Invitation to a conversation on Violence Against Women online: Presence, Problems and Solutions

Image courtesy of

As part of unpacking the annually commemorated 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, the Coalition of African Lesbians [CAL], in partnership with the Association for Progressive Communications [APC] would like to host a day-long conversation and awareness raising platform. The engagement will be looking into violence against women online and investigating the occurrence of this violence, the recognition of cyber violence as violence by society and what the legal environment provides, in terms of protection and recourse, for women who experience violence online.

Information about violence that women experience online is not popular or public. But yet so many women are harassed, trolled and intimidated in various online spaces in South Africa. Various media outlets have resolved to altogether do away with the comment sections of their websites because many aggressions and violent expressions are carried out in online spaces.

The same misogyny that is experienced offline plays out online, and women are targeted in deliberate attacks as people who honestly and fearlessly express themselves, for various reasons and across varied online platforms. The many experiences of women’s online violence goes largely ignored, with many people, even within social justice structures working to end violence experienced by women not recognizing this as ‘real’ violence.

This day’s conversation will attempt to cover the following:

  • Awareness: we hope to invite various stakeholders to assess the extent of our knowledge on online violence experienced by women. Through this process, we hope to gauge whether there is enough awareness about online violence, what it looks like, and also to investigate how violence online presents itself.
  • Sharing or experiences and examples: we hope to create a safe space for women to speak about our experiences of violence online, and how/if we responded to this violence.
  • Legal environment: we hope to look at the legal environment in South Africa with regards to cyber-crime, and whether violence against women online is recognised by law enforcement and what provisions exist for women seeking recourse.
  • Initiatives and examples that work: we hope to look into countries inside and outside Africa that have taken steps to protect or prevent violence against women online, as well as have provided avenues for recourse for women who report online violence.
  • Recommendations: we hope to draft a document that has recommendations for action for the various stakeholders present. These recommendations will be shared wide with the various stakeholders that affect and are affected by the occurrence of online violence.

To make this conversation as rich, informative and inclusive as we intend to make it, we would very much appreciate your participation.

Please indicate if you are available to take part in this which is taking place on Thursday, 3 December 2015.

Once you confirm we will be sure to share logistical information for this event.

If you cannot participate physically, you can Skype in for the conversation, or follow @CALAdvocacy on twitter for daily updates of the event, but please RSVP so that we know who will be there!

Please send your RSVP to, who is also copied in on this email.

Looking forward to a yes and starting an important and exciting conversation!


Coalition of African Lesbians


The countdown has began! The General Assembly and Feminist Leadership Institute of the Coalition of African Lesbians is 6 days away!

Vinyl Sticker-I Am Ralf

From the 24th to the 28th of August 2015, activists, community mobilizers, thought leaders, feminists, feminist allies, women, people non-conforming in their gender identities and sexual orientations will gather to reflect, to envision, to dream and to celebrate ten years of radical, African, lesbian feminist activism.

For these five days, a collective of radical African women will share, exchange, teach, listen and engage with each other, looking back at the last ten years of CAL work, and reflecting on the gains and lessons learned from the last CAL General Assembly held in Maputo in 2008.

It will be a space of gentleness, of growth, of sisterhood and of radical feminist births and re-births.

The theme for this year’s General Assembly is : Radical. African. Lesbian Feminist.  [R]evolutionary! and the theme for the Feminist Leadership Institute is : Reigniting the Feminist Flame!

Look out here and on out social media spaces: Facebook: and Twitter: for regular updates on the sharing and the learning taking place.

Tweet to us using the hashtag #CALGA2015.

Imagining an African Internet: Dialogue with civil society at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights


Plenary session at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in Banjul, The Gambia


On the last day and the last session of the NGO Forum of the 56th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights [AcMHPR], CAL, with support from the Association for Progressive Communications [APC], hosted a side event.

It was a daring time to choose to host this conversation, but posters were put up and people were invited to take part in a conversation that had never take part at the AcMHPR, Internet Governance in Africa and how we imagine and African Internet. Titled, ‘Imagining an African Internet: what do we know about Internet governance in Africa?’.

The side event, which takes place outside ongoing plenary reporting sessions at the NGO Forum, aimed to collect diverse voices from women and men working on or interested in Internet governance issues, as well as to gauge where activists are in our knowledge and interactions with the Internet directly, and it’s governance indirectly.

