Guidelines on how women leaders can safely juggle social media have been launched.
This comes after a study by feminist organization POLLICY which found out that Ugandan female politicians use social media far less than their male counterparts, linking it partly to abuse they experience across platforms.
Dubbed the Women Curriculum, the new guidelines give tips on how to be secure on-line in addition to training women to draft messages that suit different media platforms and how to respond to attacks.
Bonnita Nyamwire who heads research at POLLICY Uganda said that before they came up with the document, they did a needs assessment and interviewed women to understand their digital needs right from the members of parliament to lower level political offices at the local councils.
Initially, she says they are piloting the curriculum among women who have been picked from Kampala, Wakiso, Kabale and Mbale districts.
POLLICY monitored 202 Twitter and Facebook accounts where 101 belonged to men and 101 women politicians six weeks before and after the 2021 elections. At 50%, they found women experience online violence in the forms of trolling, body shaming, sexualized and gendered insults, and gendered disinformation on both Twitter and Facebook and yet their male counterparts experiences attacks related to their inability to perform leadership roles.
According to Nyamwire, women politicians barely used Twitter for campaigning. While women extensively used Facebook, many of their accounts were set up as personal pages instead of Public Figure pages that politicians typically use to engage large audiences, she says this is why they have resolved to have them trained.
Commenting about the curriculum, Mary Harriet Lamunu the Executive Director of the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) said this has come in handy with the trend now tending towards having social media handlers which is an extra cost to women for something that they can easily control.
She acknowledged having reviewed all the areas highlighted in the curriculum for digital safety to content creation and creating writing which says are the problems keeping women away.
On her part, Olive Namazzi, the LC IV Councilor Nakawa Division who attended the launch said she deals with sexist attacks on social media all the time. She says at some point, she felt like creating a pseudo account so that she could respond to untruths labelled against her on-line.
Like her, Kabale Mayor Maclean Kamusiime said at the height of the campaigns last year, she had to respond to an attacker on Facebook who claimed that it’s because of her political aspirations that her husband had to marry a second wife.
“I commented and said is it new? If it is new, go write a book about it”, she told the meeting that she doesn’t regret this reply since after that a lot of women stormed her inbox confessing similar attacks.
For such women even at a level of political leader, Samantha Mwesigye a lawyer said they need psychosocial support because sometimes they experience mental break down.
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