By MAUREEN ODIWUOR
NAIROBI, KENYA: As Kenyans become tech-savvy, negative impacts of the frequent use of social media are being felt, with women being major victims of cyber bullying. Tech-related Violence Against Women (Tech-Vaw) is on the rise. It feels like the new kid on the block. Too much excitement and online abuse because of lack of regulatory mechanisms is on the rise.
Kenyan Former Boxing champion Conjestina Achieng’ faced cyber bullying when she was in her most trying moment. Achieng’ fell ill early this year and her mental state deteriorated, forcing her family to transfer her to their rural home.
Instead of coming to her aid, some Kenyans on social media started throwing insults at her with others going as far as asking how special she is. This is a post put in a social platform; Anonymous 24 October 2013: “Stop pestering us with this Congestina. Kwani how special is she.” Congestina was later admitted to Avenue Hospital in Kisumu after The Standard highlighted her plight.
After receiving treatment, she was confined to the facility even on Mashujaa Day celebrations with a bill of Sh595,000, until a harambee was conducted to get her out of the facility.
Early last month, The Standard On Sunday’s Generation Next Magazine published an exclusive interview with Miss World Kenya 2013, Wangui Gitonga. Ms Gitonga said she was cyber-bullied in July after being crowned Miss Kenya.
Some People on Twitter were of the opinion that she did not deserve the title due to her physical features. Gitonga said she was not aware of violence against her until a friend informed her of what was going on. She got the information from her friend.
“I did not allow the negativity especially because I knew I qualified fairly for the auditions; the cyber bullying made me even stronger,” she said. Before her conversion Linet Munyali aka Size 8, was at the top of her game, arguably as one of the highest paid female artiste in Kenya.
Her decision to be born again was received with mixed feelings with many in social media commenting negatively about her new choice. Others termed it a publicity stunt, while majority of those who commented over the issue said it was just a matter of time comparing her with other musicians who backslid after conversion.
On a public page on Facebook, known as Majibu za Walevi, they posted a question as their status update and this is one of the few samples of the public reaction: “Juan Naxon Hehee ati saved uuuiii!! That is April 1. Djnickyshie Allbro aaaaaa looking 4 fame twnt last”.
Gospel songstress Emmy Kosgei, who recently got married to 60-year-old Nigerian apostle Anselm Madubuko, has also been a victim of online violence. When word came out that she was getting married to Madubuko, she was criticised for her choice.
The social media temperatures were unbearable regarding her issue when rumours emerged alleging that she had been having an illicit affair with the preacher, now her husband, prior to the lavish weddings. And musician Mary Wanjiku (Marya) was this year cyber bullied because of her weight gain. The Ogopa Deejays’ artist was the victim of Twitter attacks after a photo of her increased weight surfaced. People could not understand how a celebrity could suddenly increase weight and a lot of unprintable words were used against her.
In October this year, Kitu Kimoja hit maker Musician Judith Mwangi (Avril) received a social media bashing after she allegedly posted a photo of her and a top anchor’s husband in a compromising situation.
Despite setting the record straight on the matter, saying she had no relationship with Citizen TV’s Lulu Hassan’s husband, she was bitterly insulted on the Internet.
Classic 105’s busted queen Ciku Muiruri once posted a photo in which she was having a good time with her daughter. She was attacked because of her dressing in some of the pictures.
Tusker Project Fame 6 (T6)’s host Joey Muthengi, once came out in one of the shows to clarify that she shut down her Twitter account after being attacked. That was after Kenyans on Twitter viciously attacked her, with many condemning her with claims that she was not lively enough. Citizen TV’s Sunday Live Julie Gichuru’s CV depicting how she has over 12 years’ experience as a media personality, having worked in print, broadcast and digital media, went viral and she received negative comments for that.
The spat between two of Nairobi’s most controversial politicians, Mike Sonko (Senator) and Rachel Shebesh (Women Representative) climaxed with cyber wars after intimate photos allegedly belonging to them were posted on a gossip website. Derailing and demeaning comments followed the pictures.
The incident where Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero was caught on camera slapping Ms Shebesh resulted in numerous insults and violations against the Women Representative, with some people commending the governor for the action. But the Governor’s wife Dr Susan Kidero was also not spared from cyber bullying. Uproar emerged in the social circles after she allegedly ignored a security check at a shopping mall in Nairobi. Most people claimed she is using her status as the wife of the Governor to abuse power. Former Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Barasa was once a victim of cyber bullying after an incident where she is alleged to have pinched the nose of a female security guard at village market occurred.
Despite her issuing a public apology saying she did not intend to be high-handed or arrogant, people still talked negatively against her.
Land’s Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu was also bullied after she was allegedly accused of violating the law by usurping powers of the Public Service Commission, and failing to consult the National Lands Commission while appointing Peter Kahuho as Director General of Lands.
Mary Njeri, a woman who conspired with kidnappers to lie to her husband that she had been kidnapped and needed Sh500,000 ransom also received an bout of online criticism. And Churchill show’s Teacher Wanjiku was recently accused of stealing her best friend’s boyfriend.
This has also sparked a lot of heat in social media, with negative comments against her flowing. International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) is currently mobilising women that have been technologically harassed to report violations that occur on their social platform.
The data collected will be compiled and given to policy makers to enable them formulate laws against cyber bullying culprits. IAWRT is also training women on how to fight gender-based violence technologically.
IAWRT Programmes and Communication Officer, Venter Mwongera, says they have so far trained over 600 women groups and female media practitioners expected to spread the information to others. She advises women who experience cybercrimes to submit the abuse information on the twitter harsh tag #TECHVAW2013.
“It’s high time the government and other stakeholders come up with stringent measures on how to deal with this vice because it violates women rights,” says Mwongera. Kenya Information Communication Technology (ICT) Network practitioner, Washington Odhiambo says it is important for women who often use social sites to be brave and report the insults they encounter in social media.
“The campaign geared towards empowering women to come out in large numbers and report all forms of violations against them on the social site so that policy makers would know how to handle technology based violence cases,” he says.
Mr Odhiambo says they are training trainers who will trickle down the information to other women so that they are cautious against cyber bullies. “We are teaching women groups on how to collect information on violence mapping done on an international open source platform called USHAHIDI,” he says.