous. Additionally, although sexual harassment is a social phenomenon that can occur anywhere during daily communication, online virtual harassment makes the victims accessible anywhere and at any time. According to the study done by Burke et al. (2015), the majority of women in their emerging adulthood stage who have experienced online sexual harassment are enrolled in the learning institutions. Twenty percent of these students are repeatedly receiving unsolicited sexually obscene messages or sexual solicitation (Burke et al., 2015). More than 10 percent of the college and university students reported that they repeatedly received pornographic images and videos from people they did not know (Burke et al., 2015). More than a third of these women in their emerging adulthood reported that they felt anxious after the harassment; one-fifth reported that their sleeping and eating habits changed after the harassment, and the majority expressed that they felt helpless in dealing with the harassments.

Chawki and el Shazly (2013) also bring another critical aspect of online sexual harassment, which they call sextortion. Sextortion is a form of sexual exploitation where people get extorted with a nude image they shared online. Victims may be coerced into performing sexual acts with the people doing the extortion. The sextortion takes the form of sexual blackmail in which sexual information or images are used by the harasser to extort sexual favours from the victim. The Internet is often the source of such sexual materials and the threatened means of sharing it with others. Again, emerging adults do share their sexual information over the internet than all other groups consequently putting them at risk of sextortion than any other developmental group.

The issue of online sexual harassment should be tackled through cross-sectoral approaches. An effective solution would be establishing a multidimensional public-private collaboration between law enforcement agencies, the information technology industry, and ISPs. Without efficient public-private collaboration, online harassment can never be tackled effectively (Chawki and el Shazly, 2013).  Innovative software programs can also help users to control the information they receive. This software can help internet users to block unwanted communication.  The software programs should have the capacity to filter and block unwanted messages. I am glad the development of such software is ongoing, and some features like Cyber Sitter and Netnanny have been so useful in blocking and filtering unwanted communications (Chawki and el Shazly, 2013). Another recommendation to help tackle online sexual harassment should be to carry out extensive education programs to educate potential perpetrators on how to behave online. All internet users should be the first step towards self-protection. Internet education helps the perpetrators on how to behave and victims on how to respond to a variety of situations (Chawki and el Shazly, 2013). I wish that the public and private stakeholders should treat online sexual harassment as a matter of urgency and collaborate to find a lasting solution using multisector approaches suggested in this paper. Most of the females who are the victims of such misbehaviours are students whose education are adversely affected due to such harassments. In a broader perspective, every victim of sexual harassment is severely affected, and it is high time these behaviours are stopped.


Arafa, A. E., Elbahrawe, R. S., Saber, N. M., Ahmed, S., & Abbas, A. (2018). Cyber sexual harassment: a cross-sectional survey of female university students in Upper Egypt. Int J Community Med Public Health, 5(1), 61-5. Retrieved from

Arnett, J. J. (2004). Adolescence and emerging adulthood: A cultural approach. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Burke Winkelman, S., Oomen-Early, J., Walker, A. D., Chu, L., & Yick-Flanagan, A. (2015). Exploring cyber harassment among women who use social media. Universal journal of public health, 3(5), 194. Retrieved from

Chawki, M., & el Shazly, Y. (2013). Online sexual harassment: Issues & solutions. J. Intell. Prop. Info. Tech. & Elec. Com. L., 4, 71. Retrieved from

Lindsay, M., Booth, J. M., Messing, J. T., & Thaller, J. (2016). Experiences of online harassment among emerging adults: Emotional reactions and the mediating role of fear. Journal of interpersonal violence, 31(19), 3174-3195. Retrieved from

Written By Hudlyn Kwas Hagoi  |  Email:

Is little really better than nothing when it comes to employment in Kenya? By Sharon Laura O.

Getting a job in Kenya is hard. One goes through a lot of monkey business, it ends up as a job in itself, a job for looking for jobs.

