Holistic security strategies and measures to address non-consensual intimate images (NCII)

Non-consensual intimate images (NCII), commonly known by the misnomer “revenge porn” is on the rise in Uganda and Sub-Saharan African countries like Zimbabwe. Patriarchal norms and attitudes in society paired with increasing Internet access -- over 42% of Uganda’s population is now online -- has spurred this new form of gender-based violence commonly referred to as “technology-assisted violence against women and girls”. More violations and threats are now happening towards women in cyberspace. However, most cases go unreported on the extent to violence against women online and they are quite often overlooked or excluded from discussions about violence against women and girls (VAWG).

What is NCII?

NCII is defined as the distribution or circulation of sexually explicit images or videos that were initially shared with the expectation that they would remain private. NCII is a form of intimate private violence (IPV), breach of privacy, and a violation of freedom of sexual expression and this causes women to self-censor which is an attempt to silence women and other groups from participating in the public spaces like the internet. Images or videos are distributed in most cases by the former partner(s) as an act of revenge or a response to rejection. These photos or videos are in many cases stolen from the victim’s phone or laptop. Sometimes, these images are captured secretly in bathrooms, hotels, swimming pools, clothing stores, changing rooms, and public restrooms. These images or videos are then shared widely over social media platforms, pornographic websites, and instant messengers like WhatsApp. Images/ videos are later used to stalk, threaten, blackmail, publicly shame, or extort money from victims or their families.

There are multiple forms of online violence against women including cyberstalking and harassment. However, NCII is still an unrecognized topic in Uganda as an online form of violence against women and girls. Yet, it undermines gender equality by placing the blame on women victims who are shamed for engaging in consensual sexual activity, which does not require any legal, moral, or logical basis. NCII keeps women in a subordinate position in society and fails to recognize women’s existence as anything other than sex objects. Women are never forgotten to be reminded that second class is their place in society.

Not “revenge porn”

Often, NCII is referred to as “revenge pornography”. However, this is a misleading term because it implies that taking explicit photos or videos of oneself or allowing someone to do so with consent is a pornographic act. Sometimes, perpetrators may not be motivated by revenge. The creation of an explicit image in the expectation that is being shared with a private or intimate relationship does not equate to pornography. The disclose of private sexually explicit images to someone other than the intended audience is pornography. NCII is a crime, not porn, and has a serious emotional and mental impact on its victims. It is a gendered issue common among women activists, politicians, advocates, musicians, and human rights defenders, who are commonly referred to as women celebrities.

Women are regarded as bigger targets of NCII because they are perceived as inferior and soft targets. Women too are held more accountable for their private conduct in society than men. However, this does not rule out the fact that some men too are victims of NCII, although this happens rarely. The social, personal, and professional repercussions of incidents of NCII on male victims have not been adequately documented yet. However, it is likely that the impact of NCII cisgender heterosexual men is less severe than that of women.

Revenge pornography is a victim-blaming term that risks misleading government policy and even the public. Victims are harassed and yet the law does nothing to protect them. For example, in 2014, when pictures and videos of Desire Luzinda a Ugandan celebrity was published by her Nigerian ex-lover, it was on everyone’s lips. However, unfortunately, women’s rights organizations and activists were quiet about Desire’s case. She was harassed by the police, public, and government ministries. She was arrested and charged with spreading pornography by the leaked videos. Desire went and apologized publicly on Facebook to her fans, daughter, and family for something she did not do. The response of NCII in Uganda and other sub-Saharan African countries is slut-shaming.

Laws pertaining to NCII

Sub-Saharan African countries like Uganda and Malawi have laws that protect privacy, dignity, and women’s rights yet they fail to recognize NCII as a form of violence. In Uganda, section 13(1) of The Anti-Pornography Act 2014, criminalizes the production, trafficking in, publication, broadcasting, procuring, importing, exporting, selling or abetting any form of pornography. This Act punishes the victim for the production of the explicit pictures/videos while the publication, broadcasting, trafficking are not looked at.

