African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), Health Africa Kenya has embarked on training societal actors in Migori County on digital advocacy to counter Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
This entails the use of social media platforms in the fight against harmful cultural practices including Female Genital Mutilation and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) rampant in the region.
Digital platform use has been hailed as a faster and more efficient way to advocate for the urgent need for change and action in modern society.
With Kenya being ranked among the top internet consumers in Africa, there is a clear indication that quite a huge number of Kenyans are on social media.
This, therefore according to experts provides a good platform for calling for social change on matters FGM and GBV.
However, amidst possible challenges on digital consumption like poor internet connections, Migori County still provides a better environment for digital advocacy to thrive.
Danish Ochieng from Amref Health Africa in Kenya, while addressing a workshop on FGM/GBV in Migori, stated that Amref aims to maximize the use of social media platforms to advocate for change in society.
He says the best way to start is through training the societal actors at the community level on how to use these digital tools.
“This training comes handy at the time when there is an assumption that young people are the ones online and can do the advocacy using their smartphones,” he recounts.
“Although young people are the most active digitally, the old are the custodians of the societal norms,” Ochieng noted.
Such assumptions, however, he explained, are ill-advised as even the people deep down in the community can use digital space to create change.
Ochieng noted that they seek to bridge the digital gap through capacity building the old to understand the platforms and how they operate.
This is before they start taking actions on digital advocacy on creating more awareness of the dangers of the vice and the harm it causes to the girl child, he explained, adding that the use of digital space will help reduce the workload on the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on the ground.
Grace Orao, a digital advocacy expert, said during the one-day training that despite women being the majority according to the 2019 census, they are the minority in digital consumption as compared to men.
This, she says, has posed a challenge in advocating for women’s rights digitally as women who are the most vulnerable are fewer consumers of digital content.
“Women are the majority and are the most vulnerable when it comes to GBV and FGM,” she stated, noting further that their low digital use was a big challenge to their call for change and action in the digital space”.
To bridge this gap, Amref is targeting men who are among a large number of digital consumers to influence women to embrace more use of digital tools.
“The buck stops with men who must accept that women have rights to be protected. Therefore, they have to create an environment for women to thrive,” states Ochieng.
Mr. Vincent Mwita of Tunaweza empowerment organization, a CBO in Migori noted that fighting FGM is a collective responsibility for the young and the old, adding that the training was important to empower the less advantaged digitally to be in a position to report any case of harmful practices digitally.
“Training of societal actors on digital advocacy is good at the time that digital space has covered a wide scope. This will enable them to report promptly hence save the harm from happening,” he said.
Mwita, however, believes that digital advocacy is going to act as a catalyst as societal actors are going to join young people in the digital space in highlighting and reporting these harmful practices.
He says the use of digital platforms also is seen as a safer means of counteracting harmful practices in society in this new era.
“For instance, some hostile perpetrators of these vices will not be able to launch a physical attack on a digitally shared communication. This will put the Anti-FGM campaigners on a safer end,” claimed the official.
However, cyberbullying is a threat to new digital consumers, thus there is still more to be done in training them to be safe in the digital space.
By Polycarp Ochieng and George Agimba