To our surprise, the room slowly filled up as nearly 20 mostly women and some men showed up to participate and contribute to this conversation. Present were activists and human rights defenders from Senegal, Cameroun, South Africa, Mali, Ethiopia, Kenya, Gambia, Tanzania, Algeria and Mauritania. This was great because despite the seemingly small number of attendees, it was representative of the geographical diversity of Africa, with North, West, East, South and Central Africa represented in this space.

Despite the challenge that language offers in spaces with such geographical representation, some of the people attending offered to translate between French and English for the Francophone speakers in the room. The discussion started on a general note-with the CAL facilitator finding out from the participants what and how we use the internet. it emerged that the internet is a central part in all our work, and is a space for connection of people across socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and contexts.

It emerged that for many human rights defenders and activists the internet was considered a relatively safe space for engaging with each other, but also for accessing information that isn’t always readily accessible. At the same time, the internet is a space that many other people use to act out violence against women, as well as queer and gender non-conforming people. Participants from all the countries had stories as first hand experiences or encounters they had come across to share about this kind of violence.

This conversation then led us to unpacking briefly, the Feminist Principles of the Internet, a working document produced by APC and allies, which aims to give feminists and non-feminists a reference document for identifying, confronting and addressing violence against women online. The participants felt that it was a document that they could work with and looked forward to engaging more with it in the future.

We also managed to engage with the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms. By unpacking and discussing the African Declaration, the participants managed to confront censorship, access and interference of State when it came to their interactions ad experiences with the Internet. Access came up as an issue, and regulation of access by states, whether by pricing the Internet out for rich for a majority rural and/or working class Africans. There were also a few conversations happening that spoke to ‘spy bills’ and ‘surveillance bills’ being passed in countries like Kenya, without the involvement of civil society, and which impacted the accessibility of certain content online.

All in all, it was nearly two and a half hours of surveying the context and space with regard to the Internet, and where we ourselves as activists who work not only with, but for the freeing of the Internet. The atmosphere was one of hope, and activists said that they felt the time was ripe for activism around and involving the use, representation, access and governance of the Internet to also be more present at the AcHMPR.

Sheena Magenya

What does feminism mean to you? Yes-YOU.

We can never tire of talking about feminism, and indeed we never should. Every time we ask this question-we get different answers, and the different answers give us more things to think about in the ever evolving understanding and application of what feminism means to us. In the recently concluded CAL Southern Africa Planning and Skills-building Workshop, we asked some participants what feminism means to them.

What does feminism mean to you? Share your thoughts.


Feminism for me is change. It can be change from anything to anything else. A lot of people explain feminism as moving away from patriarchy or competing against patriarchal systems. However, I feel that sometimes you can actually use patriarchal systems to your advantage as long as you bring about the desired change that you so wish for.



For me, as a lesbian, feminism is challenging the law, challenging what is prescribed for me, challenging the system, challenging what is seen. It’s about finding out what works for me, what fits me. It’s also about the consciousness: feminism creates a consciousness within me of owning anything I engage in, owning and understanding it so as not to be a follower.



When you look at our position in society, as women – and when I’m saying women I’m using that term really consciously because it can incorporate many other aspects of womanhood; womanhood is not just one thing. When you look at our position as women in society, after so many years of being here, of existing, of being present, we haven’t even come close to addressing the challenges we’ve faced since the beginning of time. But feminism creates a space for people to engage with the relevant issues. You know, everyone has to look at what we are creating for the next generation. Look at what we’re doing now: it’s not as if we’re started something new – feminism has been around forever – but now more than ever we need to claim those spaces and we need to talk about things that are relevant to our realities today and to address those issues with the resources that we have. And when I say resources I don’t need money, I mean relationship amongst each other and so on. It’s about being there, being present, taking charge.



Feminism means being aware of me, of the oppression around my life. For me, it’s opening my eyes to how my power is taken away from me at different moments and how I may be do that to people as well, being conscious of that and trying to change that. So maybe not looking at the big picture and all the scary, huge things that people want to tackle, but just looking at how, for at the moment where I’m at, on that basis how I can start living differently, how I can start supporting practices that are empowering to myself and the people around me.