EU for safe women digital space as study shows 38% of girls’ face online harassment

A woman on a computer

March 8 is International Women’s Day and as part of events commemorating the day, the European Union (EU) organized a student’s debate on the topic Innovation and technology; Can Innovation in digital technology enhance the fight against gender based violence?

Lilongwe Technical and Don Bosco colleges participated in a debate revolving around the theme innovation and technology in gender empowerment to accord them chance to talk about the challenges in the digital divide

EU Ambassador to Malawi Rune Skinnebach said eradicating gender based violence is one of his organization’s priorities citing the Spotlight Initiative, a global programme formed in 2017 to eliminate violence against women.

He described the programme as a game changer which has among others contributed to an equal and just society and created a safer space for women and girls in Malawi.

Skinnebach stated that just like the streets, the digital world is a dangerous place for women and girls.

Skinnebach: EU for a safe digital space for girls and women  

“We know that there are studies demonstrating that significant percentages 38 percent of women and girls have been harassed online; we know also that the digital world is a difficult one to enter for women and girls because it’s traditionally male dominated field. We know that all the science and technology, engineering and maths fields are male dominated and this is what goes hand in hand with the digital world.

“What we are trying to break through our campaign through this debate is these barriers and to make sure that not only girls can enter the digital space, but that they can be safe there”

He advised those with skills and interest to have the vision and make them materialize and not being submitted to the prejudgment of society and away from the traditions.

The Envoy stated it would be a pity to have a potential engineer running a beauty clinic and great mathematician doing household work instead of maximising on their potentials.

He urged men to play their role and accept that in many fields women are equally good and even better than men.

Some of the students who attended the debate 

“I know that traditionally, we have been holding a dominant position in these professions but it is unfounded. There is no logic behind it, its simply tradition and we need more human resources, we need more expertise, we need better people and this is why it’s in the interest not only for us as individuals but also for the development of Malawi:”

He cautioned that culture needs to be carefully exercised.

“At one hand culture has to be respected, at the other hand culture has to adapt. For me a culture that keeps women at home, away from school, away from education is not a good culture. We here as EU, we’re here to partner with the government but we’re also here to spread our values and one of our values as EU is gender equality and that also goes when it comes to access to education, irrespective of the culture”

Chrissy Jere Director of Education and training at Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi (ICAM) explained that they run programmes which draw the participation of girls and boys men and women who belong to communities and can be used as centres of change.

The debates benefit the students to air their thoughts, develop communication and communication skills giving them opportunity to learn, network and expose them.

Jere: The violence actually originates as the students interact on Whats App or maybe on Facebook

“Through the discussions in the debates, the students will learn, get information which can be used within their communities to prevent gender based violence. We are living in the world where technology is taking the centre stage. Even in accountancy you find that apart from maybe the education part of it, the students interact with the internet quite often

“You find that sometimes the violence actually originates as the students interact on Whats App or maybe on Facebook and so on. So we’re saying since this is the young community, they need to know that they’re some issues that they need to do others do not while they're interacting on social media.

The debates started in 2021 and Pact emerged winner, in 2022 it was a college in Zomba and currently the debates are in preliminary stages before moving to Zomba, Blantyre and Mzuzu

Teams which will emerge winners will move to semi-finals and on 29th March finals will take place.

The winning team will walk away with K800, 000 while runner ups with K400, 000.