The Data Protection and Privacy Act, 2019 is neutral and does not mention NCII.  Section 148 of the Penal Code Act stipulates that “Any person who, whether in public or in private, commits any act of gross indecency with another person or procures another person to commit any act of gross indecency with him or her or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any person with himself or herself or with another person, whether in public or in private, commits an offense and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.” This section leads to re-victimization.

Social injury

A silver lining has been the case of Sanyu Robinah Mweruka, a Ugandan news anchor whose sex tape was leaked. However, she did not face any legal charges because of support from her husband and the TV station named Bukedde where she was an anchor. Other Ugandan celebrities including Judith Heard, Fabiola Anita and Cindy Sanyu, have had their nude pictures or videos shared online without their consent and have been punished for their leaked videos or images under the Anti-pornography Act. NCII affects these victims in different ways, such as losing their jobs which happened in the case of Anita Fabiola, a television personality. Victims are also revictimized, traumatized, face damaged relationships and reputation, and mental health issues. Some even attempt suicide. Google and social networking sites, when searched, still display the details about these victims, exposing their identity. Social stigma and other non-legal factors prevent victims from seeking and receiving timely justice and support.

The onus to constantly watch out for potentially becoming a victim of NCII should not be on individual women and non-binary people. NCII is cruel and illegal. We need solutions and accountability at the law and policy levels. There is limited public awareness, hence there is a need for sensitization.

While changes in the law, policy, and social norms are necessary, they will take time to come into effect. Because of the cultural and religious beliefs, people are taken away by morals and culture, hence less attention is given to the right to privacy and data protection.

Additionally, new threats such as stalker were and spouseware have emerged.

Emerging digital threats

Stalkerware is monitoring software or spyware that is used for stalking. The term was coined to describe the use of commercial spying software by stalkers. When used by the spouse or an intimate partner of the victim, such spyware is termed “spouseware”. (Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalkerware). These new trends in technology explain a practice that is harming many women who are surveilled by their current or former partners and jilted lovers.

The only immediate recourse currently available for most sub-Saharan women and non-binary persons to prevent incidents of NCII is to practice good digital security to recognize and prevent potential incidents of NCII. Additional practice of physical security and psychosocial well-being is also a necessity. Based on the training sessions and other work that Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) have done and wishes to further undertake, the strategies and measures to recognize and prevent incidents of NCII that individuals can undertake are to practice holistic security (that is, their physical, digital, and psychosocial wellbeing).

Holistic security

Holistic security is an attempt to integrate these concepts (digital, physical and legal security, psychosocial wellbeing, and organizational security) and highlight their inter-relatedness so that we can approach these processes in a more connected and meaningful way. (Source: HURIDOCS https://bit.ly/35ku0hg)

Physical security is defined as the protection of personnel, hardware, software, networks, and data from physical actions and events that could cause serious loss or damage to an enterprise, agency, or institution (Source: Wikipedia). These measures are designed to deter potential unauthorized users or to detect intrusions and monitor/record intruders.

For example, when a person is building a house, they would need to have tall fencing topped with barbed wire, razor wire or metal spikes to protect their home or property. But this does not guarantee that the security is 100% because as we plan all these security measures, perpetrators are also looking and innovating for alternative ways to breach security and break into the house. It is the same with physical security measures and strategies to address NCII. Knowing that it does not guarantee one hundred percent security is very key. These measures also do not work for everyone. Physical barriers are just designed to defeat defined threats and to attack perpetrators. While all kinds of security is important, physical security is often overlooked and its importance is unrecognized when discussing security measures or strategies in the online space.

Physical security strategies and measures

  • Ensure doors and windows are bolted properly, and there are secure locks.
  • Cover peepholes or slits in windows or doors.
  • Inspect the room to check if something looks out of place, like a slight misfit tile in a faux ceiling.
  • Look for out of place objects like smoke detectors.
  • Never leave devices unattended and be careful about giving physical access to your devices to anyone, even if intimate images or videos have been deleted from it.
  • Use wireless camera jammers or check if radio/ WiFi transmitters exist in your surroundings. However, these are tedious and time-consuming measures for ordinary people to follow. And these steps are not necessarily practicable all the time, everywhere by everyone.
  • Ensure curtains at home are opaque and do not show indoor activity.
  • Cover phone cameras with a sticker. Cover or remove web cameras from desktops.
  • Scan WiFi networks in hotel rooms, AirBnbs, etc for suspicious devices using apps such as Network Scanner. 
  • Look for camera lens reflection by turning off the room light and flash the light from your phone and if there is a lens, it will reflect the light.
  • Use a towel to cover unknown or suspicious devices in hotel rooms or Airbnbs.
  • If you suspect or know for sure that spyware has been installed on your device(s), contact a digital security expert or helpline from another device.

