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Gender-based violence has gone online in Africa



75 per cent of women interviewed reported suffering from mental stress and anxiety due to their experiences of online violence

If you are reading The Observer here, you are online. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us into our homes and onto our phones; people around the world are quickly getting with the program and moving their businesses and personal lives online.

The world wide web (www) has been described as a utopia to solve all kinds of problems, but unfortunately, some big problems from the real world are moving online too, including gender-based violence (GBV).

One in three Ugandan women who use the internet have experienced gender-based harassment online, according to a new report released by on the internet experiences of women in African countries including Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Senegal and South Africa. Pollicy is a technology consulting and development firm working towards improving government service delivery through improved civic engagement and participation. 

The report offers some stark examples of how a continuum of violence blurs the lines between online and offline, as some violence could begin online and continue offline or vice-versa. Pollicy reports that the most common type of online gender-based violence experienced in Uganda is sexual harassment, accounting for 42 per cent of respondents, followed by offensive name-calling (24 per cent) and stalking (17 per cent).

The report released this week, surveyed 3,306 women across five African countries through focus groups and in-depth interviews. Its aim was to gather a strong dataset about women’s experiences online, which often go unrecorded and thus are not dealt with by legal authorities nor the social media platforms on which they occur.

The results indicate that online gender-based violence is a real issue for many women in Uganda and across Africa.

???? 75 per cent of women interviewed reported suffering from mental stress and anxiety due to their experiences of online violence.

???? 72.9 per cent of online gender-based violence (OGBV) in Uganda took place on Facebook, followed by 38.1 per cent on WhatsApp and 4.7 per cent on Instagram.

???? 66 per cent of women responded by blocking or deleting the perpetrator; 20 per cent ignored the perpetrator and 14 per cent deleted or deactivated their own accounts. Only 12 per cent reported the abuse to the website or online platform.

???? 50 per cent of Ugandan victims who reported the experience to the social media platform had no resolution.

???? 90 per cent of the respondents who experienced online violence either did not know the identity of the perpetrator or found them to be a stranger.

???? 95 per cent of Ugandan women were not aware of any policies or laws in place to protect women against online gender-based violence in Uganda.

One in three of the women online in Uganda have experienced some kind of gender-based violence online and yet almost none of them know of any policies or laws they can turn to for protection.

This is what the report reveals, and it paints a picture of helplessness and confusion for many people facing abuse such as stalking, hacking accounts, leaking nudes and other types of gender-based violence that women face online.

The general public tends to downplay violence against women online and the authorities do not always take action against perpetrators. The situation can be made worse by victim-blaming and law enforcement that are not adequately trained to handle the situation.

A significant proportion (29.2 per cent) of respondents to Pollicy’s survey did not know where to turn for information about online safety and security. 13.4 per cent said that they would research the information on Google and another 14.6 per cent said that they might go to local authorities such as the police.

The report notes that Uganda does have laws it could activate to manage this problem, such as the Data Protection and Privacy Act and perhaps the Computer Misuse Act.

However, Pollicy recommended training law enforcement personnel on gender-sensitive digital safety so they are able to address complaints of online gender-based violence and to provide timely technical assistance, counselling, and support to women who do choose to report.

Neema Iyer, founder of Pollicy, said that the main aim of the study is to inform evidence-based policy to push for solutions that create digital equality.

“We want to understand how online gender-based violence manifests across Africa, and how technology companies, which are often based out of Africa, respond to this violence. When thinking of our afrofeminist future, we need to think of an internet where both the developers and users understand the intersectionality of the lived experience of an African woman.” Neema said. 

The website includes a bot that walks you through an interactive storytelling of the study findings. Pollicy, in partnership with Internews, also conducted a comparative analysis of the legal frameworks in the five countries, which shows that the laws are not working to protect women.

The full report is now available at:

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‘Almost 180-degree turnaround’: More Black Americans open to jabs | Coronavirus pandemic News




More Black people in the United States say they are open to receiving coronavirus vaccines, a new survey shows, an encouraging sign that one community leader described as “almost a 180-degree turnaround” from earlier in the pandemic.

According to the late March poll by the Associated Press news agency and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, about 24 percent of Black people said they would probably or definitely not get vaccinated.

That is down from 41 percent in January, and is similar to the proportion of white people (26 percent) and Hispanic Americans (22 percent) who also say they do not plan to get jabs.

The findings come as US President Joe Biden’s administration works to speed up inoculations to try to outpace a recent rise in infections, after he promised that all adults would be eligible for a jab by April 19.

Public health experts had raised concerns about the need to ensure that Black and other communities of colour in the US, which have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, had equitable access to vaccines.

Local leaders said vaccine hesitancy was fuelled in part by decades of institutional discrimination in healthcare and other public services.

Dr Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told AP that attitudes among Black people have taken “almost a 180-degree turnaround” as outreach campaigns have worked to combat misinformation.

Benjamin said Black physicians, faith leaders and other organisers have helped get targeted messaging to the community “in a way that wasn’t preachy”.

“They didn’t tell people, ‘You need to get vaccinated because it’s your duty.’ They basically said, ‘Listen, you need to get vaccinated to protect yourself and your family,’” he said.

Mattie Pringle, a 57-year-old Black woman from South Carolina who previously had doubts about taking the vaccine, said she changed her mind after a member of her church urged her to reconsider. She got her first jab last week.

“I had to pray about it, and I felt better after that,” Pringle told AP.

