The internet has undoubtedly revolutionized the way people communicate, access information, and conduct business. However, with the rise of digital technology and its widespread use, online gender-based violence has become a growing concern. The internet is not just a platform for spreading information but also for harassment, discrimination, and abuse. As Women at Web Tanzania powered by Tech and Media Convergency, we advocate for safe spaces online and against online gender-based violence, as it is one of the key drivers of the “Gender Digital Divide” that affects both men and women.
The digital gender divide refers to the unequal access to digital technologies and their associated benefits between men and women. Women face a range of barriers to access technology, including affordability, cultural attitudes, and social norms that prevent them from accessing and using digital technologies. These factors contribute to a situation where women are less likely to be online, less likely to have access to digital resources, and less likely to use the internet for activities such as learning and networking.
However, even when women do have access to digital technologies, they often face online gender-based violence, which can have negative impacts on their mental health. Online gender-based violence can include harassment, stalking, threats, and bullying, and can take many forms, including unwanted messages, malicious posts, and revenge pornography. The anonymity of the internet can make it easier for perpetrators to target women, and the constant availability of digital devices can make it difficult for women to escape the abuse.
The impact of online gender-based violence on mental health is significant. Women who experience online harassment and abuse may suffer from anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They may also experience feelings of shame, guilt, and isolation, which can lead to further psychological distress. The constant fear of being attacked or humiliated online can create a sense of hypervigilance, which can lead to chronic stress and exhaustion.
Women who experience online gender-based violence may also face other challenges related to mental health, such as reduced self-esteem, lack of confidence, and decreased social participation. These challenges can affect their ability to pursue their goals and aspirations, limiting their potential for personal and professional growth. This can, in turn, perpetuate the cycle of the gender digital divide by limiting women’s access to digital resources and opportunities.
Therefore, it is essential to create safe spaces online where women can freely express themselves without fear of harassment or abuse. This requires a multifaceted approach that involves educating people about online gender-based violence, providing resources and support to victims, and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. It also requires addressing the factors and attributes that could affect mental health, such as stigma and discrimination against women, and promoting mental health literacy and awareness.
In conclusion, online gender-based violence is a significant driver of the gender digital divide, affecting women’s access to digital resources and their mental health. As Women at Web, we believe that creating safe spaces online is essential for empowering women and promoting gender equality. By addressing the factors that contribute to online gender-based violence and promoting mental health awareness, we can create a digital world where women can thrive and achieve their full potential.
To read more about our reports towards advocating against OGBV in Tanzania see here https://bit.ly/SAYNOtoOGBV-Report https://bit.ly/OGBVReport-WIP https://bit.ly/OGBV-TZ