Inspiring Inclusion on Women’s Day 2024

By Juliet Nanfuka |

Today, the world celebrates International Women’s Day 2024 under the theme of #InspireInclusion, which encourages the realisation of a gender-equal world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. However, amidst the global celebration, it is crucial to spotlight the persistent challenges faced by African female journalists, both online and offline.

A 2020 global survey conducted by UNESCO confirmed a disturbing trend: online attacks targeting women journalists are on the rise at an alarming rate. These attacks are part of a deliberate strategy to intimidate, degrade, and silence women in the media industry. Such violence aims to instill fear, undermine professionalism, discredit journalistic integrity, erode trust in factual reporting, and ultimately stifle women’s active participation in public discourse especially as these attacks don’t just affect the targeted journalists – they also impact their sources and audiences, encourage self-censorship leading to a chilling effect on freedom of expression and access to information.

Research shows that the tactics used to attack women journalists is dominated by online trolling which often takes the form of gendered and sexualised attacks and, often involves body shaming. Trolling which has evolved into the practice of coordinated cyber armies that run campaigns – sometimes sponsored by some government officials and other powerful political actors.

It should be noted that online violence also shifts into offline spaces – with potentially deadly consequences. However, despite this, there remains a disturbing trend, particularly for African women journalists who experience online abuse – they often hesitate to seek justice and, when they do, encounter challenges in having their complaints taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.

Notably, the low levels of digital security skills and the inadequacy of existing laws in tackling trolling and Technology-Facilitated Gender-Based Violence (TFGBV), only exacerbate the challenges African women journalists face in the profession.

African female journalists are instrumental in conveying key narratives, shedding light on issues of importance, and amplifying marginalised voices and concerns. However, the increased affronts to their profession and presence in online discourse encourage self-censorship and unmeasurable impact on access to information and freedom of expression of this key segment of society.

In the first Africa Media Freedom and Journalists’ Safety Report released in 2022, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reiterated the growing presence of Technology-Facilitated Gender-Based Violence (TFGBV) as a deterrent to press freedom, especially for women.

It is against this backdrop that CIPESA has consistently pursued various interventions aimed at enhancing the safety and inclusion of women in online spaces. Some of the initiatives have been specific to addressing the needs of African women journalists, such as a Media Masterclass and Reporting Grant, research into online safe spaces for women, both of which were conducted under the WomenAtWeb project of Deutsche Welle (DW). Further, CIPESA gave grants aimed at enhancing gendered digital inclusion and women journalists’ safety under the Africa Digital Rights Fund to beneficiaries in Somalia, Malawi and Tanzania, as well as in Ghana and Nigeria

This year, in partnership with the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) of UNESCO, CIPESA is supporting media development efforts to promote a safe, independent, and pluralistic press, including through addressing the gender dynamics of media freedom and journalists’ safety in Africa.

In recognition of Women’s Month, a series of workshops will be hosted alongside Digital Security Cafes for women journalists, media practitioners, and content producers in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The workshops will include discussions based on the findings of Africa Media Freedom and Journalists’ Safety Report with a focus on elevating awareness of what can be done to pursue more inclusive measures for women journalists.

Further women’s month efforts will be a webinar on African women in politics with the aim of highlighting the importance of increased political inclusion of women in politics.  The role of active online engagement will be highlighted as a key driver enabling the needs of women in politics in various African countries and as a tool to participate in the information society meaningfully.  More importantly, the webinar will cast a spotlight on how women in active politics in various African countries are pushing back against the negative narratives online and the role that actors such as policy makers  and platforms have to play in addressing TFGBV associated with political spaces and discourse.

Register to participate in the webinar here

African Countries Engage in Regional Dialogue Over Internet Universality Indicators Study


On 16 March 2022, UNESCO, jointly with the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) convened a regional dialogue on implementing Internet Universality ROAM-X Indicators (IUI) in Africa.

The event, supported by the  International Program for Development of Communication (IPDC) of UNESCO,  gathered a number of leading  national actors and experts who shared best practice and lessons learned from implementing national assessments of ROAM-X indicators in Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Niger and Senegal.

