Discussions focused on the vulnerability of women and activists online and offline
A webinar organized by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) has highlighted the experiences of women and feminist activists in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) when they engage in digital spaces.
The starting point for the discussion was a report recently published by Oxfam International titled “Claiming and Reclaiming the Digital World as a Public Space”. Drawing on in-depth interviews with young feminist activists around the MENA region, the report provides evidence of different cases of cyberbullying and online and offline violence related to women’s use of digital platforms during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Dr. Sophie Richter-Devroe, Associate Professor in the Middle Eastern Studies Department at CHSS, moderated the panel discussion on these and other insights from the report. Among the researchers and activists who contributed to the interactive webinar were Muna Abbas, Country Director of Plan International, Jordan; Lucille Griffon, Program Officer, Euromed Rights, Belgium; Hadeel Qazzaz, Regional Gender Coordinator, Oxfam International, MENA; and Hamideh Dorzadeh, student of the Master of Art program in Women, Society and Development.
The speakers discussed changes in digital practices and experiences during the global COVID-19 pandemic, tracing how these impact and challenge opportunities for women and feminist organizations in digital spaces. The discussions further amplified the importance of safety and rights, and speakers shared their regional knowledge on the interventions needed to address risks and remove obstacles.
Dr. Sophie Richter-Devroe, Associate Professor, HBKU, said: “The focus of the seminar gave CHSS a chance to be part of an important and nuanced conversation around digital safety. Some of the challenges may be particular to the circumstances of the pandemic, but they remind us of the need to raise awareness and prioritize safety. Debates on digital culture and activism are part of our curriculum and our interdisciplinary graduate programs at CHSS, enabling us to contribute to the discussion from a scholarly and an applied perspective.”
For more information on the work of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, please visit chss.hbku.edu.qa