By Thandie Chadzandiyani
LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-A week ago, social media, especially Facebook, was buzzing for all the wrong reasons. The trending story was that of the South African musician Makhadzi, who was in the country and performed at the Sand Music Festival. One photograph of the artist on stage doing what she came here for, sent tongues wagging.
It is a story I wouldn’t want to go into detail describing because it is such a sad one for me and I hope for everyone who has ever been bullied online or offline.
What happened to Makhadzi happens to many girls and women in Malawi, both online and offline such that some girls have decided to stay away from digital media platforms for fear of being harshly judged and bullied because of the way they dress, their body type and what they post.
The true strength of social media is its influence. Whatever one posts, comments and shares, it has the power to influence others. If one posts about hate, there is a possibility that someone will be influenced to hate the person towards which the hate is directed and vice versa.
As the world celebrates the Day of the Girl Child which falls on October 11, there is a need for creating safe online spaces for girls and women because oftentimes, they are on the receiving end of cyber-bullying. The effect on one’s mental health is huge because this sort of bullying doesn’t necessarily stop when one logs off.
The online platforms, apart from connecting us to friends and family, are also useful tools for political expression, economic empowerment and development.
For the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us digital platforms are not just mere platforms for chit-chatting, but also learning. It is for this reason that governments and individuals should ensure that girls are free to be online without the fear of being bullied.
Cyber-bullying makes girls stop expressing themselves and withdraw from public conversations. It is easy to hide behind a computer screen and bully other than it is to do so face to face. The rule has always been that, if you cannot say it to the person’s face, don’t say it online.
Cyber-bullying alienates girls from important conversations online and sometimes offline because often it makes them lose their self-esteem. Online violence against girls creates an unequal environment where girls can express themselves and learn.
The digital revolution should be equal and not leave girls behind.