By Ramatoulie Jawo
Stop Harassment and Online Abuse of Women and Girls (SHOAW) Gambia held a stakeholder engagement and validation workshop aimed at tackling online gender-based violence in the Gambia at a local hotel in Bakau.
The stakeholder engagement is part of SHOAW’s “Feminism and Social Media in the Eyes of the Gambia” project, supported by the Dutch Foreign Affairs through its Embassy in Senegal.
Anna Anet Sambou, Co-Founder of SHOAW GAMBIA, said The phenomenon of online gender-based violence is a looming threat to the freedoms and safety of many young women and girls who use the internet today.
Ms. Sambou said cyberspace has become a playground for predators and bullies alike, and the children are often on the receiving end of the torment.
“We all know someone who has been bullied online or who has had their privacy violated, to sextortion this issue is too big and too important to ignore But I am grateful to have started an organization SHOAW GAMBIA, which stands for online gender-based violence. We have worked tirelessly with stakeholders to address the problem of online gender-based violence, especially among young people, “she said. Rohey Malick Lowe, the Mayor of Banjul City Council (BCC), said that gender-based violence is any type of harm that is committed against a person or group of people because of their actual or perceived gender identity. Mayor Lowe said that gender-based violence occurs because of the unequal power dynamics between genders.
“The consequences of such acts of violence to women and girls caused a lot of pain, anger, anxiety, fear, shame, and depression, and indeed, result in suicide. I wonder why women come through all this gender-based violence despite the support women give to their families in terms of upkeep and stability and the contribution we make to the economy and development of a country,” Mayor Lowe said.
Mrs. Henriette Brummer Sonko, the Netherlands’ Honorary Consul to the Gambia, said the gathering was all about freedom of expression and human rights.
She said that freedom of expression in the traditional press and on the internet is a priority in Dutch foreign policy because it is an essential part of a properly functioning democracy and a free society.
“Nowadays, the internet plays a positive and essential role in free expression, political participation, and democratic processes. Especially the young generation uses the net to mobilize and inform their peers, sometimes in key periods such as elections. But there’s another side of the coin. In some places, online activities are tracked using advanced technologies to prosecute or censor activists.
“Another form of negative use of the Internet, or more precisely social media, is online harassment or harassment and cyberbullying. Threats, embarrassment, or humiliation to harm a person’s reputation are more common than we might think. Especially towards women and girls, with see with serious consequences for the victims in the short term and the long term,” she said.
Meanwhile, Hon. Alhagie Mbowe, National Assembly Member for Upper Saloum, said it was his duty as a public servant and an obligation as a father and brother to be at the event to stand in support of the work of SHOAW Gambia in their fight to solve the most “cancerous tears” of the society, particularly online gender-based violence.
“GBV is not a new phenomenon in the world. However, information and communication technology has made GBV take a new dimension in creating the platform on which people can hide initially to do their operations, in addition to women and children within and outside the country’s database.
“Our society has become a digital society and the internet is at the center of it all. The development of technology, particularly the Internet, mobile phones, social media platforms, and Generative Artificial Intelligence have made communication even easier than before. What it has also created is to make women more vulnerable to the ills of society by replicating, amplifying, and propagating societal ills through digital platforms,” he said.
SHOAW GAMBIA is a non-profit organization devoted to the promotion and advancement of human rights, gender equality, and social justice.