Combatting Cyber Violence for Women and Girls: Reading the Web
Made by Amira Dhalla
60 - 90 minutes
In this three-part series learners focus on understanding the impact of cyber violence against women and girls, creating safer places online, knowing how to address bullying or attacks when they happen, and participating in online communities in a supportive manner. Activities will take young women and girls from understanding online violence to actively advocating against it.
Web Literacy CompetenciesSharing Navigation Accessibility
- Develop an understanding of what is considered violence online through having to ‘Define and explain cyberbullying and online violence.’
- Identify common platforms and technologies used in online violence against women and girls.
- Understand how to create safe and supportive spaces online, as well as how to change their behaviour to develop a more positive experience for their network.
- Co-create and participate in safe and supportive online spaces for women and girls.Co-create and participate in safe and supportive online spaces for women and girls.
- Self-assess how to stop unsafe online behavior and to reinforce positive online community practices.
- Pens and markers
- Print the ground rules, framing questions, or statistics on a large poster or pieces of paper to have visible around the room.
Background and Preparation:
Millions of women and girls around the world are victims of cyber violence or threat. Roughly 73% of women are abused online. For the internet to remain an open and safe place, we need to understand why and how cyber violence occurs to be able to take a more effective stand in stepping in. The first part of this module focuses on understanding where cyber violence takes place and how to create safe places online.
1 in 5 women in developing countries feel the internet is inappropriate for them. Consider how we can create awareness on this issue and teach individuals how to maintain a more inclusive space online for everyone to feel like the internet is appropriate for them.
Recommended background reading:
- “Cyber violence against women and girls.” A worldwide wake-up call by the UN broadband commission for digital development working group on broadband and gender
- Women’s Rights Online: Translating Access into Empowerment via World Wide Web Foundation.
“Law’s Expressive Value in Combating Cyber Gender Harassment” by Danielle Keats Citron in Michigan Law Review
“"Online Violence: Just Because It's Virtual Doesn't Make It Any Less Real” by Clare Winterton in Huffington Post
"Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet" by Pacific Standard Magazine
"Negotiating with Gender Stereotypes on Social Networking Sites: From ‘Bicycle Face’ to Facebook." by Jane Bailey, Valerie Steeves, Jacquelyn Burkell and Priscilla Regan
Facilitators should review tips on designing events for women and girls guide in order to prepare for the activity.
1. Introduction10 minutes
Welcome your learners to the session and discuss how they are there to learn more about cyber violence and its causes and effects. Start by creating a safe space for the discussion and lay some ground rules:
- Everyone’s opinions are valid and important. The information shared by individuals within the session will be held with respect and anonymity.
- The conversation is not meant to discredit any person, organization, group, demographic or gender.
- The conversation is being held with the intent to understand how to make the internet an open and safe place.
- ..... [more information on creating guidelines]
Ask attendees if there are any other norms that might benefit the group? Once you have created a space where individuals feel they can contribute shift the conversation to why you, the facilitator, think cyber violence against women and girls is an important topic.
If you have a personal story of when you’ve seen violence occur online this is the time to share it. When describing the story tell attendees what happened, how it made the victim feel and how it made you feel. By sharing your story you are creating an atmosphere where others feel comfortable to open up and discuss what often is a heavy topic.
Ask some framing questions to attendees. Note, if there is a large group feel free to break up into small teams.
“What is cyber violence?”
- “What are examples of cyber violence?”
- “What makes violence online different than offline?”
- “Why are women and girls susceptible to cyber violence?"
- “What impact does cyber violence have on someone’s online experience?”
- ““Have you seen or heard stories of cyber violence occurring in your networks?”
2. Understanding Cyber Violence5 minutes
In a large group discuss what is considered cyber violence and where it is happening online. According to the UN Women’s report on Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls Broadband Report, cyber violence includes hate speech (publishing a blasphemous libel), hacking (intercepting private communications), identity theft, online stalking (criminal harassment) and uttering threats. Share some of your most alarming statistics from the report which can include:
- 73% of women are abused online
- Women are 27% more likely to be abused online than men
- Online harassers are more likely to be men (61%)
- 9 million women have experienced a form of serious cyber violence since the age of 15
- Feminine usernames receive more online threats than masculine usernames
- Viral rape tapes are on the rise in many places
Ask some probing questions to the group,
- “What do these statistics tell you?”
- “How do these statistics make you feel?”
- “Do you find any of the statistics or numbers alarming?”
- “Does this make you want to be more cautious online or change any of your online behaviours?”
3. Where does cyber violence take place?25 minutes
Step 1) Hand each individual sticky notes and have them list places online that they have seen cyber violence, make sure they are specific with platforms and details. I.e. instead of saying on social media, ask them which social media platforms they see cyber violence.
Step 2) Review the list. Have the groups put their post-it notes on the wall. Ask a group (or a couple selected individuals) join together similar responses so a more succinct list is available and such platforms like "Facebook" aren't on the wall multiple times. Then ask the room to review all the answers and give a check mark to the three platforms where they believe the most cyber violence occurs. Inform that while all the answers are correct, they must choose the top three that they believe are worse than the others.
Step 3) Select the top three responses from the room (also known as the top three check marked). Share them with the room. Ask what type of media people use on those platforms (images, text, video etc.).
Step 4) Ask attendees why they selected the top three as ‘the worst’. What technical and social conventions shield attackers there?
4. Creating safe spaces online20 minutes
Ask the attendees if they have suggestions on how to create a safe space that helps minimize disagreement or attacks online. What have they done (or seen) in the past that prevents problems from arising online?
Give attendees 10 minutes and invite them to brainstorm responses and solutions to the problems identified in platforms hostile to women and girls, such as the top three they identified earlier. After ten minutes, invite participants to share their ideas. Document the answers somewhere in the room, either on a board or paper. Help the group work towards solutions like these:
- Be considerate of others feelings online. It is easy for things to be taken the wrong way online, make sure you are clear when expressing thoughts. (probing question: have you ever said something and it was misinterpreted online?)
- Be open minded to others opinions and perspectives. Remember that everyone is different and has different experiences. (probing question: how much do your background and experiences influence your opinions?)
- Be supportive of those that share personal stories, opinions or original ideas. Show your support for individuals who are being treated unfairly online. (probing question: how can you support someone online? how do you support someone who is being treated unfairly online?)
- Avoid saying,
- Slang/Jargon → can be unfamiliar to others
- Capital Letters → sounds like yelling
- Negative/Mean/Sarcastic/Attacking comments → make people feel uncomfortable and hurt
- Saying “we” when expressing your opinion → makes people feel like you are speaking for a collective group
- (probing question: have you ever done any of these online?)
5. Reflection10 minutes
Have attendees reflect upon what they learned and how to create a safer place online for themselves and others. Ask each person to make a goal for how they intend to act differently online, have them write it down on a post-it-note. If time permits, ask individuals who are comfortable to share their goal with others.