Social Media a Looming Threat to the Fight Against SGBV-Activists


Sexual and Gender-Based Violence activists are expressing heightened concern regarding the escalating impact of social media and digital platforms on the efforts to combat and end SBGBV, particularly when it comes to the safety of women and girls.

Activists scrutinize social media and digital platforms, identifying them as potent breeding grounds for a heightened form of SGBV, surpassing that witnessed in traditional communities, as it poses challenges even to the advocates themselves.

At the launch of the 16-day intensified activism against SGVB, Mercy Munduru, Action Aid Uganda’s head of programs, expressed concern that social media has become a breeding ground for dissenting voices, diluting the message of gender equality advocacy.

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Social media poses a challenge as it exhibits the changed face of SGBV, and the new tactics of it’s promoters. She highlighted the hesitancy among activists to promote their agenda on these platforms due to the fear of potential backlash from users.

“SGBV, in it’s self, is like a chameleon, it changes it’s color depending on where it is. The same violence that we experience in our communities, is the same with a changed face on the digital platforms, but also with new ways of promoting it. This where trafficking happens, sexual harassment, the negative narratives that have been built to counter our narrative of gender equality, to the points that as a women’s rights activist or as a feminist, you are afraid of portraying your identity. That is how harsh social media is, an many young women have fallen victims”

Munduru adds social media users, also becoming a challenge to SGBV victims, and survivors, so through poking holes in their stories, and blaming them for whatever happened to them, which makes them look like they are the problem to whatever occurred to them, and this pushes them to a more disadvantaged side, and this puts our efforts as activists, at a backward trajectory.

About the “16 days of intensified activism,” dubbed “the 16 days of black,” she says, as activists, they will use this opportunity to shed light on the different forms of SGBV happening in society. They also aim to use social media spaces to create room for survivors to tell their stories.

Part of the “16 days of black” is to highlight SGBV issues like marital rape that have been watered down in the public space. The goal is to help survivors share their stories for support, engage in open discussions about SGBV policy frameworks, and use this time to form partnerships with the intention of attracting investment into the fight against SGBV.

Elizabeth Kemigisha, the advocacy manager of FIDA Uganda, emphasizes that the “16 days of activism” aim to amplify the message of fighting SGBV in Ugandan society. It will build consciousness about this vice within communities and remind the government to strengthen measures for improved access to justice.

“We call upon the government through parliament to prioritize the sexual offences bill, which is a missed opportunity for us at the moment to respond to sexual violence in terms of policy in this country,” she added.

Hawa Bilabwa, the legal officer for justice centers, part of CSOs, is a part of the “16 days of black.” She says that as they join hands for this noble cause, it serves as a reminder to Ugandan society not to shy away from the SGBV talk, as it is a reality despite being uncomfortable due to the country’s social-cultural norms.

She adds that in the fight to end SGBV, men should also be empowered as much as women for quicker triumph over the vice. Funding towards the fight against SGBV should be mainstreamed from the government, as CSOs may change priorities or even close, but the problem still persists and requires funding.

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