I am shocked at just the sheer volumes of young people struggling to get employment. For the record, I am not unemployed. Sometimes though, I wonder what is the point of saying you are employed if your struggles are just the same as those unemployed?

I mean, this country in the beginning of this year introduced new taxes. Talk of turnover taxes for small business. This is over and above the taxes this government levies on businesses and Kenyans. The net effect is it leaves you with little monies that actually being employed sometimes, does feel like being unemployed.

I know of a single parent who takes home 4000 thousand Kenya shillings per month net salary. With it she is expected to feed, clothe and protect her 2 year old. The current state of economy forces Kenyans to do and be everything so as to make ends meet.

I always wonder, what if this single parent taking home Ksh. 4000 monthly quits her job, how will she survive?

Come to think of it, this is the mentality that we are forced to have. We have been conditioned to think that ‘little is better than nothing’. We are encouraged to stick with it because uncertainty of unemployment is too great.

Employers, meanwhile have learned to take advantage of this dire state of affairs. They know Kenyans will take what is being offered. Economy is bad, they tell us and something is better than nothing. So for those people who think are lucky being employed, including myself, news flash, we actually are not. I am not saying that you should quit your jobs. No. I’m only saying we live in a selfish society where the state and our laws have utterly failed to protect its citizens. We the people, have found ways of going round the problem, we have several sources of income to sustain our families

The frustrations for young people don’t end here, welcome to the home of contradictions where you study for field A but get work in field Z. I mean, each year Kenya produces thousands of graduates whose majority end up tarmacking for years and years. By the time they get a job that they studied for its seems too late as companies want higher degree or more skills. If you decide to go back to school and get this higher degree, you again seem to be too overqualified. Now this is a monkey business that needs to stop.

Recently, I went to a government building to run some errands. To my surprise, all the desks that I went to for assistance were being manned by old folks. May the good Lord forgive me but these are our grandparents who are meant to be enjoying their retirement. I enjoyed the slow service, a process that could have taken 30 minutes took 3hrs.

Most of our institutions are run by people who maybe had a certificate and as time went by, they did not see the need to go back to school. So if one goes to seek employment with the hope that their degree will be a plus, they will get a rude shock because, people at these places feel threatened by ones qualifications. They think their jobs will be taken away from them. That is why old people keep dominating while the youth keep tarmacking.

So let us face it, the economy is bad. The government is worsening the situation by taking more loans. I do not know about you but at this rate, where we are heading as this current state scares me.

Written by Sharon Laura O. 

A Glimpse of the National Youth Council (Amendment) Bill 2019 By Anita Otieno

The National Youth Council Act of 2009 establishes the National Youth Council (NYC) in law. The Council comprises several members from the Ministry in charge of youth affairs, and eight youths elected by the youth in a formal set-up. The purpose of the National Youth Council is to give a voice to the youth of Kenya in a bid to have an inclusive body in the political, social and economic matters affecting the country.

A Bill, the National Youth Council Amendment Bill (2019) was introduced to Parliament to amend some provisions of the NYC, Act. Among other proposals, the Bill proposes changing the format of membership of the Council. NYC comprises 8 youths elected by the youth. The Bill proposes to change this set-up to 9 youths nominated by the Cabinet Secretary. This proposal, if passed, will undermine democracy within the Council, limiting the voice and participation of the Youth in governmental affairs.

The proposed composition of membership of NYC will curtail the very essence of the Council. The Council as is, promotes independent participation of the youth in the Council. Having the members nominated by the Executive, rather than elected by the public, undermines the independence of the youth members and that of the Council as a whole.
In a number of the most democratic countries, the members of youth councils or the equivalent entity, are elected by other youth democratically and voluntarily. The Norwegian Children and Youth Council for example, has its members elected by members of other youth organizations. The Commonwealth Youth Council also has its executive members elected by other youth.

Why then, would the Kenyan Parliament propose nomination of youth members into the Council by the Executive? Is there foul play? Do they have malicious intentions? The most probable answer would be that Parliament, through the Executive, wants to have a hand in the affairs of NYC. They intend to suppress the democratic factor of the Council, thus limiting the functions of the Council.

