Online Harassment Shouldn’t Deter Women From Internet

By Richard P. Ngbokai

Miss Maryam Ado Haruna is the programme assistant on gender and internet advocacy with the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) in Kano State. The Centre did a study recently on why women participation on internet space is low in Kano. Maryam spoke on this and what women should do.

The Centre recently did a study on internet presence for women. What does it entail?

When we say gender violence against women, initially we are aware of cybercrime. It is just like the existing violence against women, domestic violence or any other form of violence against women that is being transferred, or the internet is being used as a means of carrying out   such violence against women that’s what we refer to as online violence against women.

There are various ways these could be carried out, take photos for instance, a woman’s photo could be used against her or her photo is used to tarnish her image online, it is violence. 

Another common trend is the use of compromise picture; maybe I have a boyfriend and I send him some of my pictures even some of my nude photos. I may do it with my consent but they are not meant for the internet but because of a dispute, he may decide to use that picture online to create mischief against me. There are many of these.

What triggered the research on women and their internet presence in Kano?

What led to this research was that women are left behind economically and are politically marginalized, and even in the use of internet. We did the research to find out why these women are not using the internet. Then one of the things we realized was this gender violence online. Most women don’t want to use internet because of fear that they may be harassed or intimidated online.

Don’t you think staying off the internet is better protection for women?

No I don’t believe that because the internet has come to stay. If you look at countries that progressed, the major tool for the progress is the internet, thus whenever you try to stop yourself from using the internet then you are left behind because everything now is going online.

In fact, internet is an issue of human rights. In the universal declaration and other conventions which attempt a protection of human rights, internet gives access to those rights. Take freedom of expression being one of the most important rights we have in a democracy for instance, if you try not to use the internet you cannot enjoy that right fully because on the internet your voice could be heard.

This is similar in enhancing access to education. There are a lot of opportunities online like scholarships. People in the south enjoy government’s empowerment and scholarship programmes more than we here in the north because they are ahead of us in using the internet. Scholarships, CBN loan schemes, N-power and lot more are online but because we don’t use the internet we are not aware of them.

What safety tips are there for women to be secured online?

People should understand that gender-based violence against women online is violence. There are tools but the first is the woman herself because she decides what she posts online and what not to post. There are things a woman can do to attract the violence, so she has to be decent.

Women should know that their passwords are very important as they give access to their accounts. Hackers use these to get access to your Facebook or email accounts. So your password should be strong containing alphabets and numbers. Don’t just download from any link because some links are scams. Be conscious of privacy settings on the social media platforms: married women should not give too much personal information because they can be used to get them.