SEVEN in 10 girls and young women living in the Philippines have experienced online harassment on social media, according to a recent study by girls’ rights organization Plan International (PI).
Released on Sunday, October 11, in celebration of the International Day of the Girl, the research, entitled “Free to be online? Girls’ and young women’s experiences of online harassment,” was based on a survey and in-depth interviews of over 14,000 girls aged 15-24 in 31 countries including the Philippines.
The study found that the majority of the girls in the country experience harassment frequently (50%) or very frequently (33%).
Eight out of 10 (67%), meanwhile, revealed that they were harassed by people they know.
“The high incidence of online violence against girls and young women is alarming. In this global pandemic and in an increasingly digital world, girls are more at risk than ever,” said Mona Mariano, PI Gender Specialist.
“We must understand that it may also impact girls’ lives offline. Experiencing harassment or abuse online may take a huge toll on a girl’s confidence and well-being,” she added.
The study also found that girls and young women who identified themselves as having at least one intersecting characteristic (being from an ethnic minority, identifying as LGBTIQ+ or living with a disability) are more vulnerable to online violence.
Most of the respondents said being online has become increasingly important during the pandemic as it acts as a lifeline for those often isolated at home, as well as a tool in keeping up with studies, but online violence and harassment has limited their freedom of expression.
“Online violence is disempowering girls. They’re being shut out of a space that plays an important part in fulfilling their potential to thrive and become leaders,” Mariano said.
In response, PI launched its #FreeToBeOnline global campaign which seeks to end online violence and uphold the digital rights and freedom of girls and young women.
PI’s campaign highlighted the important roles of governments, private sector especially technology and social media companies, civil society, and communities in recognizing the harm caused by online violence against girls and young women, promoting digital citizenship education, reporting abuse, crafting and implementing inclusive policies and laws, and amplifying girls’ voices.
“Everyone has a role to play in ending gender-based violence online. The government, social media companies, our families, and communities — and young people themselves — have enormous power and potential to stop this,” Mariano noted.