Gender Based Violence and the Internet

Date: December 7, 2010
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If you want to know about the Internet, talk to me. I live on the Internet.
– Claire Fabre, age 12

On 29 November, approximately 30 participants gathered at Gender Links to discuss GBV and the Internet. The diverse group primarily comprised of young people from Sacred Heart School in Observatory and the Khunumani Support Group in Soweto.

Simphiwe Shabalala began by talking about the work of Khunumani, which mainly consists of art and performance art. Jennifer Elle Lewis of the Gender and Media Diversity Centre reviewed MXit, Facebook, online trafficking and the recent Jules High School case. She discussed the various risks posed by the Internet and cell-phone technology.

Youth present were surprised to learn about these dangers and when asked, very few knew about Facebook privacy settings or the Jules High School incident.

However, some of the young people invited were incredibly Internet and IT savvy. Thando Hlatswayo, age 19, spoke about how he uses MXit for positive purposes through what he has learnt at the Khunumani Support Group. Claire Fabre, age 12, talked about how she loves the Internet and would never stop using it. She said, “If I want to see pictures of bunnies, I just type it into Google.” Claire also took note of a generation gap since her mother is not quite Internet literate.

Phil Groman, from Afroes: transformational games, demonstrated their interactive video game about child abuse, which was designed in tandem with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. The video game showed different scenarios of abuse. Each threat was cleverly disguised, at first not visible to the hero or heroine making his or her way through the online collision course.

Following the presentations and discussions, the audience continued the conversation through the Gender Links Cyber Dialogue platform. At the end of the day, the group did not want to leave. Many of the kids were already playing the Afroes video game and talking about online safety. Let’s hope they go forward and tell their peers about what they learned.

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