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Biannual Newsletter 2022 Issue 4.

Want to know more about recent updates in our work at HER internet? Well, the Fourth Edition of our Biannual Newsletter is finally here! Download a free copy now and stay in the loop about highlights that took place in the second half of 2022 by clicking: https://herinternet.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/HER-INTERNET-Biannual-Newsletter-Dec-2022-12.pdf

We remain grateful to all partners, allies and communities that supported our work throughout last year in all shape and form. Thank you! You can also reach out and engage with us through our socials (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp) or email: info@herinternet.org.

HER INTERNET HOSTS TECH FUN DAY EVENT TO COMMEMORATE 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM 2022.

With support from Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and African Women Development Fund (AWDF), HER Internet hosted a Tech Fun Day event under the theme “Reimagining an internet free from Online Gender Based Violence” in Kampala on Friday 9th December 2022 in commemoration of this year’s 16 Days of Activism following the global theme: #UNiTE: Activism to End Gender Based Violence against Women and Girls”. The playful advocacy event was among the activities entailed within our collaborative campaign with Digital Dada Podcast and She E-Secures and it aimed at raising awareness on the on the curtailing online gender based violence against structurally silenced womxn and girls and how it can be addressed.

In her welcome remarks, the Executive Director at HER Internet, Sandra Kwikiriza noted that the playful advocacy event was a culmination of this year’s #16Days collaborative campaign with Digital Dada Podcast and SHE E-Secures based in Kenya and Ethiopia respectively. Some of the activities that took place within this campaign included; a podcast session under a Town Hall Meeting theme which was hosted for female journalism students by Digital Dada Podcast at the University of Nairobi in Kenya to discuss all matters concerning OGBV and the launch of a Telegram channel in Ethiopia which will widen the shrinking civic space online as well as offer support to womxn who are more vulnerable to online violence.

Sandra further shared her hopes for the day as a start for reflections and conversations on how to build a united block through collaboration and collective power towards the creation of a safer internet for everyone regardless of who we are. She encouraged participants to keep the conversations going and emphasized HER Internet’s commitment towards creation of a safe feminist internet for all users especially those from systematically marginalized communities in the efforts to eliminate violence in all its forms.

Among the highlights of this action-packed event were games such as Take Back The Tech, a card game in which participants shared diverse scenarios of online violence and how they can take charge of digital spaces to mitigate the issue. And it was peaked with a panel discussion based on the theme of the day in which discussants shared their personal lived realities with #OGBV, how to build a supportive online community and innovative ways on how to revolutionize online spaces to eliminate violence against structurally silenced womxn and girls.

Panel discussion on the theme of the day “Reimagining an internet free from Online Gender Based Violence”.

#16DAYS 2022: COLLABORATIVE CAMPAIGN ON ELIMINATION OF ONLINE GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE.

The annual international campaign, 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is known to begin every 25 November which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and runs until 10 December which also marks Human Rights Day.

Under this year’s global theme UNITE! Activism to end Violence against Women And Girls, HER Internet in partnership with Digital Dada Podcast (a platform based in Kenya that  focuses on discussions around Online Violence and Digital Security with a special interest in female journalists) and SheEsecures (an Ethiopian social impact driven feminist online platform that advocates for the digital rights and internet freedom of women through creating awareness of online safety and mitigating online gender-based violence) recently ran an online campaign to call action to the alleviation of online gender based violence against women and girls under #BanOnlineViolence and #SeeSomethingSaySomethingUG.

During a Twitter Space @HerInternet that took place on 8th December 2022 as we drew the curtains on our Digital Rights Advocacy campaign, the Founder of Digital Dada Podcast, Cecilia Maundu shared that the goal of this #16Days collaborative advocacy campaign was to create awareness on the issue of online gender-based violence which for so long until now is still perceived to be a fallacy and yet, it affects people in real life. Cecilia also stressed that the use of online platforms as the digital drivers considered for the campaign was intentional to ensure the inclusion of everyone beyond just the three countries (Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia) since the internet is an equalizer and speaks to millions of people.

