Uniting female activists across Libya to combat online violence and harassment
TRIPOLI - 26 November - To support the United Nations’ #16days campaign, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNMSIL) brought together female activists from across Libya to call for an end to online violence and harassment against women.
Over the last two months, UNSMIL’s Gender Equality Section (GES) has been working to bring together 90 female activists behind a unified message of combatting online violence and harassment.
“It is important to highlight that despite their political differences, Libyan women are united on issues related to advancing women’s rights and gender quality,” said Nada Darwazeh, Senior Gender Affairs Officer at UNSMIL. “This unity is a positive message that needs to be constantly echoed,” she added.
The support provided for civil society organisations was designed following a series of meetings that the GES held with several activists and representatives of women civil society organisations to discuss challenges faced by Libyan women. One key challenge was that the women’s movement in Libya was not united behind women’s issues, as was raised by women activists themselves.
The aim was to help the activists synchronize their voices around one topic, explained Darwazeh. Adding that the phenomenon of online violence and hate speech has been on the rise, and that combatting this has long been a priority for the women involved.
The GES team reached out to 90 female civil society organisations and individual activists, putting five potential themes to a vote. In total 37 votes were cast, with 43% of those opting to support the issue of addressing online violence and hate speech.
Activists also suggested messages for the social media campaign these included: ‘women have the right to express their political opinions’, and their call for ‘decision makers to enact laws and regulations to protect women from cyber violence.’ Over 30 messages were developed and the activists voted on their top 16 – one for each day of the annual UN campaign.
According to a recent UN Women study, some 46% of women who use the Internet in the Arab world do not feel safe from cyber violence, with a further 44% saying their experiences of cyberviolence had moved from social media to a reality.
During the next couple of weeks, the campaign will aim to spread awareness of these issues both at a national and grassroot level.
“Women want decision makers to listen and take active measures to protect them in the online space,” said Darwazeh. “But they also want to change the public discourse around the issue, and to stop the passive acceptance of this behaviour online.”