Google partners with KeWoPa to tame online harassment of female politicians during elections




Google has announced a partnership with the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) that will see women politicians equipped with online safety tools and skills that will help them mitigate the impact of online trolls and  cyber-bullying. Google has released the code for a free tool, Harassment Manager, that allows people more vulnerable to online attacks, such as journalists and women leaders, to document and manage online abuse targeted at them on social media, starting with Twitter.

Speaking in Nairobi, Google Eastern Africa Country Director, Agnes Gathaiya, said Google will collaborate with the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) to train women legislators and female aspirants on online safety tools thereby empowering them to combat gender-based violence. The training, delivered through the #IamRemarkable program, is also aimed at combating gender-based violence and empowering women to overcome social and cultural barriers and speak openly about their accomplishments.

(TOP: Google Eastern Africa Country Director, Agnes Gathaiya, speaks at the Google-KeWoPa forum in Nairobi).

“Google cares deeply about gender equity and diversity. Through our collaboration with the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association, we are able to make programs such as #IamRemarkable and Digital Skills for Women contribute to restoring the gender gap in social and economic opportunity,” Ms Gathaiya said during the Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Google/KEWOPA Training workshop.

KEWOPA chairperson, Gathoni Wamuchomba, while addressing the forum virtually, welcomed the training and said: “Violence against women is a serious problem and women leaders disproportionately deal with online toxicity. KEWOPA is collaborating with Google in the use of technology and training to empower women legislators against online violence.”

In attendance at the forum (which was streamed live) were Tecla Tum, the Women representative for Nandi County; Dennitah Ghati, the ODM nominated MP for People with Disabilities; Alice Wahome, MP, Kandara constituency; Esther Passaris, the Women representative, Nairobi County; Halima Mucheke, Nominated MP, Meru County; Jerusha Momanyi Mong’ina, MP, Nyamira Constituency; Charity Kathambi Chepkwony, MP, Njoro Constituency; Irene Kasalu, Women representative, Kitui County; and Edith Nyenze, MP, Kitui West Constituency.

Michael Murungi, Google’s Government Affairs and Public Policy Lead for Eastern Africa, said that #IAmRemarkable was started as an internal Google initiative to empower the firm’s female employees to challenge social and cultural restrictions against women speaking publicly about their accomplishments.

“But because it was so good, based on Google being a part of and working with the communities within which we operate, we thought that we should take it to the broader community in Kenya and other countries where we’ve offices. And in Kenya, the natural choice was KeWoPa as it’s a neutral platform that engages women from all political divides who’re members of parliament both at the National Assembly and Senate to drive gender inclusion and diversity in the country,” said Murungi.

Since the partnership between Google Kenya and KeWoPa was unveiled in September 2021, during the global #IamRemarkable week celebrations, the collaboration has recorded a number of successes. This includes the inaugural forum with KeWoPa members held in Nairobi which was attended by 11 members of parliament. The partnership has also led to the development of a program of collaboration which has given birth to the development of a YouTube channel for KeWoPa, managed by the association’s secretariat.

It has also seen the launch of #HeshimuDada, a campaign calling for peace and non-violence during the election season, particularly politically motivated violence against women.

The training, sponsored by Google, uses art, culture and media to promote positive social transformation and will be facilitated by Siasa Place, an NGO that works on creating an enabling environment for women and youth mainstreaming them into Kenya’s body-politics.

The tool, Harassment Manager, reviews tweets based on hashtag, username, keyword or date enabling users to detect toxic and harmful comments and mute or block perpetrators of harassment and hide harassing replies to their own tweets.

According to UN Women, violence against women is a serious problem and women in the public limelight disproportionately deal with online toxicity. When women and girls have access to the internet, they face online violence more often than men through a continuum of multiple, recurring, and interrelated forms of gender-based threats. During the 2017 elections in Kenya, female candidates were many times more likely to be the victims of online and offline abuse than their male counterparts.

The association also launched its YouTube Channel that will be a repository for speeches, parliamentary presentations among other events where women are actively taking part in to champion their causes.

The Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA)  is a membership association of all women parliamentarians drawn from across all political parties both elected and nominated in the Kenya’s Senate and National Assembly. KEWOPA has a current membership of 96. KEWOPA’s mission is to strengthen the participation of women in all spheres through capacity development, partnership building and strategic community engagement.

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