IGF 2022 Town Hall #63 Enabling a Safe Internet for Women and Girls

Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (06:30 UTC) - Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (07:30 UTC)
Banquet Hall A

Birds of a Feather - Auditorium - 60 Min


Safety, Security and Accountability remain the most limiting aspects for women and girls in Africa to tap into the potential of the internet. Despite the increase of internet users during the pandemic, the ITU has reported that while the COVID-related surge in demand for Internet access brought some 800 million additional people online, it also dramatically increased the cost of digital exclusion, with those unable to connect abruptly shut out of employment, schooling, access to health advice, financial services, and much more. At the same time, the pandemic saw an exponential increase in violence against women and girls - in person and online. This session will present and discuss solutions to achieving the twin digital rights imperatives of meaningful safe connectivity and accountability in Africa. Panelists will be drawn from civil society and technology companies, with the possibility of the participation of a high-level government representative addressing its commitments to enabling an affordable and safe internet in the context of the Generation Equality Action Coalition.

We will cater to any direct costs to ensure the session speakers/panellists, government representatives, moderators and rapporteurs are available for the session.


Moderator: Moira Whelan National Democracy Institute (NDI)

Panelist: Irene Mwendwa Pollicy

Panelist: Kat Townsend, World Wide Web Foundation

Panelist: Onica Makwakwa - Global Digital Inclusion Partnership

High-level representative from an African Government: Hon. Neema Lugangira The African Parliamentary Network on Internet Governance (APNIG)

Rapporteurs: Teddy Woodhouse Global Digital Inclusion Partnership and Kaleigh Schwalbe National Democracy Institute (NDI)

Onsite Moderator

Moira Whelan National Democracy Institute

Online Moderator

Moira Whelan and Sandra Pepera National Democratic Institute


Teddy Woodhouse Global Digital Inclusion Partnership and Kaleigh Schwalbe NDI


17.9 Targets: Specifically, a safer internet and an accountable internet governance structure corresponds to SDG 5 on Gender Equality and will provide an opportunity for African women and girls 1. to maximise the potential of the internet in aiding education and higher learning, SDG 1& 4 2. improve their quality of life and their day-to-day life engagement -SDG 1& 10 3. and enjoy their bodily autonomy to live a healthy life SDG 3 & 10 4. to contribute to outstanding innovation and solutions for addressing a myriad of challenges- SDG 8 & 9

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

- Online gender-based violence creates a negative feedback loop because of its silencing effect. Because of how widespread the problem has become, it creates social norms that enable this behaviour to continue over time. - This problem is prolific and spreads to institutions such as national elections and even the IGF itself. More must be done to ensure that online spaces are safe spaces.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

Online gender-based violence is prolific. It affects women, girls, and gender diverse people across different countries and social environments.


People who call this problem out make themselves more vulnerable to further abuse. Honourable Neem Lugangira spoke about her experience as an elected official in Tanzania, the exposure that meant for online gender-based violence, and how raising this issue made her even further targeted. Another activist based in South Asia noted the self-silencing impact of this abuse for targeted individuals.


Women are helping themselves overcome this problem. Irene Mwendwa gave the example of Pollicy’s peer-to-peer communities and local-level training for resilience among women policymakers at multiple levels of government.


Norms against this kind of violence already exist. Clear analogies on the illegality of this behaviour in the streets should be translated into the online world, said Onica Makwakwa of the Global Digital Inclusion Partnership. Governments are falling short of their mandate to address this: huge amounts of public education against gender-based violence is required, and a failure to address this issue costs governments over $1 billion in lost productivity due to the digital gender gap.


Platforms are taking action, but transparency is missing, said Kat Townsend. This comes from the experience of the Web Foundation and its Tech Policy Design Lab, working with activists and major social media platforms on this issue. While the platforms are making changes that users can see, there is still an underwhelming amount of transparency for us to understand what the potential impact of this change might be.



Amplified Abuse, from Pollicy https://pollicy.org/projects/amplified-abuse/

Tech Policy Design Lab, from Web Foundation https://techlab.webfoundation.org/ogbv/overview

Meaningful Connectivity, from A4AI https://a4ai.org/meaningful-connectivity/