Women, especially those in political spaces, often face a hostile online environment, enduring harassment, gendered hate speech, the spreading of disinformation, and even threats of violence. Recent surveys show online violence affects over 70% of women across the globe. However, even when there are legal protections in place, women typically encounter challenges, such as a lack of enforcement, that undermine their ability to seek and ultimately find justice.  

These barriers can drive women to self-censor, silence themselves altogether, or otherwise disengage to avoid abuse, potentially decreasing women’s participation in the public sphere both online and offline. Since a healthy democracy rests on all people’s ability to freely engage in meaningful, non-violent political expression, this phenomenon carries significant risks to the functioning of a democratic society. Though online violence against women (OVAW) may be the norm, it must not be seen as normal.  

To document, measure, and design evidence-based programming that addresses OVAW, the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS), of which IRI is a partner, developed a suite of research tools as part of its inclusive monitoring, evaluation, and learning (IMEL) resources. With data in hand, IRI and the other CEPPS partners will be able to prevent occurrences of OVAW, support survivors through a trauma-informed approach, and mitigate the harmful impact on the wider political system. 

The toolkit supports a mixed method research approach and includes a survey instrument, a key informant interview protocol, a focus group discussion guide, and additional resources to support the CEPPS partners in designing and implementing programming to combat online violence and bolster women’s political participation.  

CEPPS partners recognize that successful democracies are those that include all voices. Those of women are no exception. Through the launch of this new toolkit, IRI aims to combat OVAW by taking a systems approach that goes beyond just holding individual perpetrators accountable. By working with its partners on the ground, IRI can help develop a political environment that is truly inclusive. 

Together, IRI and its consortium partners are dedicated to eliminating threats to women’s political participation to create stronger democracies.  

To learn more about this work, please visit https://cepps.org/online-violence/ or click the video below. 

Preventing Online Violence Against Women to Build Inclusive Democracies.
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