By Christine chiromo
Leading girls’ rights organization, Plan International revealed that online abuse and harassment is demoralizing young women and girls by driving them off social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The research by Plan International found that girls who use social media in high and low-income households are routinely subjected to explicit messages, pornographic photos, cyber stalking and other distressing forms of abuse and reporting tools are ineffective in stopping it.
Country Director of Plan International Zimbabwe, Angela Murithi said although the research was gathered in conversation with more than 14 000 girls across multiple continents, they share similar experience of harassment and discrimination that resonate with experiences of girls and young women in Zimbabwe.
“The ill effect of this abuse is that girls end up withdrawing from online platforms because of fear and intimidation and resultantly miss out on educational and other opportunities.
“Though the attacks may not be physical, they are often threatening, relentless and limit girls’ freedom of expression.” Murithi said
Girls and young women are demanding urgent action from social media companies after a landmark survey revealed women get harassed or abused online, with most attacks mainly common on Facebook as compared to other social platforms.
Online violence has resulted in girls and young women stopping or significantly reducing their use of the platform and has also changed the way they express themselves.
Driving girls out of online spaces is highly disempowering in an increasing digital world and damages their ability to be seen, heard and become leaders. Harassment takes a profound toil on girl’s confidence and wellbeing, with most of those surveyed saying it lowers self-esteem, creates mental and emotional stress as well as causing problems at school
As part of Girls Get Equal, Plan International’s global campaign, girls around the world have written an open letter to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter calling on them to create stronger and more effective ways to report abuse and harassment.
Plan International is also asking governments worldwide to implement specific laws to deal with online gender-based violence and ensure girls who suffer it have access to justice.