By Olimatou Coker
Stop Harassing and Online Abuse of Women and Girls (SHOAW) on Tuesday organized an engagement and validation on tackling online Gender-Based Violence in The Gambia at Ocean Bay Hotel.
The validation workshop was aimed at tackling online gender-based violence in the Gambia which is part of their “Feminism and Social Media in the eyes of the Gambia” project supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its embassy in Senegal.
The engagement brings together various stakeholders, including youth organizations, civil society groups, government agencies and other interested parties, to validate the research conducted, with a focus on obtaining a better understanding of the current state of online abuse in The Gambia. The event also provides an opportunity for an open discussion on regulatory challenges, and identify effective strategies recommendations for prevention and protection against gender-based violence online.
Anna Anet Sambou, founder of SHOAW Gambia, said the internet and social media have brought about momentum advancement in communication, and information sharing. “And yet with these opportunities have come serious risks, especially for young people. The phenomenon of online gender based violence is a looming threat to the freedoms and safety of many young women and girls who use the internet today.
“We know that cyberspace has become a playground for predators and bullies alike, and our children are often on the receiving end of this torment. We all know someone who hasn’t been bullied online, or who has had their privacy violated. True sextortion this issue is too big and too important to ignore. But I am grateful to have started an organization shall Gambia Whitman Stop Harassment and online abuse is a woman and does in the Gambia. That stands for online gender based violence. We have worked tirelessly with stakeholders to address the problem of online gender based violence, especially among young people. Today, we are proud to present the fruits of these efforts. The feminism and social media in the eyes of the Gambia project, thanks to the support of the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs through its embassy in Senegal,” she said.
She added that the project also focused on highlighting the importance of regulations for their protection. Throughout the project, they successfully trained over 1000 young people and women on digital security and data protection across the six regions of the Gambia. They also met with community elders within this regions to explain the significance of their project. Already advocacy and awareness raising programs were also successful in engaging the general public in the Gambia. encouraging them to start a dialogue surrounding online gender based violence and the policy reforms needed to combat it.
“Furthermore, we developed a cyber safety booklet to provide women and girls with information on the prevalence of online abuse and the steps they can take to report incidences. To get a better understanding of the issue. We conducted a quantitative research survey on the state of digital rights and cyberbullying in the Gambia we collected a total of 922 data surveys from the regions where digital rights training took place. And today we are here to discuss our research findings and recommendations.”
Mrs. Henriette Brummer Sonko, representative of the ambassador of Netherlands, Senegal, said nowadays, the internet plays a positive and essential role in free expression, political participation and democratic processes. Especially the young generation uses the net to mobilize and inform their peers, sometimes in key periods such as elections.
“In some places, online activities are tracked using advanced technologies, with the aim of prosecuting or censoring activities. Another form of negative use of the internet, or more precisely social media, is online harassment or cyber bullying”.
She added that threats, embarrassments, or humiliation with the intention to harm a person reputation are more common then they might think especially towards women and girls. With serious consequences for the victims, on the short term and the long term.
Rohey Malick Lowe, Mayor of Banjul, said: “GBV is any act or threats intended to hurt or make women suffer physically or psychologically occurring in private or public. The consequence of such acts of violence to women are enormous can cause a lot of pain, anger, anxiety, fear, shame, depression and even suicide”.
She added that in the Gambia the laws are there to protect women therefore if effectively implemented can help to stop the harassment of women and girls.
She called on the civil society organizations to act as watchdogs to support the work that is being done by organizations such as SHOAW so that they can promote women’s participation in politics and other decisions making and leadership positions in the Gambia.
Hon. Alhagie Mbow, member of parliament and chair of the education, training and ICT select committee, said GBV is not a new phenomenon in the world. However, information communication technology (ICT) has made GBV take a new dimension in creating the platform on which people can hide initially to do their operation in abusing women and children within and outside of the country they domicile.
“In combating online GBV, there is a need to update our law to reflect the current realities of the ‘online ecosystem’ we need collaborations and capacitate our law enforcement officers to ensure they can easily investigate and prosecute these crimes with the appropriate laws. To be able do so, digital addressing systems and digital ID are paramount this endeavor”.