PESHAWAR: Speakers at a consultation on Tuesday called for the holding of awareness sessions and digital literacy programmes for community partners to control and prevent online harassment of people, especially women and children.

The event on digital safety for women and children was arranged by the Aawaz-II programme of the British Council in collaboration with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Commission on the Status of Women, the KP Ombudsperson for Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace, and the KP Child Protection and Welfare Commission in connection with the International Women’s Day.

Around 80 social activists from Swabi, Haripur, Swat, Battagram, Mansehra, Mardan, Charsadda, Kohat and Peshawar districts attended the consultation, where officials of the social welfare and women’s empowerment department, the Federal Investigation Agency (Network Security), the KP Child Protection and Welfare Commission, and the KP Ombudsperson for Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace also showed up.

The organisers said in a statement that the event was meant to promote safer online spaces for women and children by increasing awareness of online gender-based violence, including its types and trends.

Experts call for awareness sessions on prevention of online harassment

Discussions were held on how to respond to and report online GBV, raise public awareness of government regulations and protection mechanisms, and explore the role of Aawaz-II community structures and activists in preventing online GBV.

Rashida Dohad of the Omar Asghar Khan Foundation said the Aawaz-II programme was striving to tackle discriminatory gender norms in KP and Punjab provinces.

She highlighted the significance of the event, which was linked to the International Women’s Day with the theme of “digital innovation and technology for gender equality.”

Provincial Ombudsperson for Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Rukhshanda Naz underscored the importance of cost-effective technology, including mobile devices, to enable women to file cases online while staying home.

She said the use of technology had provided women with means to fearlessly report harassment to the ombudsperson through mobile phones.

Ms Naz said it was observed during the Covid-19 pandemic that women’s phone numbers were stolen from databases resulting in their online harassment.

She said committees were formed in institutions to address the issue.

Deputy chief of the KP Child Protection and Welfare Commission Ijaz Khan highlighted the importance of the use of mobile devices while keeping safety measures in mind.

He suggested the holding of awareness sessions to address online harassment.

The organisers said the Aawaz-II programme of the British Council was being implemented in selected districts of KP and Punjab with support from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to promote the rights of children, women, youth and other marginalised groups to facilitate their development.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2023

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