Juliet Nanfuka representing CIPESA opened the session by recalling that the event builds on CIPESA’s joint efforts and long-term partnership  with UNESCO to raise awareness on the intersection of access to information and application of the ROAM-X indicators  initiated at World Press Freedom Day celebrations in 2018 and the same year’s Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa as part of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).

Xianhong Hu, UNESCO’s focal point of the ROAM-X project, presented the global progress of assessing ROAM-X indicators in 45 countries and highlighted Africa as the leading continent with 17 countries having undertaken the assessment. Ms Hu stressed the urgent need to scale up the ROAM-X indicators’ assessments in more African countries to promote meaningful connectivity and humanistic digital transformation for advancing human rights and sustainable development.

“Africa needs to adjust its digital policy to be more inclusive and the ROAM-X indicators assessment would make a huge difference to support African countries’ inclusive digital transformation and build evidence-based policies.” Dorothy GordonChair of UNESCO’s Information For All Programme (IFAP)

Giving perspectives from West Africa, Professor Alain Kiyindou, Lead researcher of the assessment in Benin and Niger, pointed out the gender inequalities in access to Internet and in the workplace and called for more inclusion of African actors and vulnerable groups in the digital space as well as in the composition of national Multi-stakeholder Advisory Boards and research teams.

Also giving a West African perspective, Dr. Gideon Anapey, researcher for the assessment in Ghana, stressed that, “For African Member States to engage with UNESCO and initiate the ROAM-X project in the region, there is a strong need for capacity building that consists in deepening awareness on ROAM-X, fostering various stakeholders’ engagement, covering ICT integration and inclusion”.

Aderaw Tassew, Mr Asrat Mulatu (Ph.D), both representing Ethiopia and Ms Grace Githaiga from the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) presented on how they approached the assessment in their respective countries alongside highlighting the potential opportunities held by the indicators. Despite vast dissimilarities between the two countries in Internet access, they noted shared challenges unveiled by the assessment including on data collection, funding, political instability, weak legal frameworks and political will, digital literacy gaps, and various levels of the abuse of digital rights.

UNESCO and CIPESA jointly call for more African countries to take up the national assessment of ROAM-X indicators to promote Internet reforms for advancing media freedom and digital rights in Africa.  Following the webinar, in-country training sessions on the indicators will be conducted by CIPESA in Cameroon, Malawi, Namibia, Somalia and Uganda. Member States that are interested in  getting involved are invited to reach out to CIPESA: [email protected].

In 2015, the 38th General Conference of UNESCO endorsed a new definition on the Universality of the Internet based upon four principles – Rights, Openness, Accessibility to all and Multi-stakeholder participation- the ROAM principles. The four pillars outline a comprehensive framework for the assessment of national digital landscapes towards focusing on multiple dimensions of human rights, open Internet, quality of access and inclusive multi-stakeholder governance, promoting the growth and evolution of the Internet, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

This article was first published by UNESCO on March 22, 2022

Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa 2020

The Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (#FIFAFRICA) is a landmark event that convenes various stakeholders from the internet governance and online rights arenas in Africa and beyond to deliberate on gaps, concerns and opportunities for advancing privacy, access to information, free expression, non-discrimination and the free flow of information online on the continent.
Click here to see the event information.

About FIFAfrica

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and the Association for Progressive Communication (APC) are proud to co-host the 2017 edition of the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica).

This year’s Forum will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, thus expanding the physical footprint of the Forum which has since inception in 2014 been held in Kampala, Uganda. The landmark event convenes various stakeholders from the internet governance and online rights arenas in Africa and beyond to deliberate on gaps, concerns and opportunities for advancing privacy, access to information, free expression, non-discrimination and the free flow of information online.

The Forum brings together human rights defenders, journalists, government officials, private sector players, global information intermediaries, bloggers, developers, the arts community, law enforcers and regulators – all of whom have a role to play in advancing internet freedom in Africa.

Highlights at FIFAfrica include the launch of the annual State of Internet Freedom in Africa research report, the commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) that falls on September 28, digital security clinics and this year, an exhibition showcasing the work and products of various players in the internet freedom arena in Africa.

