Women@Web Fest 2023: Fostering Women's Safety in the Digital Sphere | Africa | DW | 12.09.2023
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Women@Web Fest 2023: Fostering Women's Safety in the Digital Sphere

The Women@Web Network, in partnership with DW Akademie, calls on experts, activists, policymakers, and the media from across the region to come together for a vital mission: ensuring the safety of women online.

In today's digital realm, the online world offers endless possibilities for connection, empowerment, and personal growth. Yet, it also presents a harsh reality: Women, particularly those who are outspoken, such as journalists, politicians, and activists, grapple with an array of challenges on social media platforms. These challenges come in the form of online violence against women, including trolling, hate speech, online harassment, cyberbullying, body shaming, and more.

Imagine a world where the vast digital landscape becomes a haven for women, a place where they can thrive without fear or hesitation. The Women@Web Network consisting of eight organizations from East Africa, has long been committed to achieving just that. Now, it’s a moment to celebrate achievements and stand together to address the pressing issues that still lie ahead. The Women@Web Festival 2023 is an electrifying event that seeks to amplify women's voices and strengthen their digital resilience, making the internet a safer space for all.

Kicking off the event, Angel Kabera will deliver a special soetry performance with support from Canaan Arinda. Through songs and poetry, the two will introduce the conference topic, setting the stage for the engaging discussions that will follow.

After the event's opening remarks and partner introductions, the first panel discussion will begin, featuring the compelling story of Sylvia Rwabwogo, a former Ugandan parliamentarian. Sylvia, herself a victim of online violence, will share her traumatic experience, shedding light on the challenges faced by many women worldwide.

9 am - 12 pm

First Panel Discussion: Amplifying Digital Safety in East Africa: Navigating Online Violence Against Women with AI-Informed Approaches

Hosted by Edith Kimani, renowned journalist and TV presenter with Deutsche Welle (DW), this dynamic panel brings together various experts, including Muthoni Wanyoike, Co-Founder of Nairobi Women in Machine Learning & Data Science; Lindsey Kukunda, a Ugandan feminist, human rights defender, and Managing Director of Her Empire; Sylvia Musalagani, Safety Policy Lead for Africa, Middle East, and Turkey at Meta; as well as Mr. Nazar Kirama, President of the Internet Society Tanzania Chapter. Together with the audience, the panelists will explore critical questions such as:

  • What are the key manifestations of online violence against women in today's digital age, and how can women secure their digital safety and resilience?
  • In what ways can technology, psychology, law, policy, civil society and media intersect to create comprehensive strategies for combating online violence against women?
  • What are the potential benefits of using AI (Artificial Intelligence) to combat online violence against women? How can AI be used to amplify and perpetuate such violence? What safeguards and accountability measures should be put in place to mitigate these risks?

1 pm - 5 pm

Breakout Sessions:

After lunch, there will be two sets of breakout sessions, each lasting 45 minutes. These sessions, facilitated by different Women@Web partners from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, will be repeated to ensure that each audience member has the opportunity to attend at least two sessions. Participants will actively engage in developing solutions, sharing ideas, and addressing the challenges related to online violence against women:

Breakout 1: Phishing Exposed: Strengthening Online Safety Through Detection and Mitigation - hosted by Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), Siasa Place, and KICTAnet (Kenya)

Breakout 2: Exploring Online Violence Against Women: A Man's Perspective - hosted by Tech & Media Convergency (Tanzania)

Breakout 3: Online - Attack - Defence: Advocacy in Action - hosted by Unwanted Witness and Her Empire (Uganda)

Breakout 4: Empowering Digital Warriors: Interactive Session on Women's Digital Resilience - hosted by The Launchpad (Tanzania)

Breakout 5: Under the Lens: Media Priming's Link to Online Violence - A Mock Training – hosted by DW Akademie

Breakout 6: CyberSafe: Enhancing Digital Security Against Online Violence – hosted by Acacia Book Café (Rwanda)

After the breakout sessions, the spotlight shifts to the media in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania. How do they address the issue of online violence against women? The study report, titled "Examining Media Coverage of Online Violence against Women in East Africa,” unveils some answers. Exclusively launched at the Women@Web Fest, this report provides essential insights and recommendations for journalistic training and advocacy.

Pauline Okoth, Lead Researcher of the study, presents her findings and poses critical questions that set the stage for the next panel discussion:

Closeout Panel Discussion: "Shaping the Narrative: Rethinking Traditional Media's Role in Addressing Online Violence Against Women."

The grand finale of the Women@Web Festival 2023 will feature a thought-provoking panel discussion hosted by the accomplished media expert Ben Mwine. The panelists, including Dr. Emilly C. Maractho, Media Studies Scholar and Director at Monitor Publications Limited (Uganda), Dr. Rose Reuben, Executive Director of the Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA), and Glory Iribagiza, a journalist with The New Times in Rwanda, will address the following important questions:

  • What are ethical responsibilities of traditional media when covering online violence against women?
  • What strategies can traditional media employ to reframe the narrative around online violence against women and promote a safer digital environment?
  • How can we enhance reporting standards across the industry, moving beyond individual media houses and towards overarching industry standards that media outlets commit to?

The Women@Web Festival will conclude with a spectacular closing ceremony, a beach party on the shores of Dar es Salaam's Indian Ocean, and engaging games and networking opportunities.

The Women@Web Festival 2023 is not just an event; it's a movement. It's a call to action for everyone who believes in a digital world where women can thrive, lead, and express themselves without fear. Join us on September 13, 2023, and let's shape a safer and more empowering online future for all.

Please register here to receive the livestream link, and, after the conference, the conference report and the research report via email. To join us via livestream without registration, please follow this link.

Our hashtag is #safespacesEA, so please spread the word.