Digital security strategies and measures

  • Use secure messaging apps such as Signal, Telegram, and Wire for having intimate conversations and to send and receive sexually explicit images. All three apps support timed messages, that is, messages that will get deleted after a specified duration of time.
  • Avoid the use of free virtual private networks (VPNs) because most of them are unsecured and are used to mine the data and personal information of the users.  However, VPNs like Bitmask and Psiphon are exceptions. They are free of cost, secure, and reliable. TOR and paid VPNs such as Proton and Nord are also recommended.  Additionally, in Uganda, the introduction of the social media tax in 2018 by the Ugandan government is a barrier to access to secure VPNs as the tax makes it more expensive to access one.
  • Use apps such as ScrambledEXIF (Android) to delete metadata from sensitive photos before sharing them. Similarly, there are tools available for different operating systems using which one can remove metadata from videos.
  • Avoid using the private messaging feature on social media websites for the purpose of having intimate conversations.
  • Read the privacy policy before using an app for intimate conversations, (although this may not be easy for the layperson).
  • Use strong secure passwords and passphrases and do not share them with anyone.
  • Practice secure browsing. (Refer to the note at the end of the article for more digital security resources and references.)

Digital security is not only about protection but the resilience of internet users as well. Above all, digital consent is the best digital security measure.

Psychosocial security strategies and measures

  • Define boundaries with a partner(s) on intimate images. Have a conversation about not storing, not backing up explicit photos and not sharing them with anyone, and securely deleting them.
  • Understand the fault lines of coercion and consent (A statement such as, “If you love me, you will send me a naked picture of yourself” is an indicator of coercion and not love).
  • For victims of NCII and other forms of intimate partner abuse: Seek professional mental health support in the form of counseling or medical treatment to mitigate the mental and emotional impact of such incidents and their fallouts.
  • Sensitization programs should be among communities, young people and the general public to make them aware that NCII is a form of online violence and a legal offense. These programs could be held in upper secondary schools and universities. Also, awareness programs should be carried out for the general public.

Consent is a basic human right that should be respected. As we teach the women in our families and social circles safety, the men should be taught about consent and to accept the fact that only a “yes” means a “yes” from a woman or girl.

Written by:

     Sandra Aceng, Peace Oliver Amuge & Patricia Nyasuna, WOUGNET; Rohini Lakshané, The Bachchao Project

NOTE: This is a detailed write up of our Breakaway Session at the Virtual  Global Digital Development Forum (GDDF 20) held on May 6, 2020. Links to useful resources and further reading material can be found on the session slide deck here. This session was moderated by Rohini Lakshané, Director (Emerging Research), The Bachchao Project.

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The Implication of COVID 19 on Women's Internet Use in Uganda

The spread of COVID 19 has impacted the global economy and transformed the way we communicate, connect, and share information. As of 13th May 2020, according to Johns Hopkins University and Medicines, there were 4,247,709 COVID 19 confirmed cases and 291,334 deaths reported in 187 countries/regions. In Uganda, there were 126 confirmed cases of COVID 19 with no deaths since the first case was confirmed on 21st March 2020 of a male Ugandan who returned from Dubai and tested positive.

It is clearly seen that the pandemic has exposed how men and women access and use the internet because the patterns of access and use of the internet according to Web Foundation is determined by demographic factors such as; the level of education, age bracket, level of income, geographical area and other social aspects of life.

