“When I ran for a political position, I faced online-based violence marked by a surge of misinformation and disinformation. On several occasions, I woke up to discover coordinated discussions on social media suggesting that I had withdrawn from the race, negatively impacting my campaign. Blogs were also circulating claims that my family and I had relocated from the village to live in the UK, insinuating that I had been away for a decade and was disconnected from the community. These narratives falsely alleged that my only interest was securing votes and that I had no understanding of local issues. None of these claims held any truth.”
Patience Nyange, Communications and Media Advisor, shares her challenging experience during her gubernatorial campaign in Taita Taveta County in 2022.
The 2021 State of the Girls’ World report reveals that 91% of young women worldwide express worry regarding online misinformation and disinformation, with 87% experiencing adverse effects from it.
According to the report, 1 in 5 girls discontinue their involvement in politics and current affairs, while 1 in 4 girls feel a decreased confidence in expressing their opinions online.
As a crucial initiative to address the increased influence of misinformation, the Mzalendo Trust, in collaboration with the Canadian High Commission in Kenya, established a Digital Literacy Training program for politically engaged young women and representatives from civil society organizations.
The training took place on January 23, 2024, in Nairobi.
Angela Minayo, Digital Rights and Policy Program Officer, Article -19 Eastern Africa, led the session.
She highlighted the substantial threat that misinformation poses to political engagement and well-informed decision-making, particularly when directed at young women.
“Misinformation restricts activism and silences women from contributing to political discourse. Understanding and combating gendered misinformation are crucial for fostering an inclusive and empowered society,” she added.
Minayo distinguished between misinformation and disinformation, noting that misinformation entails false, misleading, and often harmful information shared inadvertently by individuals.
On the other hand, disinformation involves false, misleading, and often harmful information intentionally shared to cause harm.
Irene Mwendwa, the Executive Director at Pollicy, emphasized the critical importance of digital security, highlighting its significance not just for personal safety but also to preserve the authenticity of voices against malicious actors.
“Online platforms are susceptible to manipulation. We should necessitate the need to acquire skills in safeguarding our online presence and securing communication channels to shield ourselves from cyber threats”
According to her, we should verify information, cross-reference sources, and identify credible sources to distinguish accurate information from falsehoods
Patience Nyange, a Communications and Media Advisor, reiterated the importance of creating and engaging in networks for young women. She urged them to collaborate in verifying information and collectively tackling misinformation.
“By prioritizing resilience, young women are better equipped to withstand the emotional challenges posed by misinformation. Those venturing in politics can as well recognize the importance of their mental well-being and actively engage in nurturing their emotional health” she emphasized
Stakeholders raised inquiries about addressing misinformation and disinformation, prompting Edward Kakumu from Mzalendo Trust to suggest solutions.
He proposed that integrating media information literacy training into school curriculums and enhancing the capabilities of political figures would empower young women. This, he believes, will enable them to adeptly analyze media messages, identify sensationalism, and recognize manipulation techniques.
The training strongly promoted the idea of decriminalizing offenses related to disinformation. The emphasis was on the significance of legal frameworks centered around promotion of responsible online conduct.
Stakeholders were urged to champion and endorse initiatives that provide young women with the necessary skills to combat gendered misinformation. They were encouraged to play an active role in advocating for a digital space that is both inclusive and well-informed.
By Priscillah Kaigai, AMWIK Member