Read more about FIFAfrica here

The Internet Shutdown In Ethiopia Costs The Country Approximately $500,000 A Day In Lost GDP

By Tefo Mohapi |
In October 2016, Ethiopia declared a state of emergency which saw it impose certain measures that included telecommunications, media and Internet shutdowns along with travel restrictions on diplomats and a dusk-to-dawn curfew, to name a few of the measures implemented. The state of emergency, effective from 08 October 2016, comes as a result of about five hundred people being killed in protests in the Oromiya region surrounding the capital Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia since 2015. This is, as reported, after anger over a development scheme for the capital sparked broader anti-government demonstrations over politics and human rights abuses.
Ethiopia is not new to Internet shutdowns with another Internet shutdown taking place as recently as July 2016 with the government stating that it took this drastic measure to prevent leakages during the national exams.
Internet Shutdowns Across Africa
At the recently held Forum for Internet Freedom in Africa 2016 in Kampala, Uganda a panel on the opening day discussed “Internet Shutdowns and Internet Rights” and asked the pertinent question – “Where do we draw the line?

Internet Shutdowns CIPESA FIFAfrica16
Panel on “Internet Shutdowns and Internet Rights” featuring Ephraim Kenyanito, Yosr Jouini, Arthur Gwagwa, Arsene Tungali and Wisdom Donko.

In 2016 alone, the panel noted, Africa has experienced Internet shutdowns or social media bans in several countries including Zimbabwe, Uganda as well as Ethiopia. Notably, these shutdowns or bans typically revolved around political unrest or elections.
Furthermore, as noted during the discussion, Internet shutdowns can cost a country’s economy quite a substantial amount of money with the 2016 Uganda Internet shutdowns rumored to have cost the country $26 million considering it also involved the shutdown of mobile money services for several days around the 2016 Ugandan Presidential election period.

  • But what exactly is an Internet shutdown?
  • What role do telcos play during an Internet shutdown?
  • Are we perhaps overstating the severity of Internet shutdowns considering low Internet penetration rates?

$500,000 A Day
Technically speaking, and as witnessed across different countries in Africa and as discussed on the panel, an Internet shutdown usually involves a government’s ministry typically issuing a letter or instruction to the telcos and mobile service providers operating in that country requesting they cut off Internet access completely (or specific services) to their customers.
In Ethiopia, it is even easier for the government to effect an Internet shutdown as the East African country has only one telecommunications company, Ethio Telecom, which is also state-owned and the only provider of Internet access in the country. This further raises the question of who should be entrusted with provision open and unfettered Internet access to citizens. That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, as Internet shutdowns come with a cost to a country’s economy. Continuing with Ethiopia as a case study, is perhaps the impact and cost of the Internet shutdown exaggerated given that the country only has an Internet penetration rate of 2,9% (as per 2015 Freedom House Report)?

Ethiopia Freedom House 2015
Ethiopia Feedom of the Net 2015 Report

A recent report released on 27 October 2016 by the Global Network Initiative along with Deloitte suggests that the current ongoing Internet shutdown in Ethiopia is costing the country approximately $500,000 a day. The report explains that, in dollar terms, it is estimated that for the average highly-connected country, the per-day impact of a complete Internet shutdown would amount to US$23.6 million per 10 million people. For the average country with medium and low levels of connectivity, the estimated GDP impact amounts to US$6.6 million and US$0.6 million per 10 million people, respectively.

“This analysis suggests that the ongoing Internet shutdown in Ethiopia, a low-connectivity country with a population of 94 million and a per capita GDP of US$505, is costing its economy just under half-a-million US dollars a day in lost GDP. “The economic impact of disruptions to Internet connectivity 2016 Report

The report sheds light on the impact on Internet shutdowns and illustrates that irrespective of low Internet penetration rates in country’s like Ethiopia, the impact is still quite high given how the Internet is used in various economic activities.
Furthermore, it is encouraging to hear the United Nations Human Rights Committee condemn Internet shutdowns in their recent resolution.
The United Nations Human Rights Council stated that it condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law.” Specifically calling on all States to “refrain from and cease such measures.”
This article was first published at iafrikan on October 28, 2016.