At the height of the #MeToo movement, there were 12 million Facebook posts, comments, and reactions on the internet within 24 hours alone. The online movement exposed sexual violence cutting across gender, from Women to Men as well as others.At the height of the #MeToo movement, there were 12 million posts, comments, and reactions in 24 hours alone. But what does this hashtag mean to a girl in Kibera without the privilege of internet? ~ @AshaJaffar Click To Tweet
While it has been widely effective on the internet, that is also the limitation. What is the actual impact of a hashtag? Though the campaign has been successful in exposing many powerful (and lesser) individuals accused of sexual violation, it also excluded many women without internet who have just as important stories to share.
Internet penetration in Africa and Asia:
According to the International Telecommunications Union, regions in Africa and the Asia Pacific have the lowest rates of internet penetration worldwide because of factors such as lack of digital infrastructure, power/electricity blackouts and inconsistency and high costs of internet data, despite initiatives such as #InternetForAll.In Kenya, the internet penetration is currently estimated at 85.9 of the total population which is high compared to most Africans countries. #InternetForAll Click To Tweet
In Kenya, the internet penetration is currently estimated at 85.9 of the total population which is high compared to most Africans countries. However, issues like lack of significant information shared on the online spaces and the normalized sexual violence culture have hindered the use of the online space as a place to voice out issues. This is unlike other countries like the U.S, where the online space has been used as a mobilization platform and a place to voice concerns.
Has #MeToo Neglected Women who are Offline?
The #MeToo Movement has been effective in awareness building. However, women in parts of Africa and Asia where the internet is either sanctioned or inaccessible were left out. Despite the good internet, not everyone can afford or thinks it is a useful tool.
Despite Kenya’s internet penetration, it has not fully reached people most affected by sexual violence in the slums and villages, where sitting in a cyber cannot replace fending for the family’s daily bread. For example, it is a problem in Kenyan rural or slum areas where grassroots mobilization and movement building against sexual harassment is mostly done offline.Despite Kenya's internet penetration, it has not fully reached people most affected by sexual violence in the slums and villages, where sitting in a cyber cannot replace fending for the family's daily bread. #FatumasVoiceForum Click To Tweet
While #MeToo has been one of the best and most efficient online campaigns against sexual violence, the question that lingers is: How do we get to the women who are offline? How do we manifest original idea of Tarana Burke, the brains behind #MeToo, which was to aid sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities? Especially communities where rape crisis centres and sexual assault workers weren’t going?While #MeToo has been one of the best and most efficient online campaigns against sexual violence, the question that lingers is: How do we get to the women who are offline? ~ ~ @AshaJaffar Click To Tweet
“It wasn’t built to be a viral campaign or a hashtag that is here today and forgotten tomorrow,” she explained in Ebony. The campaign has become so widespread that it runs the risk of diffusing into nothing.
The Problem of Shortlived Microwave Campaigns
Many online campaigns create a buzz and eventually fade out. But since there was nothing like an after action or way to keep it alive, as a way to hope that this creates a sense of responsibility among everyone to react against any harassment. The #Metoo was effective but needed to lead on something that would lead to education, policy, and otherwise solutions.
In many places, #MeToo has attracted women with access to the internet, which implies that they have at least a base level of access to information and resources. Tarana wanted to aid women who had no access to these spaces, resources or support. #MeToo took a great angle of raising awareness and helping most people come out to speak but left a large chunk of women in countries where because of difficulties in accessing the internet or even having the freedom to speak about sexual violence online out.It’s estimated that nearly half of women aged 15-49 have experienced either physical or sexual violence. #FatumasVoiceForum Click To Tweet
Statistics about Physical and Sexual Violence in Kenya:
Kenya is an example of an African country with serious issues of sexual violence. It’s estimated that nearly half of women aged 15-49 have experienced either physical or sexual violence. Although little has been done online, the offline space has worked well. A few years ago, women in the downtown Nairobi were stripped naked if they were wearing outfits that was judged to be skimpy.
In protest, hundreds of women protested in a rally by wearing miniskirts, to send a statement that a way of dressing is not an invitation but rather a right. Though these women in Kenya have gone to extremes to try and address sexual violence, the major problem is that once they are done for the day, often times their efforts die and the same violations repeat, which is a vicious cycle in itself.
