Addressing Gender Digital Devide: Five Years of Advocating against Online Gender-Based Violence (OGBV) in Tanzania

This has taken longer than expected. There is just too much that we have done, to the extent that I was not sure what to include and what not to. So far, I have decided to go with the general perspective and focus on sharing the timelines of the program. This is one of the most important programs at Tech & Media Convergency (TMC) and we wish to have more impact and reach in the next few years than we have had in the past few years.

The 13th of September 2023 was a really special day for the Women@Web network. With the theme “Her Digital Resilience: Women’s Safety in the Digital Sphere”, DW Akademie and the Women@Web network (consisting of eight (8) organizations from East Africa) came together to celebrate the achievements of the project. This celebration involved and engaged minds from across East Africa—advocates, experts, policy influencers, and media representatives—all united in their commitment to collectively address the urgent issue of online violence against women. I am proud to say that Tech & Media Convergency (TMC) is among the 8 organizations and Tanzania’s co-lead implementer of the Women at Web regional project. For TMC, the Women at Web program is not just a project; it is a movement.

About the Women at Web Network

The Women at Web Project is a movement that is monumental to improving the lives of women by empowering them with knowledge, access to information, and opportunities while observing mental health. Most importantly, information sharing will equip them with the capability to make informed decisions that go hand in hand with the use of information technology. The digital age has brought unprecedented opportunities for individuals to express their opinions and participate in society.

Nevertheless, the gender digital divide remains a significant barrier, with women often having less access to digital resources and skills compared to men. Additionally, women who do assert their voices online often face severe online attacks, forcing them to withdraw from the digital sphere. Addressing this divide is crucial to ensure equitable participation and representation in the digital world.

Recognizing this critical issue, DW Akademie initiated a stakeholders meeting with experts and multipliers in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. The meeting gave birth to the Women at Web EA Project in 2018. It was established in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda. The project’s core objectives revolve around promoting digital literacy, advocating for policies that safeguard women online, and providing a safe and supportive online environment for women.

Project Timeline in Tanzania: As implemented by Tech & Media Convergency (TMC)

2017: The Beginning…

A comprehensively convened meeting brought together experts from Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda to thoroughly discuss the challenges experienced by women in the online space within the East African region.

2018: The Foundation…

The inception of Women@Web East Africa marked a significant milestone across Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda. The project’s central objectives are rooted in advancing digital literacy, championing policies to protect women in online spaces, and fostering a secure and supportive digital environment for women. This initiative is a dedicated stride towards creating a more inclusive and empowering online landscape for women in the East African region.

2019: Advocacy and Digital Skills Programs
During its second year, Women@Web strategically directed its efforts towards advocacy, policymaker engagement, and the implementation of digital skills programs. The primary goal was to empower women with the essential knowledge and skills required for navigating the digital landscape securely and confidently. Through these initiatives, Women@Web aimed to not only raise awareness about the challenges women face online but also actively contribute to building a resilient and digitally literate community.

Day 3 of a Training of Trainers for the Women at Web partner organizations level three Digital Skills certification, the 1st of July 2019, on the right is ​Dr. Johanna Rieß the Project Manager for the project

2020-2022: Policy Advocacy and Mentorship
Advocacy has always been part and parcel of the project; however, influencing policy change started in 2020, thus strategically working with a group of Members of Parliament and creating online campaigns to raise awareness of OGBV through collaboration with policymakers. The intent is to have more conversations and acknowledge the need for policies and laws that give weight to online violence and its impacts on the victim. The approach has been effective, and immediately we could see the ripple effect of the efforts. For example, our partner, Hon. Lugangira, made a call to action on efforts advocating against OGBV. Additionally, Women@Web introduced mentorship programs to support women affected by online harassment.

It is through the study “An Overview of Online Gender-based Violence of Women In Politics” that TMC influenced the Members of Parliament working group that advocates against gender-based Violence. The study collected data from over 290 women leaders in politics giving a clear picture of the state of OGBV for women leaders in politics. We are happy to see the ripple effect of the work in conversations happening in the media, development partners picking up the agenda, and other stakeholders.

Among others, there is a lot of work that we do through the Women at Web program. This article just carries the highlights.

2023: The new beginning after an end…

The festival artwork

After a fulfilling five-year journey, the Women at Web project officially concluded in September 2023, marked by a celebratory conference that not only acknowledged the project’s successes but also provided an opportunity for reflection on its impactful timeline. While bidding adieu to our collaboration with DW Akademie, this juncture serves as a commencement of forging new partnerships, ensuring sustainability, and amplifying our impact. The focus now shifts to expanding safe online spaces, particularly for women and youth, by engaging with fresh collaborators who share our commitment.

In our ongoing commitment to combat Online Gender-Based Violence, Tech & Media Convergency (TMC) has devised comprehensive strategies for the future. One notable initiative is the annual release of publications, offering insights into the evolving landscape of Online Gender-Based Violence over the course of five years. Presently, we have produced three publications, complemented by two surveys. Excitingly, we anticipate the release of our third survey in early 2024, scheduled for the second week of February. This endeavor aims to contribute valuable data and perspectives to the ongoing discourse surrounding online safety.

TMC has been working in this space even before it was founded. For more than five years, we have had the expertise and experience of OGBV in the regional context. We intend to make sure we are part of the solution and a permanent solution at that. As we embark on this next phase, we extend an open invitation to potential partners for collaborative efforts and mutual impact. Together, let us continue the crucial work of creating safe, inclusive digital spaces for women and youth, ensuring that their voices are heard and respected online.

For more details about TMC’s Women at Web Program, see, —

Asha D. Abinallah
Chief Executive Officer
November 3rd, 2023 – Dar es Salaam, Tanzania