Digital platforms and technologies have become pillars for constructive citizen engagement and innovative ways to engage in peacebuilding. In this digital age, emerging technologies can aid in the analysis of conflict trends and the use of inclusive, peaceful narratives to combat misinformation and its impact on security and conflict. Other technological advancements like cybersecurity concerns itself with protecting our digital assets and it is of importance because we are all one way or the other engaged in the cyber space.
Women in the digital space can utilize innovation and technological tools to analyze and share their views for promoting peace and security. The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda acknowledges the various contributions that women have in peace efforts whether in traditional (offline) or non-traditional (online) security issues.
This led FOSDA’s riveting flagship webinar series, “Talk WPS,” to hold its first episode of the year, on the topic, “Embracing Equity in technology and Peacebuilding”, on 29th March, 2023. This topic was to raise awareness of women’s significant involvement in all technology-related activities and peacebuilding. It was also fitting because it was in commemoration of International Women’s Day (IWD), and merged the global campaign theme of 2023 which was #EmbraceEquity with the 2023 UN women theme on Innovation and Technology for gender equality.
The speakers for the episode were Faiza Seidu-Adam, a young cybersecurity professional with successful experience in Governance, Risk and Compliance and Data privacy, and Hend Kheiralla, an experienced peacebuilder and advocate whose professional experience is rooted at the intersection of digital media, research, and international development.
Both women gave their expert submissions on the topic, with discussions focused significantly on the value of cybersecurity in the field of peace and security, misinformation and its impact on security and conflict, countering online hate speech and fake news using digital tools, and utilizing social media for peace. It also focused significantly on women’s leadership and participation in the digital world, cybersecurity, and other technological advancements.
According to Hend Kheiralla, biases that exist offline can appear online and on social media, fueling a vicious cycle of discrimination and hate that prevents overall peace and stability. As she put it, clickbait and other forms of online misinformation can pose a threat to the peace and security of our communities, particularly on the internet, where the algorithm favors content based on engagement, whether it is true or false. She advised participants not to assume that all online news is reliable and factual. She also recommended that individuals learn how to use digital tools like the “report option” that social media companies provide to control online violence in order to lessen offline violence that results from social media. When it comes to news, she advised us to always follow reliable sources, and urged us not to share information unless we were certain of it.
Faiza Seidu-Adam pointed out the value of empowering women and girls with digital literacy and cyber awareness so that they can protect their own data. According to her, online abuse can silence women and undermine efforts to achieve long-lasting peace and security. Therefore, it is crucial to address online harassment and cyberbullying as a form of Gender-Based violence and to work towards creating safe, inclusive spaces for women. She recommended doing this through education, awareness campaigns, and legal systems that hold offenders accountable.
The end of the session brought to fruition other key recommendations highlighted below.
We must all educate ourselves, our friends, and the next generation on the dangers of propagating fake news and employing hate speech online. To support peace efforts over time, it is also essential to offer fundamental peacebuilding trainings to young people.
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), should raise the issue of online hate speech to policy makers and decision makers by advocating for legalization of policies that counter hate speech and eradicate it.
CSOs and governments should provide more programs that expose girls to cybersecurity and give them an opportunity to learn about the topic in order to promote the inclusion of women in the industry.
In order to increase the visibility of women in innovation and technology so that young girls may see them and take them as role models, it was also recommended that networks of women working in the cyberspace be promoted. This could additionally entail giving women networking and mentorship opportunities in technology and innovation so they can have a supportive online community.
These are some strategies for increasing women’s digital presence, embracing equity in technology, and fostering peace.