In this period of the pandemic, no matter how poor or rich individuals, societies and the states are, choices have to be made and internet use should be given key priority because it is evidenced that internet has provided a crucial link to information on COVID 19, facilitated work from home in response to the roadblocks erected by countrywide lockdowns and curfews through video conferencing devices such as Zoom, BlueJeans, and Google Hangouts(Google Meet) among others and enables families to keep safe and stay in touch with one another where the movement has not been possible.

 Furthermore, the COVID-19 policy measures that were announced by the President of the Republic of Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni starting from 18th March 2020  during his addresses to the Nation such as suspension of all religious gatherings, closure of schools, bars and restaurants, regular washing of hands with soap and alcohol-based sanitizer and social distancing measure including suspension of public transport to prevent the spread of the virus have affected how women use the internet.  These policy measures have led to the reduction in women’s sources of income for buying the devices and the data bundles especially women who are self-employed in the informal sector where over 13.67 million Ugandans between the age of 14-64 years are engaged and being the most hit by COID 19.

According to Research ICT Africa 2019 state of ICT in Uganda report, affordability of the internet devices such as smartphones and computers for internet connections remains one of the biggest challenges to internet use in Uganda where even those with relatively lower costs have been beyond the financial means of the large number of citizens. Furthermore, the price of the data bundles even though relatively low is simply beyond the means of the majority of people for meaningful use.

In 2018, regressive social media tax (over the top tax) of 200 Ugandan shillings (0.05 USD) and mobile money tax of 0.5 percent charged on every withdrawal transactions introduced by the government put a serious brake on internet use yet out of the 14 million population that use the internet in Uganda,99 percent are social media users(Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Skype).

Women of Uganda Network research findings on examining Women Access to digital platforms conducted in 2019 revealed that majority of Women in Uganda depend on their spouse to get data bundles, however, this comes with added costs with the spouse demanding to know who else she communicated to with the data they obtained. Worse still they said, that this is a source of conflict in the homes and some ending up as victims of domestic violence. Similarly, there has been limited relevant content on COVID 19 especially for the marginalized groups of people who cannot read and understand English since most of the content disseminated are hardly in the local dialect yet African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedom principle 6 advocates for cultural and linguistic diversity as one of the main pillars of fundamental internet rights and freedoms where individuals and communities should have the right to use their own language or any language of their choice to create, share and disseminate information and knowledge through the Internet. The implication of all these is that  COVID 19 has not only halted provision of other health services to the population but has made the focus to shift to the prevention of virus alone hence hindering many women in Uganda from meaningful use of the internet to access information on the virus and some of the policy measures adopted by the government since internet use is determined by the level of education, age, level of income and geography yet women are still trailing men to embrace technologies hence limiting their capacity to use the internet.

Therefore, in order for more women to meaningfully use the internet during this COVID 19 crisis, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that everyone is connected to the internet by reducing the cost of the devices and mobile data bundles to a maximum cost of 2 percent of the average monthly income of every population. More still, Civil society organizations in partnership with the government and internet service providers should build the capacity of local citizens especially women to develop local content that is consistent with the human rights standards and laws to accelerate its demand and adoption.

Compiled by Isaac Amuku - Program officer Information sharing and networking

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Flattening the COVID-19 Pandemic Curve calls for a fight against Misinformation and Disinformation

The quest to flatten the contagion curve through social distancing and lockdowns is a measure that every country has done or planning to do as the world is faced with the fight against the Novel Coronavirus. On 11th March 2020 World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic in a media briefing by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus the Director-General.  The global statistics stand at 2,585,468 confirmed cases and 178,845

Deaths by 22nd April 20120, the current epic center of the virus is in the United States.

Uganda confirmed its first case of COVID19 on 21st March 2020 and a month after that, the total number of cases rose to 61 with 45 cases of recoveries and no cause of death yet.

All efforts are being done with the focus to flattening the curve by governments globally, however, we are faced with a huge challenge of misinformation and disinformation both in the online and offline spaces, this can start from online then the same information gets to the offline space and vice versa. The misinformation has caused panic, fear, people are making irrational decisions on the steps to keep safe and maintain their economic stability. Lately, Uganda has seen a lot of COVID-19 related fake news on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp.  Prior to Uganda confirming her first case,  there were already speculations moving around that “the country had COVID-19 cases and death due to the pandemic although the government did not want to declare” this caused a lot of fear and distrust in the information that were being given by the Ministry of Health.

