We have embraced technology in more ways than one, in our daily lives. While it is a good thing and comes with the advancement of the quality of life, it has also come with numerous challenges. When it comes to the gender conversation, it is clear the adoption of technology has brought about notable challenges, including the gender divide and the increase of violence against women. This is experienced through, surveillance, cyberbullying, revenge porn, cyberstalking, zoom bombing among others.

In Kenya, online platforms have continued to provide options of perpetrating Violence Against Women in politics, despite efforts by the civil society advocating for equality, both online and offline. This has discouraged women’s political participation and thus infringed on their political rights and processes. As such, policy outcomes are affected by the underrepresentation of women decision-makers. With political tensions colliding with the COVID-19 pandemic, a rise in cyberbullying among women politicians has been noted.

KICTANet resolved to dedicate a special policy brief on women in politics. Specifically, the brief looks at how the online environment affects women’s political participation and highlights some of the policy provisions to deal with the issues. The brief notes that the rise of online violence against women is as a result of increased usage of social media platforms during the stay-at-home period. While lockdown measures were introduced, limiting people’s movements, most people then took to social media platforms for social and political interactions.

According to KICTANET, “The difference in online violence that women in politics experience compared to men, comes from societal norms that perceive men as leaders and women as subjects. Women are expected to play the prescribed societal gender roles such as taking care of their families. Violence against women is couched in sexual morality where they are publicly judged on how they present themselves or appear online.”

But, women have defied societal norms, using the internet for innovative political engagements.  This brief looks at case studies of three extraordinary women in the political field, who have been on the receiving end of technology-assisted violence, for their political views, but still fight for what they believe in. Some have come up with long term hashtags and while others have online sessions where they engage with the electorate from time to time. These success stories are some of the developments that should motivate new women politicians to stay put in their online participation.

The brief also calls for more capacity building initiatives in digital security for women politicians considering that not much ground has been covered in training politicians on digital safety. It further recommends that public institutions work jointly to ensure the implementation of 2/3rds gender rule as provided for in the constitution.

Read the Trends of Online Violence against Women in Politics During the COVID19 pandemic in Kenya policy brief here.