With the Internet users increasing in Tanzania at a current count of twenty-seven (27) million, as time goes on the same applies to the increase of online Gender-Based violence (GBV) in Tanzania as well as our neighbouring countries (Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda) whom we collaborated in conducting several Online Gender-Based Violence through the Women At Web Project.
Feedback from the surveys that we had conducted (mid-2018) indicated that online harassment was a serious problem, precisely because there was a lack of awareness on what online harassment constitutes even with the cybercrime laws and regulations in place. This called for advocacy and awareness on safe spaces for women online as well as exposing women to the benefits and opportunities that can come from being online and understanding how to use the internet for impact.
While it is the responsibility of all Digital Citizens to partake in making sure that we are promoting safe spaces, the Police force plays a very huge role in the holding accountable those who conduct online-based violence, and that can only be achieved by having the capacity and digital skills on how prominent Social Media works as well as being able to conduct online patrols.
We recently had the privilege of conducting an Intensive 6-day training from the 14th to the 19th of September 2020v to a total of sixty-eight Police Officers from the Gender Desk and Forensic teams which was inclusive of a good number from the Cyber Crime Department.
This initiative was born out of our stakeholder’s workshop held at a closed meeting with a few partners on the 30th of September 2019 with a Twitter hashtag #WomenAtWebTzSM themed “Bridging the Gender Digital Divide in Tanzania ‘’ with the aim to promote Women Online Participation. We were fortunate to have participants from Freedom House Tanzania, Twaweza Tanzania, JamiiForums, Tanzanian Police Force, The Launch Pad, Nukta Tanzania, Tanzania Media Foundation, Data Lab Tanzania, The Embassy of Sweden, The Human Development Innovation Fund (HDIF), MISA Tanzania, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Tanzania and the EU.
During the #WomenAtWebTzSM discussions, one of the most interesting debates was on the role of the Tanzanian Police to which two concerns were raised. Firstly; It was clear that the police force, specifically the Cybercrime desk, lacked awareness of the CyberCrimeLaw and Digital Skills for online patrol. Secondly; as a result of social-cultural settings in the community (such as patriarchal behaviours), many female victims have turned away and denied of the right to officially report and open a case against a perpetrator(s) or abuser(s)
One of the results of that #WomenAtWebTzSM was involving and targeting the Tanzanian Police Force for a tailor-made training through the Women At Web project 2020 phase. This encouraged us to spike discussions between the Women at Web organisation and the Tanzanian Police Force in realising our goal for the advocacy and awareness sharing so as to promote Safe Spaces online.
To be able to facilitate the capacity building to the Tanzania Police we applied three approaches during the sessions.
The outcomes of the training have been explicitly an eye-opener and a wonderful learning experience for Women At Web TZ and the Participants as well. While this is just the first step, in the last 6 days aside from advocating and creating awareness — we’ve learned a lot.
Among a few lessons learned by @WomenAtWebTZ among others, I will mention just five (5)
(i) The Police Force acknowledge there is a gap to be filled and an immediate need of Capacity Building in relation to the CyberCrime Laws & Regulations plus Digital Literacy
(ii) The Police Force is very open to partners willing to collaborate to enhance the identified area (Cyber related laws & Digital Literacy), and they acknowledge that they have to partner with a variety of partners who support the agenda.
(iii) The Social Cultural Context and traditions has a lot of holding influence to which if continuously unchecked, it interferes a lot to rights especially of Women. Eg; we learned it’s not allowed to for a female Police Officer to be provided with a firearm during any night patrol.
(iv) The Participants themselves are very open to new ideas, thoughts, learnings but with plausible justifications.
(v) They are looking forward to lots of such engagements, not only from Women At Web Tanzania but any partners supporting the identified agenda
The Woman At Web Project Tanzania is part of the project initiated and funded by DW Akademie aiming at promoting digital inclusion by promoting among others Digital Literacy amongst women in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda). The overall goal is to enhance women’s participation online and promote Safe Spaces.