Should the proposed amendment go through, then the Youth of the country may no longer count on the Council to carry their concerns independently. Further, the Youth will not have confidence in the affairs of the Council and will generally doubt their integrity.

There is a general feeling of loss of confidence on the government’s focus on youth affairs in the country. Allowing the government further control on youth affairs will be therefore undesirable and will extinguish the youth’s hope on making a difference in the country’s affairs. It is therefore imminent and important that Parliament does not consider the controversial clause on changing the NYC, but rather leave it as it is.

By Anita Otieno

Public Transport System during the Holiday Season By Ken Ogembo

As we settle back to our work flow, in this new year. I can’t help but think of the circus that occurred during my transit to the village for the holidays.

  • Drivers on phone or operating vehicle radio most of the time
    One day as I was traveling from the village back to the city and was privileged to seat next to the driver of transline shuttle. For the first 4 hours, the driver was on phone more than all the passengers combined. He was either making a call, receiving a call, texting or reading a text message. While off his phone, the focus shifted to either changing radio channels, trying to search music from his phone and back to phone calls. It was a concern for me and decided to post it on Facebook and reactions received was that this was not something unique to that particular driver but a problem with shuttle drivers. A week later, I decided to use Guardian shuttle to Kisumu and it was the same trend. Distraction is a major cause of accidents on our roads.
  • Drivers hitting the target
    As Christmas drew close, demand on transport increased and drivers got trapped into making money without considering the regulations. For instance, one driver making unprecedented 900k within 24 hours with most of them making those trips from 19th to 24th December and the same will be expected in January as the same people will be rushing back to report to work. How? A driver would start the trip by 6am in Nairobi to Kisii (300km) and leave Kisii by 2pm for Nairobi and finally have the last trip back to Kisii. That same driver will leave Kisii very early even with five passengers because filling a shuttle then was not possible if they had to make the trips and there was no waiting in Nairobi as passengers were already waiting, as one driver that I spoke to mentioned. Fatigue is among the causes of accidents regularly mentioned by the police. SACCOs can regulate just how many trips a driver can make.
  • Police mounting roadblocks
    Do they even serve their purpose? Driver’s comradeship demanded that they informed their colleagues if there were roadblocks mounted and therefore some would change route or reduce speed for those who were over speeding. More inspiring was the fact that motorists have devised an online application updated by drivers on roadblocks to inform the road users and therefore they are able to plan accordingly whether to reduce speed or change route. Therefore, police must now embrace use of technology, invest on working their relationship with the public and invest in intelligent policing. Additionally, these very roadblocks are cash cows for the police. For instance, from Kisii to Oyugis is a distance of 25k with 5 roadblocks. All 14 seater public transport vehicles (matatus) carried more than twenty passengers with introduction of a temporary board joining right and left seats to accommodate additional passengers, locally known as ‘sambaza’ while others hanging on the door. All of them are stopped by the police and left to proceed after hefty greetings between police and the conductor or a simple salute as conductor drops Ksh 50 shillings note. According to one conductor, the police will demand for money whether you have 14 or 30 passengers and their portion is Ksh 50. So you better carry more to take care of their cost otherwise the vehicle will make nothing. If you don’t give then you will forever battle cases in court which is unnecessary.
  • Not reaching the destination one paid for
    Oversea bus made it a routine to drop people destined to Katito in Oyugis until one day local rights activist aka boda boda teamed up and forced them to complete the journey. Passengers were returned back into the bus and the bus forced to complete the journey or face the music, they complied. Passengers from the village to Nairobi were not spared either, people with luggage which could have easily been carried by bus freely were being charged or forced to send them as a parcel hence introducing another inconvenience of collecting them a day after. What if items were perishable and could easily go bad?

What did you notice on the roads during the holiday season?

Written by Ken Ogembo – Program Manager at Siasa Place

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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