#WeWillNotBeSilent - Reflecting on the Role of Online Communities in Tackling Sexual Harassment

13 March 2018

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Gülser Corat representing UNESCO at the expert panel also attended by Sonja Soronen (National Institute of Health and Welfare Finland) and Diana Gichengo (Kenya Human Rights Commission) © Tiina Neuvonen

During the 62. Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) UNESCO participated to an event exploring the role of online communities in relations to sexual harassment and hate speech. Currently, 1 in 5 women using the Internet lives in countries where abuse of women is likely to go unpunished and 73% of women online have experienced some form of online violence (UN Women, 2015).

The Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services in Finland, Annika Saarikko highlighted the importance of making efforts to build a more open and safe Internet as the rapid digitalization transforms the media landscape. Minister, who had participated in the #metoo movement by sharing her personal story, stated that every incident of harassment is one too many as a life-long psychological impact often follows. Ultimately, harassment infringes our human rights as it compromises free speech and participation.  

Interventions to combat the online hate speech were presented including a guidebook titled #WeWillNotBeSilent – What is hate speech and what it has got to do with gender?. A multi-stakeholder effort raises awareness of the (sexist) hate speech and offers guidance for youth on responding and preventing (sexist) hate speech online. Diana Gichengo from Human Rights Commission, shared experiences from Kenya. Her presentation rose great concerns in showing that online activist are often attacked and exposed to serious violence when they use social media to combat the gender-based violence.       

UNESCO’s Director for Gender Equality, Ms Gülser Corat spoke at the event emphasizing the universality of the online harassment affecting women and girls in all socioeconomic groups, countries and judiciaries making it a very serious global issue. Gender equality is one of UNESCO’s two global priorities and well reflected in UNESCO’s interventions. These include efforts to counter online hate speech, empowering women and girls to harness digital and media literacy skills, promoting the safety of women journalists and gender parity in media. UNESCO is also addressing the issue through the development of international frameworks to build an open, human rights based, accessible and pluralistic knowledge societies and media environments.      

The event took place on 13 March at the Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations in New York and other partners were Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Finland, National institute for Health and Welfare and Kenya Human Rights Commission.