The Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KeWoPa) has launched a video campaign dubbed, #HeshimuDada calling on the public to avoid and curb online abuse and harassment as well as physical violence against female politicians.
The short video campaign (available on the KeWoPa YouTube channel) has voices from various female politicians and leaders in the country including Prof. Margaret Kobia, the Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizen Affairs and Special Programmes; the Second Lady Rachel Ruto; Kirinyaga governor, Anne Waiguru, Governor, Kiambu Women Representative Gathoni Wamuchomba and the Chairperson of KeWoPa as well as Martha Karua, the NARC Kenya Party Leader and the Azimio Coalition’s Deputy Presidential Nominee.
In their messages, the leaders called on both the public and political contenders to be tolerant and accommodative towards each other in the political stage, regardless of gender, religion, tribal affiliation or any other perceived differences.
During the #HeshimuDada video campaign launch, KeWoPa Chairperson emphasized the important role technology can play to empower people who are likely to be victims, thereby helping to prevent online abuse and harassment and even violence against women online.
“KEWOPA has been mobilizing its members, partners and resources to build the capacity and resilience of its members and to inspire up-and-coming women leaders to deal with these challenges as we go into the General Election on August 9,” stated Wamuchomba.
In a speech read on her behalf by Mercy Mwangi, the head of the KeWoPa Secretariat, Wamuchomba added, “The climax of these efforts is a video campaign under the hashtag #HeshimuDada – respect women – that KEWOPA is releasing today featuring leading women in a rallying call for peace and a cessation of violence in all its forms, including violence against women in politics.”
As part of #HeshimuDada, she said that KeWoPa members and women politicians are equipped with online safety tools and skills to help them mitigate the impact of online trolls and cyber-bullying.
Wamuchomba said that members have also been trained on how to use Harassment Manager, an online tool which reviews tweets based on hashtag, username, keyword or date, thereby enabling users to detect toxic and harmful comments and mute or block perpetrators of harassment and hide harassing replies to their own tweets.
The KeWoPa chair noted that the Gender Gap continues to disadvantage girls and women, with the gender gap index score in Kenya rising to 0.69 in 2021, indicating that females were 30 percent less likely to have the same opportunities as males in the country.
“Violence against women is a serious problem and women in the public limelight are disproportionately targeted. During the 2017 elections, female candidates were many times more likely to be the victims of online and offline abuse than their male counterparts. Even in this campaign season, we have witnessed acts of violence against women in politics,” she added.
The Kiambu women rep reiterated that when women and girls have access to the internet, they face online violence more often than men through a continuum of multiple, recurring, and interrelated forms of gender-based threats, according to United Nations (UN) Women.
The campaign, dubbed #HeshimuDada, is an initiative of KeWoPa and Google Kenya among other partners.