If these women had the access to the internet or shared their stories online, change may come from the exposing of perpetrators and also gain support from ‘The Sisterhood.’ The internet is a powerful space that can work to address issues by bringing women from all walks of life to talk about their struggles.
The power in #Metoo is the power of solidarity. The same kind of viral and visible reaction does not work in the same way in the offline space, where information is more closed and stories feel more intimate, more real to some degree.
Most of the incidents of sexual violation offline are siloed, and most women don’t know they are not alone. The anonymity, and boldness in publicly sharing your story online and the supportive reaction that comes follows have helped the #MeToo movement grow. Doing the same in an offline environment can be scary, judgy and too open.
Safe Spaces to tell your Story:
These women often lack a secure environment to tell their story and may fear how their family and peers react because of the rape culture and patriarchy they are surrounded by. A recent trial of the rapists of an 8 year old girl in Kashmir, India was met by protests from other men and lawyers defending the perpetrators, making Indian women even less likely to come out and tell their stories.
After Eurel Nwafor – 21-year-old Nigerian lady- took to social media to call out a man who raped her in August, all her efforts to get justice proved abortive because of the man’s position in the society. Meanwhile, her mother and other family members tried to discourage her from bringing charges against her perpetrator. Eurel’s story just reflects on how bad the rape culture is in Africa and how patriarchy is still a problem.
As soon as Editar Vitalis, a Kenyan Rights activist heard about the #Metoo movement, she took to social media to talk about sexual violence in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum and the community she works in, but got very few reactions because most people did not know about the campaign or the movement and the ones who know, did not shares stories online.
Editar, who was defiled as a child and raped in her teenage years, wished that the online spaces like #MeToo existed for women like her who live in the informal settlements with knowledge on sexual violence but lack of resources and centers to seek help from. She has utilised the online space by connecting with other women to seek help and support. Through her work in Kisumu’s rural parts with rape survivors, she has been able to report incidents and help girls get help, although she faced threats from people in the community.
What has the Government Done About Sexual and Physical Violence?
Even though in Nairobi efforts have been invested by the Government and NGOs, to combat sexual violence, very few work. Those that have been successful haven’t been sustainable enough and end up failing an example being the “Sita Kimya” which was one of the best campaigns on sexual violence that was ran in the slums areas, it went viral over a few years and died down after the project ended-Reasons? lack of qualified trainers who could continue with the project and resources to keep the project alive.
However, an example of a successful movement is Polycom Development Project an community organisation that was established by an Jane Anyango, a women rights activist in Kibera to help women and girls who experienced sexual violence and live in slum areas after the post election violence. They run year long programmes equipping these girls with the skills on sexual violence and also knowledge on what to do when sexualy violated. The founder of Polycom Development Projects, is a woman raised in Kibera though she can work online most of her her work is done offline which a strong platform in Kenya.
It could be a dream to get everyone on Twitter and Facebook to talk about sexual violence, but is this really the answer? While #MeToo on Twitter has been very impactful, more needs to be done to produce meaningful change to the attitudes in communities. Indian feminist V.S.
Elizabeth agreed that ‘women’s rights need more than just a social media campaign’ in India where the caste system continues to plague lower class women. By taking the online discussions down to the grassroots and learning how best the offline movements have worked in places like Kibera, the movement can continue to gain momentum. Women with more privilege need to be enlightened as to how they can help amplify the voices of others.
The best solution would be to bring the meaning of the internet to the offline women and to bring meaning to offline mobilization to the online women. By making sure we stick to the original concept of helping women from underprivileged areas and communities we will be doing the #MeToo campaign justice. If we remain online, we are going to miss a huge number of women with no internet access who have ideas and stories to share and also those who need our support and safety.'Women with no internet access cannot find meaning in it, if it cannot bring meaning to them.' ~ Editar Vitalis Click To Tweet
Asha Jaffar is an Award Winning Freelance Journalist. Winner of the Haller Prize for development Journalism. Chairman of the judges award. She loves reading and writing.
As a writer, she has been mentored by great authors from Ellie Roscher the author of “How coffee saved my life” to Kat Hurley “the author of I think I can make it.” a Future book: Spell Uganda write Kenya.
Asha also describes herself as an Intersectional feminist, Writer, and Reader (in no particular order) who is seeking the epitome of sublimity.
Post reblogged from: Miss Lines Writer