Medical and public health experts have continued to urge people in the US to get vaccinated in an effort to slow the spread of the disease, which has killed more than 561,000 people across the country – the highest death rate in the world.

The US, which has reported over 31 million cases to date, has authorised three vaccines for emergency use: the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson jabs.

So far, more than 178.8 million vaccine doses have been administered countrywide, while 68.2 million people are considered fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Recent surveys have shown that more Americans in general say they intend to get vaccinated than previously did.

The Pew Research Center reported in early March that 19 percent of US adults said they had already received at least one dose, while another 50 percent said they probably or definitely would get vaccinated.

“Taken together, 69 percent of the public intends to get a vaccine – or already has – up significantly from 60 percent who said they planned to get vaccinated in November,” it said.

Other recent surveys show that attitudes towards vaccines are split along political lines. A survey at Monmouth University released last month found that 36 percent of Republicans said they would avoid the vaccine compared with just six percent of Democrats.

That prompted top US infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, to call on former President Donald Trump to encourage his supporters to get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, experts are urging Americans to take whichever vaccine is available to protect themselves and avoid delays.

“When people come in, I always advise them to get the vaccine that’s available because you never know what vaccine is going to be available the next time,” Reham Awad, a pharmacy intern in the Chicago area, told Al Jazeera this week.

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Erdogan urges end to Ukraine tension, offers Turkey’s support | Conflict News




Turkish president says tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over Donbass conflict have to be resolved through dialogue.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for the “worrying” developments in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region to come to an end after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart in Istanbul, adding Turkey was ready to provide any necessary support.

Erdogan and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held talks in Istanbul on Saturday amid tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over the long-running conflict in Donbass.

Speaking at a news conference alongside Zelenskyy, Erdogan said he hoped the conflict would be resolved peacefully, through dialogue based on diplomatic customs, in line with international laws and Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“Our main goal is that the Black Sea continues to be a sea of peace, tranquility and cooperation,” Erdogan said.

Zelenskyy said the views of Kyiv and Ankara coincided regarding the threats in the region and as well as responses to those threats.

Erdogan stressed that Turkey’s cooperation with Ukraine in the defence industry, which was the main item on the meeting’s agenda, was not a move against any third countries.

Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said Ukraine was purchasing Turkey’s military drones.

She also said that “new generation drones will be equipped with the Ukrainian engines”.

Regional tensions

Zelenskyy’s visit to Turkey comes amid renewed tensions in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014.

In a visit to troops there this week, Zelenskyy said breaches of a July truce were increasing.

Separatist authorities have also accused Ukrainian forces of violating the ceasefire.

Russia has reinforced its troops along the border and warned Ukraine against trying to retake control of the separatist-controlled territory.

Kyiv rejects that it is preparing for an offensive. The Russian military buildup has raised concerns in the United States and Europe.

The Turkish and Russian presidents spoke on the phone on Friday. Among the issues discussed was Ukraine.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin expressed concern that Ukraine “recently resumed dangerous provocations on the contact line”.

Turkey is a NATO member. But Erdogan and Putin have forged a close personal relationship, sealing energy and trade deals.

They have also negotiated for opposing sides in conflicts, including Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Erdogan’s office also said he would discuss with Zelenskyy the living conditions of Crimean Tatars, who have ethnic links to Turks. Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

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Libya kicks off delayed COVID-19 vaccination drive | Coronavirus pandemic News




Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah receives shot on live television, urges Libyans to register online for their own vaccinations.

Libya has launched its delayed COVID-19 vaccination drive, with Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, prime minister of the country’s new unity government, getting his shot on live television.

Officially, Libya has registered a total of about 167,000 coronavirus cases, including more than 2,800 deaths, out of a population of seven million. Its healthcare system has struggled to cope during the pandemic, strained by years of political turmoil and violence.

After the vaccination of Dbeibah on Saturday at the headquarters of Libya’s Centre for Disease Control on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli, Health Minister Ali al-Zenati was next to receive a jab.

Libya has so far received 200,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, alongside more than 57,600 AstraZeneca shots, the latter delivered through the COVAX programme for lower and middle-income countries.

Dbeibah urged fellow citizens to register online for their own vaccinations. He has earmarked the vaccination campaign as a policy priority, alleging that the delivery of the shots was hindered by outgoing authorities.

“The arrival of vaccines has been delayed by political, not financial, considerations,” he said.

Dbeibah’s interim Government of National Unity was sworn in last month [Mahmud Turkia/AFP]

Dbeibah was selected earlier this year through a United Nations-sponsored Libyan dialogue to lead the country to national elections in December.

His government replaces two warring administrations based in Tripoli and the country’s east, the latter loyal to renegade military commander Khalifa Hafar. The rival authorities have given their backing to the new administration, adding to tentative hopes that Libya can exit a decade of crisis.

‘Better late than never’

The World Health Organization said on Thursday that two new variants of the coronavirus are present in Libya, which has lately been detecting about 1,000 new daily infections.

No lockdown measures are currently in place, and while masks are obligatory in public places, the measure is widely flouted.

“I feel sorry that the vaccine arrived late in Libya after thousands were infected. But better late than never,” shop owner Ali al-Hadi told Reuters news agency, adding that his wife had been sick with COVID-19 and recovered.

Many Libyans fear the vaccination campaign could be marred by political infighting or favouritism after years of unrest.

“We hope the health ministry will steer away from political conflicts so that services can reach patients,” said housewife Khawla Muhammad, 33.

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