Breaking the Silence: Ending online violence and abuse against women’s rights activists


Over the last thirty years women’s rights organisations, activists and feminists have used information and communication technologies, including the internet and social media, to access and share critical information on their rights, organise and mobilise for activism and engage in advocacy.

However, despite these benefits and potential to support women’s rights and movement-building globally, these new technologies have also created significant challenges for women’s rights organisations and movements, including the emergence of new forms of violence and abuse against women online.

This briefing aims to highlight women’s rights activists’ and feminists’ experiences of online violence and abuse across a number of Womankind’s focus countries, particularly Zimbabwe, Nepal and Kenya. It looks at the impact this abuse is having on women, particularly the psychological harm and distress it causes survivors and how the abuse is resulting in women self-censoring what they say online. It also looks at the support women receive from other feminists, the barriers they face in accessing justice and the effectiveness of responses from governments, law enforcement, and internet and social media companies.

It draws on new research resulting from a partnership between the School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) at the University of Leeds in the UK and Womankind, alongside existing research by Womankind partner LOOM Nepal and others working in the field of human rights and violence against women and girls. The survey and semi-structured interviews that informed this briefing were carried out by Bronwen Embleton for her final dissertation project on the MA Global Development programme in POLIS.

In the briefing Womankind set out a series of policy recommendations for state and non-state actors and call for a multi-stakeholder approach to eliminating online violence and abuse against women and countering the silencing of women online.


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