For being a fierce advocate of sexual and reproductive health and rights for women, Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, South Africa’s former deputy president, became a target of online attacks.
“The attackers claimed I could not be trusted to work with young people,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka, who has also been impersonated on social media platforms, emblematic of the problems women of influence like her have suffered on the internet.
Gendered disinformation has attempted to discredit outspoken women, using a formula of misogynistic and overtly sexual attacks, with a dose of gaslighting, all with the aim to silence her.
Not only are women and girls beginning to censor themselves for fear of being battered online, as women of influence are, the digital space also has a design of restricting women from accessing the information they need to push for their causes.
“Women and girls often encounter barriers linked to the type of information being sought, such as information on their sexual and reproductive health and rights, based on their profession, or for political reasons. They may face reprisals for how they use the information,” said Melissa Upreti of the United Nations working group on discrimination against women and girls during a side event of the recently concluded 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67).
The way forward is not more tech, but better tech, and they start with decentralizing and decolonizing the internet.
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The Global Digital Inclusion Partnership is a coalition of public, private, and civil society organizations working to bring internet connectivity to the global majority and ensure everyone is meaningfully connected by 2030. GDIP advances digital opportunities to empower and support people’s lives and agency, leading to inclusive digital societies.