Examining Online Gender-Based Violence on Female Politicians and Leaders in Kenya

By Florence Awino and Neema Mujesia

On 5th October 2022, KICTANet attended a workshop organized by Pollicy in conjunction with CREAW Kenya to assess the impact of online gender-based violence on female politicians and leaders. This meeting, moderated by Irene Mwendwa of Pollicy, had four core objectives:

  • To create a roadmap to the theme of the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67)
  • To create an advocacy plan that mitigates online gender-based violence
  • To discuss the role of the Kenyan tech and internet governance partners in the concluded 2022 General Elections
  • To compile the common hate speech terms in local languages used against women in politics and leadership

The participants were drawn from women political leaders namely Betty Kirui Murgor and Fatuma Namatsi who were MP aspirants. Murgor is a woman living with albinism, who narrated her experience on the campaign trail. She faced sustained online attacks of gendered disinformation and harassment on her campaign WhatsApp group. Attendees discussed what steps Betty, and other women leaders can take to prepare for their online campaigns in the next elections.

Women leaders are encouraged to develop digital resilience by taking the following steps:

  • Beef up the security of social media accounts, emphasizing setting up a 2-Factor Authentication process.
  • Be mindful of what they post online, especially the kind of photos
  • Reporting every instance of abuse when it happens
  • Know how to conduct fact-checks.
  • Have only trusted people to handle their communication devices when necessary

Challenges In Automatic Hate Speech Detection for Kenya and Africa

The detection mechanisms of hate speech in social media play a crucial role in curbing OGBV. However, the tools used in the detection are mostly English-based, and the translation leaves much to be desired. Therefore, attendees formed groups to compile the hate speech and insults in the local languages they witnessed directed to women aspirants online.

Research Findings and the Way Forward

  • Various factors prevent women from exploring their full potential when utilizing digital platforms.
  • Women tend to have less economic power, are hindered by cultural beliefs, lack confidence, and sometimes the digital system feels intimidating.
  • Civil society is called upon to provide tech training to women aspirants. We can also advocate for the improvement of tech systems in Africa.
  • Lastly, address how local digital content is regulated. Women politicians and leaders should combine the power of online and physical campaigns to maximize their presence.

KICTANet offers an online module on how to tackle OGBV. Find the course here.

Florence Awino is an ICTSs Accessibility and Equality for PwDs Fellow at KICTANet. Neema Mujesia is an Intern at the KICTANet Gender Program.