Online spaces that bring advocates together and provide a safe feminist space are essential to the growing gender equality movement and supporting campaigns around the world. The internet is an important space for advocacy and connecting with other advocates. At Women Thrive Alliance, we provide our members with this access through our Alliance Online platform. In this space, we feature online capacity building courses, access to funding opportunities; it is an online community where Alliance members can share advocacy practices and tools, events, and can converse with other advocates around the world. The Alliance Online offers a space that many grassroots gender equality organizations would not have access to otherwise. The Alliance Online has proven to be an important resource for our members, and new Alliance member, Women for a Change, Cameroon (Wfac), has been using it to its fullest (when possible – see below) since they joined the Alliance in February 2017.
Wfac is based in Cameroon and is a feminist advocacy organization working with and for women and girls sexual and reproductive health and rights, leadership, and development. Since joining the Alliance, Wfac has been a regular user and contributor to the Alliance Online. They know all too well the importance of access to the internet (the first principle in the Feminist Principles of the Internet.) Wfac, based in the Anglophone region of Cameroon, has only recently recovered internet access this past April. The internet was cut off 17 January 2017 as a result of escalated political tensions between the government and the English-speaking population – 20 percent of the country.
The founder and director of Wfac, Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo-Wondieh, has been active on the platform since the internet has been back up and running. She regularly posts information for other advocates about events they are hosting, statements about advocacy campaigns, and others from her organization have been taking part in our online courses. Zoneziwoh explains that for her and Wfac:
The Alliance online space is an extension of a safe space for Wfac members and the women and girls who benefit from our activism and actions to share and exchange unique experiences and perspectives on gender equality issues. Wfac, being a feminist advocacy organisation, we are always happy to share grassroots experiences as well as learn from sisters working with policy makers and governments, strategies and techniques employed in advancing gender issues especially those related to sexual and reproductive health rights, in policy and programs.
The ‘safe space’ mentioned by Zoneziwoh is indeed what the Alliance Online has become for many Alliance members. They can connect to other members and have a space that is safe for them to talk about gender equality advocacy and development issues. Of the 150 Alliance members surveyed in our National SDG Scorecard, 27 percent have faced threats and harassment online because of their advocacy for gender equality, and 36 percent have suffered physical violence. This is why and according to the ICTs’ for Feminist Movement Building: Activist Toolkit, by the Association for Progressive Communications, Just Associates, and Women’s Net, “Activists around the world are making use of ICTs and the internet to inform and mobilize. ICTs have opened up new opportunities to mobilize in vast numbers, allowing us to link our struggles and share huge amounts of information.” The Alliance Online offers such solutions for our members.
For instance, since joining the Alliance Online, Wfac has been able to participate in nationally organized groups of Cameroonian women in the #AchieveSDG5 campaign and expand their national and global advocacy network. This resulted in Wfac holding a CSOs Forum, which brought together 70 civil society delegates and decision makers from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Lesotho to discuss the SDG National Development Plan. Through the Alliance Online, Zoneziwoh was able to share with other Alliance members the opportunity to attend the CSO Forum.
Zonziwoh told us that for her the Alliance Online is “a space for our advocates to meet and share and learn. As more advocates join and the community grows, there is more opportunity to connect and create campaigns and share advocacy strategies between organizations and across borders.” As the Alliance Online platform continues to grow, Women Thrive will continue to connect members and challenge the ways that traditional development is done.