UNESCO defines disinformation as information that is false and deliberately created to harm a person, social group, organization, or country while misinformation is the Information that is false but not created with the intention of causing harm. There has been an increase in the number of fake Twitter, Facebook, Google accounts opened in the name of the PresidentMinister of HealthMinistry of HealthPrime Minister, and other influential individuals in the COVID-19 National Task Force. These accounts have been used to share information that is contrary to the official communications given by these individuals or institutions.

The pandemic being unprecedented has caused conversations over its possible treatment. Different information has been circulated on social media platforms claiming that drugs used for treating malaria could heal COVID-19 patients, people have been cautioned in those messages to stock drugs like quinine. Antiretroviral (ARV) is also one of the drugs rumored to be the treatment for the virus, this led to relaxation on some of the HIV seropositive on following the safety precautions being given by WHO and Ministry of Health.

On 16th March 2020, a video went viral of the speaker of parliament Hon. Rebecca Kadaga saying Uganda was going to make the COVID-19 vaccine, this caused a lot of debate among medical practitioners and key stakeholders who questioned the speaker on her statement.

The police on 14th April 2020 arrested one Robert Mijumbi a student of Kyambogo University, following a video clip that he posted on YouTube which later went viral on different social media platforms. The accused claimed he had found a cure for COVID-19. The National Drug Authority and the Medical team have come up to refute such misinformation and disinformation that is affecting the fight against the pandemic.

In some scenarios misinformation and disinformation have come from very influential people like religious, political, and cultural leaders. A Pentecostal Pastor, Augustine Yiga of Revival Church in Kawaala in Rubaga Division of Kampala was remanded on charges of uttering false information and spreading harmful propaganda likely to cause the spread of the deadly COVID-19  disease. On 27th March 2020, Pastor Yiga while preaching at his church and before various television stations, uttered words that were broadcast that there is no coronavirus in Uganda and Africa. This is an offense contrary to section 171 of the Penal Code Act.

In rural areas, however, misinformation and disinformation manifest differently compared to the urban areas. These communities depend on information from radio stations although not all families own radios, the majority rely on the hearsay from the privileged community members who can access the internet, who are connected to relatives in the urban areas or receive messages sent on their phones through the telecom companies. Although the government has made initiatives to create awareness on COVID-19 in the rural areas many communities have not been reached yet.

Women are more vulnerable to misinformation and disinformation because not many of them can access and use Information Communications Technology (ICT). A study by the Uganda Communications Commission on Access and Usage of ICTs revealed that only 44% of women-owned and could use a phone at any time compared to 62% of the men. It further reveals that only 15% of women had used a computer or the internet in the last three months prior to the study compared to 21% of the men that were interviewed. The few women who access and use the internet still lack exposure to the tools to verify the information they receive then the unconnected women depend on news from their spouses, relatives, friends who own phones, radios, etcetera.

Knowledge gap on COVID-19 still exists in the rural areas, according to some communities, COVID-19 is thought to be a disease for the “white people, “ people who travel by airplane”, “ Kampala people”, this kind of misinformation has made most of the rural communities relaxed about following the safety precautions given by WHO and Ministry of Health.

Therefore, fighting fake news cannot be left to the governments but rather every stakeholder should take part. Politicians, religious leaders, media houses, journalists, civil society organizations, companies, celebrities, should be at the helm of sharing the right information because they have big followings and are influential in the societies. Extra efforts should be made to reach out to rural communities.

Multilateral companies, organizations, institutions have been working to counter react fake news, and others have launched sites where information can be got and how fact-checking can be done to COVID-19 related information being received.

Ministry of Health has a platform on their website where the right information can be accessed by the public.

Facebook has created the Coronavirus Information Center which gives real-time updates from national health authorities and global organizations like WHO. I think Facebook has pretty much tried to control fake news on the Facebook platform, however, the WhatsApp platform has a  huge number of false information being shared every second and this calls for action.