Further in her submission, Cecilia emphasized the involvement of minority groups in the advocacy efforts towards the elimination of online violence so that their voices are not lost in the near future since the technology that they are being called to embrace is the same one being weaponized and used against them. “My hope is that in 5 years, we shall not be talking about the same thing because we have seen the trajectory of online violence getting worse. We are trying to look for the right mechanisms whereby we can actually end this problem because if we keep going this way, we are going to lose out on voices of minority groups online.” Cecilia concluded her remarks with a call for more voices to be heard and more platforms to be used to spread positivity which will in turn encourage others to join digital spaces rather than shunning them due to fear of online violence. And hence, contribute to the alleviation of online violence in addition to all forms of gender-based violence against women and girls.

Among the activities within this campaign, we held a live Town Hall podcast session with female journalism students in Kenya. The conversations were around how to mitigate the Online Gender Based Violence often experienced by journalists.

We also launched a Telegram channel in Amaharic, a language commonly spoken in Ethiopia. This Telegram channel will be a source of information on Online Gender Based Violence for women as well as offer a community of support to those experiencing any form of online harm. We know women in Ethiopia have long suffered with inequality brought on by limited access to technology and digital platforms as well as censorship, which is made all the more difficult by language barrier. Hence, this channel will bridge that gap.

In Uganda, this collaboration hosted Tech Fun Day but with a side of advocacy against Online Gender Based Violence. Some of the games played were geared towards increasing our understanding of online harms, how they manifest and possible solutions to dealing with them, both social and technological. Overall, in line with the theme of the day, “Reimagining an Internet free from Online Gender Based Violence”, we need to start building the blocks that will see us have a safer internet and digital environment than we do currently.

 

PRESS RELEASE: HER Internet calls for continued organization amongst minority groups to create free and safe online spaces.

As we conclude our two-month long Digital Rights Advocacy campaign to build awareness on the digital right to freedom of speech and expression and the creation of safe spaces for expression for all online, we called on all stakeholders to speak with a united voice and do their part to create a free and safe internet. The campaign, ran via our social media platforms with funding from Internews under the hashtags #SpeakFreelyTypeFreely and #SeeSomethingSaySomethingUG, has built awareness on the importance of creating free and safe spaces for structurally marginalized womxn and the barriers encountered in making this a reality.

To further the campaign, we organized a physical space bringing together stakeholders under the theme “Understanding the Digital Right to Freedom of Expression: Opportunities and Limitations for Structurally Silenced Womxn” where the Founder and Executive Director at HER Internet, Sandra Kwikiriza, emphasized the importance of collective organization to protect the digital right to freedom of expression.

“What is important is that we must use our collective power to create an online environment that is safe for all of us regardless of our differences in gender, sexuality, choice of work or disability,” Ms Kwikiriza said.

A key theme emerging from the stakeholders meeting was the key tension between advocating for the digital right to freedom of expression and stemming online violence – sometimes, freedom of expression can come at the expense of the safety of marginalized people online, further othering them.

Alaine Kesh, one of the panelists shared, “I thought I was bringing in all this visibility and I’m showing them: “Yes! Whatever! No matter, we are there!” But the question was simple: what you trust because it’s going to come with an impact,” when talking about the real costs of expressing herself freely online.

To broaden the conversation around the emerging theme from the physical space, we hosted a Twitter Space on 09 December 2022 titled “Navigating the tension between digital freedom of expression and stemming online violence: How do we then build a consensus?”.

The Twitter Space generated rich insights from the speakers on how marginalized womxn are navigating the tensions around advocating for a free internet for all, while mitigating online violence that is often targeting them.

Deborah Leticia Akumu, a public health specialist, female sex worker, queer feminist and one of the speakers shared that this conversation is particularly critical at this time because marginalized womxn find it difficult to create safe spaces online and the time has come when their safety is  prioritized.

