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A recent study discovered that women in Ethiopia are being silenced by online abuse

May 11, 2024
1 min read

By Maya Misikir

According to recent research, a significant number of Ethiopian women are subjected to gender-targeted attacks through various online platforms such as Facebook and Telegram. This alarming trend of abuse and hate speech has resulted in many women withdrawing from both online and offline public life. The study, led by the Center for Information Resilience, a nonprofit organization based in the United Kingdom, sheds light on the severity of the issue. The report, which was released on Wednesday, highlights Facebook as the primary platform where women face the highest levels of abuse.

The research delved into the usage of inflammatory keywords across three Ethiopian languages – Amharic, Afan Oromo, Tigrigna – as well as English. The findings revealed a staggering number of over 2,000 inflammatory keywords, making it the most comprehensive inflammatory word lexicon in Ethiopia, as stated by the researchers.

Disturbingly, over 78% of the women who participated in the interviews reported experiencing feelings of fear or anxiety as a result of online abuse. This highlights the urgent need for action to address this issue and ensure the safety and well-being of Ethiopian women in the digital sphere.

Felicity Mulford, editor and researcher at CIR, stated that it is highly probable that similar issues exist in sectors of society that have not yet been examined. She emphasized the significance of the data in supporting the efforts of human rights advocates and women’s rights advocates, as it sheds light on certain trends prevalent across Ethiopia, despite being available in only four languages. According to the authors of the report, online abuse in Ethiopia has become so widespread that it has become normalized to the extent that it is practically invisible. Betelehem Akalework, co-founder of Setaset Power, an Afro-feminist movement in Ethiopia, shared her experience of facing more severe and targeted attacks as a result of her work. She mentioned that while they were mentally prepared to some extent, they were taken aback by the intensity of the backlash. As a result, they underwent media and digital security training to better equip themselves.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center, which was established three years ago, provides protection for human rights defenders and social media activists in the country.

Kalkidan Tesfaye, the center’s program coordinator, emphasized the need for more government initiatives in education and policymaking to empower women in protecting themselves from online abuse.

Tesfaye highlighted the importance of incorporating digital safety training into the Ministry of Education’s programs, stating that it is a crucial aspect of learning about computers and acquiring digital skills.

Furthermore, the researchers examined various protected characteristics outlined in Ethiopian law, such as ethnicity, religion, and race. The study revealed that women often face multiple forms of attacks, being targeted not only for their gender but also for their ethnicity and religion.

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