WhatsApp has launched a WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub which is providing simple, actionable guidance for health workers, educators, community leaders, nonprofits, local governments, and local businesses that rely on WhatsApp to communicate.

International Fact-Checking Network launched CoronaVirus Facts Alliance 

Google announced that it is blocking more than 18million hoax emails a day as criminals try to snare victims with COVID-19 scam messages.

By: Peace Oliver Amuge

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Online Violence Against Women & Girls is Still an Ignored Human Rights Violation in Uganda.

When one mentions online violence against women and girls, not so many eyebrows would be raised despite being on a rise and a threat to many women in the digital space. Sometimes referred to as Technology assisted violence or cyber violence, its definition is still ambiguous and it’s still an evolving phenomenon globally. It’s usually an extension of offline violence, although it sometimes starts as an online violence then it quickly spills over into the offline world.  A report by The Web Foundation reveals that 52% of young women in the global survey have experienced online abuse and 87% think the problem is getting worse.

For Uganda’s case, women and girls have been facing online violence which manifests as cyber harassment, cyber stalking, impersonation, Nonconsensual intimate images commonly referred to as “revenge pornography”, child pornography, hate speech, doxing, etcetera. These violations have affected freedom of expression, right to information, privacy and data protection which manifests into many women getting offline because the environment isn’t favorable for them, they also face extra effects of less participation in politics and online spaces, increased self-censorship, widening gender digital divide and the violation sometimes gets physical in the offline space.

We have seen an increase in the number of cases of Nonconsensual Intimate Images (NCII), the victims have mostly been celebrities like Judith Heard, Zari Hassan, Anita Fabiola, Desire Luzinda, Cindy Sanyu among others. However, justice has not been served to these women, they were being hand down and arrested by the police, employers sacked some of them from their jobs and the societies condemned them. These victims go through psychological torture however the authorities do not pay attention to that fact except being looked at as criminals. These pictures or videos have in many occasions been linked by former lovers, hackers or unknown people who steal the victim’s phone, camera, devices used for storing these pictures/videos. Laws such as The Anti-Pornography Act 2014, section 13(1) criminalizes the production, trafficking in, publication, broadcasting, procuring, importing, exporting, selling or abetting any form of pornography. However, no action is taken on the person who distributed, published, broadcasted the pictures/videos to the public, he/she walks away scratch free.

Quite recently we had a case of Martha Kagimba, aka Martha whose nude pictures where shared on social media however for this case justice was served. According to the Daily Monitor Newspaper, two men Herbert Arinaitwe 27 and Farid Mukiibi, 34, were charged at Buganda Road Chief Magistrate’s Court by Chief Magistrate with aggravated robbery and cyber-crime in connection to leaking nude photos of the victim.

 I have had chances to speak to different audiences about online violence against women and girls, many confess that they have at least experienced a kind of violence however on many occasions some victims are not aware that it is criminal, and it infringes on their fundamental rights and freedoms. Speaking to students of International University of East Africa in January 2019 during a digital security training organized by WOUGNET after  a research studies on Tech Related Violence Against Women. I asked the students to share how they dealt with online violence, I got responses like “I block them” , “I closed that social media account” I stay offline for a while until I think the perpetrator will not follow me anymore” these were some of the responses that I vividly remember. These voices reflect the extreme effect of the online violence which pushes them offline, self-censorship which infringes on their freedom of expression, and right to access information online.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, an annual international campaign that runs from November 25th to December 10th has been used massively to fight gender base violence against women by the government, Police Force, civil society organizations however all the focus and efforts are made towards offline violence not online violence. Apparently, a few digital human rights organizations and activists such as Women of Uganda Network, Not Your Body, Unwanted Witness, CIPESA, Akina Mama wa Afrika, to mention but a few have used such campaigns to condemn online violence against women.

Article 33 (1) (2) of the Constitution of Uganda guarantees protection for the rights of women; (1) States that women shall be given full and equal dignity of the person, and equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities with men. (2) The State shall provide for the facilities and opportunities necessary to improve or realize women’s full potential and advancement.  However, this is not seen in the implementation.