“We lack safe spaces online. I’ve been in some of the Twitter spaces where people have been organizing and we have had intruders coming in to get our information to hear how Leticia introduces herself because they have seen a poster that says Leticia is a Q, is an SW, things of that nature and we lack safe spaces. I am happy that we are trying to build that momentum to make sure that online spaces are very safe for silenced womxn,” she adds.

Monalisa Akintole, a feminist, Transgender Human Rights Practitioner, and speaker on the Twitter Space, also highlighted the lack of awareness around how gender based violence manifests online, tying into the on-going global 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence.

“We are raising the alarm around gender-based violence and the forms that he takes on online. So this could come in a sense of educating people around what violence is because you’d be surprised that sometimes what we feel like is normal is not normal; that people think they know but they actually don’t know,” Ms Akintole explains.

One of the key issues raised was the role of laws and policies in bridging the gap between creating a free and a safe internet for all, especially for marginalized womxn. Samantha Ainembabazi, an Editor at Kuchu Times Media and one of the speakers shared that laws like Computer Misuse Act and the accompanying Amendment are good on paper, but history shows that these laws can be wielded against the very people they were meant to protect because they are vague and subject to misinterpretation.

“I would say that unfortunately as law in Uganda goes, its cons still outweigh its pros. But if we have a voice, if we read and we all learn because most of the times what happens is we do not know what we’re dealing with. We don’t know the laws and so people can easily use them against us. If we actually do go back and read…we can navigate the Internet safely,” shares Ms Ainembabazi.

Ms Cecilia Maundu, a digital Security Trainer and Broadcast Journalist in Kenya also shared how beyond the campaign period, people can continue to raise awareness on creating a free and safe internet by using the same hashtag #SeeSomethingSaySomethingUG to speak up when people especially minority groups are being violated online.

“We who are online, we can be able to create that safe space. It is not a dream, it’s not a pipe dream. It’s actually a dream that can be realized. But for that dream to be realized, so many voices are needed, so many critical voices are needed, and there is no smaller voice. Just because you do not have 100,000 followers does not make you feel, does not make you less, you know, a person who can make a change,” says Ms Maundu.

To continue to contribute, get involved or participate in this campaign, follow HER Internet via our social media pages: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook through #SpeakFreelyTypeFreely and #SeeSomethingSaySomethingUG. You can also listen in to this conversation; https://twitter.com/HerInternet/status/1600860435787325440?t=vmj4WkEqTWD1Jt6TozGQMw&s=19

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS DAY 2022.

Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) are at the forefront of great crises. Today on 29 November as we mark International Women Human Rights Defenders Day and in line with #16DaysOfActivism, let us #UNiTE to end all forms of Online Gender Based Violence against WHRDs in all our diversity. Remember that our digital rights are an extension of human rights, hence, deserve support and protection both online and offline.

#BanOnlineViolence #SeeSomethingSaySomethingUGWomen

#16Days 2022: Connect, Collaborate, Contract.

In this episode #WomenSpeaking on Civic Space TV hosted by Tricia Nabaye, watch as our Administration and Coordinations Lead, Murungi Sanyu joins Susan Achen (Uganda Women’s Network) and Naima Isa Sebbi (Actionaid International Uganda) in a conversation that unpacks the importance and relevance of 16 Days Of Activism under the theme: Connect, Collaborate, Contract via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPDECLFroNM

Relationship Between Gender, Women’s Rights, Governance and The Internet.

Watch now as our Administration and Coordination Lead, Murungi Sanyu engages in this conversation #WomenSpeaking at Civic Space Tv with Esther Nyapendi (Assistant Technical Support Office, Women of Uganda Network), Abiro Mercy (Co-Founder, Gender Tech Initiative) and host, Birungi Primah on the Relationship Between Gender, Women’s Rights, Governance and The Internet here;

COMPUTER MISUSE AMENDMENT ACT 2022 #DYK AWARENESS CAMPAIGN.

HER Internet in conjunction with Kuchu Times Media Group kickstarted a week long #DYK social media campaign from Monday 24 October 2022 to Tuesday 1 November 2022 with #HerOnlineSafety and #ComputerMisuseAct following the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act 2022 being signed into law by President Museveni. The objective of this campaign was to share information about […]

PRESS RELEASE: HER INTERNET LAUNCHES DIGITAL RIGHTS ADVOCACY CAMPAIGN.

