This session titled “Digital Justice in the MENA region” is part of a series of five webinars organized by the Political Feminism and Gender Office at FES between the months of June-August 2022, which brought together guest speakers, feminist activists and experts from the region to reflect on and provide feminist recommendations and alternatives to the post-Covid era. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Nagla Rizk, Founding Director of the Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D), and included the following panelists:
A sneak peek into the session: Women constitute the most vulnerable group in society when it comes to technology. Women have indeed less access to the digital world, especially in the MENA region, where around 50% of women have never used a digital device.
According to panelists, the digital sphere in the MENA region is largely dominated by big tech companies with capitalist strategies that are unfair and exploitative to vulnerable groups, including women and people of color. Social barriers also hinder accessibility in the region, as some countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt recently jailed young women for content posted on social media that doesn’t align with “traditional” family values. Gender-based violence and harassment in the digital sphere reflect analogue realities on the matter with the ongoing passiveness from social media companies towards user complaints on online sexism and sexual harassment.
As for panelists’ recommendations, the first targeted policy action in digital safety including investing resources in advocacy, producing counternarratives to the patriarchal digital world. The second targeted feminist collectives and coalition-building, and included fostering supportive women’s collectives and environments, and the third set of recommendations targeted patriarchal capitalist markets, mainly through building strong cooperatives, as they represent a space for workers in the informal economy to broach concerns of their own care needs, whilst improving their working conditions. Finally, a notable general recommendation that extends beyond the digital sphere aimed for investing in social care infrastructure and social rights as it is the basis for models that can provide alternative and decent livelihoods for women.