What could be done?

In order to change this narrative, actions should be taken by all stakeholders, the government, civil society organisations, regulators, policy makers, the police force, Human Rights Defenders, academia, women and girls, among others;

  • Conduct digital security trainings and digital literacy to empower and encourage women to meaningfully participate in the online spaces and to equally increase capacity in order for women to leverage on opportunity offered by the space.
  • Open up opportunities for women to take up key positions of authority or decision making. 
  • Build capacity of the authorities such as The Police Force, policy makers on online violence against women and girls. 
  • Advocating for policies that are gender responsive, specific and ensure proper implementation of these laws.
  • Create movements and collaborations across borders to fight online violence against women, these crimes do not respect borders.
  • There are existing mechanisms which might not be known to the public, for instance Facebook gives users options to block and report however not many people know about this hence the need to create awareness on these mechanisms.

Photo credit:  https://www.iknowpolitics.org/sites/default/files/styles/event_image__710_x_440_/public/field/image/e9126215805e6f1ab384f6da06f451ad-1.jpg?itok=whhd7lsS 

Compiled by:

Peace Oliver Amuge

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Recognize, Appreciate and Celebrate Every Woman #EachforEqual

On women’s day, we celebrate Women who have broken the glass ceiling, women who have made remarkable achievements in various sectors, Women who have made it in male-dominated spheres and Women who have proved to be role models. This recognition is justified. But what about the other women who take the shadow position? The Women who help with the domestic work in these women’s homes, the Women who cook food in their offices, the Women who babysit when they are away, the Women who tailor the dresses that they wear, the Women who vend foodstuffs to them on the streets and the Women who clean up after them? It is crucial that the women in the informal sector are recognized, appreciated and celebrated.

The informal economy implies a diversified set of economic activities, enterprises, jobs and workers that are not regulated, monitored, taxed or protected by the state. According to the Uganda National Household Survey 2016/17, 90%  of Uganda’s economy is informal. Within that 90% of all informal businesses in Kampala, 66% are women which makes up the majority of the informal workers.

To date, there are a number of laws and policies in Uganda that make a concerted effort to enhance women’s positions in the economy and many of these have yielded notable results.  The 2nd National Development (NDP II, 2015-2020) makes specific reference to sector-specific gender in a bid to realize inclusive growth by prioritizing gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Even so, in many countries, including Uganda, women entrepreneurs who have engaged in informal business activities have signi?cantly contributed to poverty reduction, mobilized entrepreneurial initiatives, autonomy, and accelerated the achievement of wider socioeconomic objectives (Belwal & Singh, 2008).

This women’s day Uganda Celebrates 25 years of the 1995 Constitution: milestones in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Let us recognize and appreciate the efforts of women in the informal sector which contributes significantly to the development and vibrance of not only the ‘powerful women’ but the entire nation.

During this year’s National celebration in Mbale district, eastern Uganda, the President of Uganda Y.K Museveni echoed the economic empowerment of women. He said, “through commercial agriculture, industries, services, ICT women can create jobs or find employment in public service if they have the required qualification.” He pledged that the Government would increase allocations to Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP), Youth Fund and Operation Wealth creation to allow more women access to business financing.

Regardless of what the Government of Uganda has done and pledges to do, there are still gaps that need to be closed. According to the National Labor force survey 2016/17, Women are overrepresented in informal and vulnerable employment. These women face a number of challenges from exploitation by their employees or customers, lack of social security and rights at work, demand for bribes, physical abuse, lack of access to finance and sexual harassment.

It is important that these issues are seen as an area of national concern and remedies are sought not only in policy formulation and implementation but also in resource allocation towards building women’s capacity in economic empowerment initiatives and meaningful financial inclusion. It is also important to sensitize communities to be more acceptive of women in the informal sector and enable them to improve and break barriers. The government should also extend its credit facilities and reduce the borrowing conditions for the most vulnerable persons to enable them to access credit and thus eradicate poverty.

Compiled by Patricia Nyasuna

Program Officer Gender & ICT Policy Advocacy

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