This October, HER Internet has launched a Digital Rights Advocacy campaign via our social media platforms, with funding from Internews. The campaign running with the hashtags #SpeakFreelyTypeFreely and #SeeSomethingSaySomethingUG, will carry on for 9 weeks targeting womxn, particularly LBQ womxn and female sex workers. The goal of the campaign is to build awareness on their digital right to freedom of speech and expression, and to empower them to take charge of their digital body and online activity while creating safe spaces for expression for all online.

The Founder and Executive Director at HER Internet, Sandra Kwikiriza, says that enjoyment of our digital rights especially freedom of speech and expression will not happen in a vacuum. “We have to actively push-back against any infringement on this inherent right by all means available to us. This includes using the internet and social networking platforms to amplify advocacy efforts and organizing,” Ms Kwikiriza emphasizes.

To further awareness and conversation around the campaign, HER Internet hosted a Twitter Space on 19 October, 2022 titled “Contextualising the digital right to freedom of speech and expression”.

“This Twitter Space has been organized to position the campaign within the political and legal landscape for our key audiences and how this could apply to their daily use of the internet: their freedoms and potential infringements and violations, as well as the importance of speaking out against this,” said Ms Kwikiriza.

The well-attended Twitter Space yielded great discussion from the speakers who tackled important topics including the opportunities and shortfalls of digital freedom of speech and expression, how structurally silenced womxn can begin to build community and safe spaces online, how to navigate the legal pitfalls of double-edged policies and laws and opportunities for holding different players accountable from big tech to policy and lawmakers and enforcers, and at individual level. 

Samantha Ainembabazi, an Editor at Kuchu Times Media, emphasized the role that the internet plays in amplifying the voices of structurally marginalized womxn that are often sidelined by mainstream media. However, she also cautioned listeners on the two-edged nature of the internet where womxn are often forced to self-censor to avoid being hyper-visible and susceptible to backlash which is oftentimes damaging.

“For someone to say my life is in danger digitally, there’s levels to it. You could not be abducted, but there are certain things that happen to you online that affect you gravely in the flesh – like your mental health, your esteem, or even the people you could have helped,” said Ms Ainembabazi of womxn who are more engaged online.

Ms Cecilia Maundu, a Digital Security Trainer and Broadcast Journalist in Kenya also shared how an unsafe internet for all worsens inequalities for marginalized groups through self-censorship.

“Unfortunately, when this happens, we find that it is only certain groups that can reap what we call the digital dividends. If we keep on going the way we are going, we are going to lose so may voices over the next generation,” added Ms Maundu.

Ms Maundu and Ms Ainembabazi also offered some solutions to the issues that were raised, ranging from working with marginalized womxn and groups to build communities of support and allyship that will collectively advocate for favorable digital laws and policies, and also combat online violence; and undertaking sensitization drives to educate digital users on the different policies and how these could protect them or put them at risk for collective and individual action and accountability.

“We act like people come from Mars and spread hate. It’s us that are doing these things online. Before we start complaining about people hating towards us, we should probably look around and see how we’re treating other groups of people, people whose opinions differ from ours,” concluded Ms Ainembabazi in a call for all internet users to do their part.

HER Internet’s campaign’s hashtag #SpeakFreelyTypeFreely draws on the insight that the same rights that are enjoyed by people offline to express themselves should also be enjoyed online and calls on everyone to make it safe for people to express themselves freely, while #SeeSomethingSaySomethingUG encourages all internet users to call out any violation or infringement upon their digital rights or the rights of others.

To get involved or participate, follow HER Internet via our social media pages: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook through #SpeakFreelyTypeFreely and #SeeSomethingSaySomethingUG. You can also listen in to this conversation by clicking; https://twitter.com/HerInternet/status/1582739426764935169?t=5ntJu6zqASE-VraNpGCRVw&s=19

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