Breaking the Silence: Ending online violence and abuse against women's rights activists

Stock image of woman using a mobile phone

Information and communications technologies (ICTs), including the internet and social media have  become vital to women’s rights activists and advocates  enabling them to connect, organise, and mobilise. New technologies and online spaces have played an important role in the global women’s movement. At the same time, however, they have also produced challenges: namely, new forms of violence against women and girls. The very tools and platforms that embolden women’s rights activists are being used against them, in a deliberate attempt to silence them.

To gain better insight into the experiences of some of the women’s rights activists Womankind works with, we partnered with the School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) at the University of Leeds on a new piece of research with Womankind partners and activists in our focus countries, with a particular focus on Zimbabwe, Nepal, and Kenya.

The result is Breaking the Silence: Ending online violence and abuse against women’s rights activists, a policy briefing shedding light on the reality of online violence and abuse for women right’s activists – and the crucial need to address it in any pursuit for gender equality. The primary research highlighted in our report was carried out by Bronwen Embleton for her final dissertation project on the MA Global Development programme in POLIS.

In Breaking the Silence we set out a series of policy recommendations to all actors in a multi-stakeholder approach:

  • Agree a comprehensive definition of online violence and abuse against women, which recognises it as part of the continuum of violence and abuse against women and rooted in the same systems of patriarchy, oppression and discrimination.
  • Challenge harmful and discriminatory social norms and gender stereotypes that perpetuate gender inequality and violence and abuse of women online and offline.
  • Increase funding for research into the scope, nature and impact of online violence and abuse against women and the effectiveness of prevention and response interventions.
  • Improve national level data collection and disaggregation on online violence and abuse against women, in line with commitments in key international human rights standards.
  • Ensure meaningful consultation with women’s rights organisations, women survivors, and women users of ICTs on prevention and response measures and strategies.
  • Create a positive enabling internet environment, which increases women’s meaningful access to and use of the internet and their participation and leadership in decision-making over the development and design of new technologies and how the internet is governed.

Join our efforts to #BreakTheSilence and call for the upholding of women’s rights online. Download Breaking the Silence here, and share it alongside any of our graphics, available below.