In celebration of the International Day of the Girl, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is working with the development and humanitarian organization Plan International Philippines on the #FreeToBeOnline campaign to ensure safer online spaces for girls and young women.
To kick off the partnership, DICT and Plan International Philippines held the annual #GirlsTakeover – an activity aimed at giving power to girls and young women all over the world to raise their voices, embrace leadership roles, and take over male-dominated positions and spaces.
The global #GirlsTakeover is a call to action for radical social and political change to tear down barriers of discrimination and prejudice that continue to hold girls back. From October 6 to 16, Plan International advocates took over the social media to share their experiences online and call on the government, tech companies, and civil society organizations to provide equal access and equal protection of girls and boys online.
In this year’s takeover held last October 29, Mau, a 17-year-old girl advocate from Southern Leyte, urged DICT to work with girls and young women as she presented recommendations toward a safer, more inclusive, and gender-responsive internet.
“Ninanais din namin na mas mapalakas pa ang mga reporting mechanisms sa iba’t ibang social media sites para mas mapapanagot pa natin ang mga perpetrators ng mga karahasang ito online [We demand stronger reporting mechanisms on social media so we can hold perpetrators of online violence to account.],” shared Mau during the signing ceremony.
“Sana ay mabigyan niyo rin kami ng pagkakataon na makilahok sa mga espasyo ng pagpapasya at paggawa ng desisyon at solusyon para malabanan ang karasahan online sa mga batang babae, lalong-lalo na sa pagbuo ng isang pambansang kampanya na naglalayong paigtingin ang Safe Spaces Act online [We also look forward to more opportunities wherein girls and young women can meaningfully participate in decision-making processes toward ending online violence, especially in developing a national campaign for implementing the Safe Spaces Act online.].”
Mau specifically recommended that the DICT work closely with telecom companies and mobile network service providers to improve connectivity and access to Internet, ensure that policies on Internet access are inclusive and gender-responsive, hold social media companies and other third-party platforms to account, and enable the effective implementation of laws and policies addressing online violence against all women and girls.
“To build safer and inclusive environments—whether online or offline—for girls and young women, we must listen more to what they have to say. It is part of our work to ensure that girls and young women get heard by decision-makers and duty-bearers, and that they get to claim their seats at the table,” says Ana Maria Locsin, Country Director of Plan International Philippines. “We are grateful that DICT listens and is willing to work with Plan International Philippines in building a safer internet where girls and young women can raise their voices, embrace their power, and become leaders without fear of being discriminated, harassed, or abused.”
In response, the DICT and Plan International Philippines signed a commitment letter to mark a strengthened
partnership towards protecting girls' and women’s digital rights and freedom through the implementation of the #FreeToBeOnline campaign and the Safe Spaces Act. The DICT and Plan International Philippines also committed to giving girls and young women more avenues to participate in the formulation of DICT laws, policies, and issuances, as well as the development of a national campaign for safer online spaces.
“In today’s ceremony, we heard the voices of Filipino girls and young women through Mau and Jessabel. Rest assured that the DICT will continue to do its best in ensuring the security and protection of girls and young women online, especially in our present situation where girls and young women, and all Filipinos in general, have become even more vulnerable with the increased dependence and exposure to ICT. Likewise, the DICT will continue implementing and further developing programs, projects, initiatives and policies towards our vision of a connected, more inclusive, digital Philippines,” Manuel Anthony S. Tan, DICT’s OIC Undersecretary and Chairperson of the GAD Focal Point System, stated.
Plan International launched its #FreeToBeOnline campaign to advocate for a safer Internet through partnerships and collaborations with relevant government agencies, social media and tech companies, civil society organizations, and girls and young women. The campaign is in response to the State of the World’s Girls (SOTWG) Report 2020 – a research conducted by Plan International across 31 countries with over 14,000 girls and young women.
According to the report, online abuse is silencing girls’ voices. More than 50% of girls surveyed from around the world have been harassed and abused online. Further, one in four of the girls abused online feels physically unsafe.
In the Philippines, the report’s findings show that seven in ten girls and young women have experienced harassment on social media; eight out of ten have received threats of sexual violence online, and more than half are harassed online by people they know. The report also states that girls and young women with intersecting identities are more vulnerable to online harassment.