BEVERLY HILLS, March 12, (THEWILL) – Girls’ rights activists and campaigners in Nigeria have called for an “end to online violence.”
Speaking at a webinar organised by Plan International Nigeria to mark the International Women’s Day, the activists urged the government and other civil society organisations to raise the bar in law enforcement and mass education of the public on ways to end online violence against children and girls.
A guest speaker, the CEO of Cee Hope Nigeria, Ms. Betty Abah said negative stereotyping and misinformation were making online experiences traumatic for women and girls.
“We need to insist and keep fighting back against online violence. The highest victims of online bullying are young people because of their age and that they are unaware of where to get help.
“If Ochanya had information that she could speak up to bring her abusers to book, she probably wouldn’t have died,” Abah said.
Abah had in 2018, campaigned for justice for Ochanya Ogbanje, a 13-year-old girl who was serially raped for five years by a father and a son in Benue state till she succumbed to the abuse and died.
In the 2020 edition of Plan International’s annual State of the World’s Girls report series, titled, “Free to Be Online? Girls’ and Young Women’s Experience of Online Harassment,” more than half of girls surveyed from around the world said they had been harassed and abused online.
According to the report, one in four girls abused online felt physically unsafe as a result.
On this insight, the programme director, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, lamented how the advent of the social media brought forward new ways of violence against girls including slut-shaming, hate speech, pornography and bullying, among others.
These, she said, were mostly targeted at women to silence their legitimate right to free expression.
Mbamalu however called for a public awareness campaign for people to be properly educated on the ills of cyber violence and bullying.
“Some people think they are just tweeting their minds and expressing their freedom of speech. We need to put a lot of effort on education and awareness, so people know what they write is capable of hurting others,” she said.
She further called for law enforcement by government agencies to deter would-be perpetrators of online violence against children and girls.
Speaking on her personal experience, a Plan International Nigeria’s Girls Get Equal activist, Treasure, said at one time she had, “Pulled down her social media accounts due to online harassment.”
Just as she also agreed that awareness was key to stopping online bullying of girls into silence, Treasure further emphasised the need for sex education for children using age-appropriate language as a means of preparing them against paedophilia online.