Al-Shyoukh is a town located in Hebron in the Southern West Bank. In Occupied Palestinian Territories one out of every three Palestinian women and girls are subjected to violence on social media¹, the Governorate of Hebron witnessed the highest rates related to blackmail of women and girls². As a result, many Palestinian women exercise self-censorship, which inhibits their digital rights as they are unable to use the internet freely³.It is within this context that the importance of the safety of Palestinian women and girls on the internet is becoming increasingly important.
Afnan at Taghyeer Organization working to promote the digital platforms (© Oxfam).
Afnan Halayqa is a 29-year-old woman from Al-Shyoukh town in Hebron. Afnan studied law at a local University; where she encountered cases of cybercrimes, and females involved ended up being victims of blackmailing.
These incidents led to my high engagement in this project, I wanted to have a space to call for change.
Afnan added that there is a negative coping mechanism practiced by women and girls’ survivors of cybercrimes in which they resort mainly to reducing their use of the internet:
I am saddened by this reality, I believe that the internet must serve as a space for Palestinian women and girls to grow and seek opportunities.
To address this issue, and following the capacity building trainings provided though the project on digital privacy and digital advocacy campaigning, Afnan along with her peers designed and implemented a local initiative in schools targeting teenage girls to increase their awareness on digital privacy. Afnan explained that the impact of these sessions was beyond her expectations:
I have become well known within my community that several schools in my Town reached out to me to conduct capacity building trainings to teachers on digital privacy! I cannot express to what extent this project increased my self-confidence.
Afnan with the Palestinian Minister of Tele-communication and Information Technology (© Oxfam).
Afnan has assumed an active role at a national level too through a campaign that targeted Palestinian telecommunication companies, lobbying for them to amend their policies in the field of digital privacy.
I have been actively involved in the campaign, through our efforts three internet service providers are offering their digital security program free of charge!
As part of the campaign, Afnan participated actively in a round table discussion with the Palestinian Minister of Tele Communication and Information Technology to lobby the ministry to adopt the changes achieved at the companies’ level:
In this meeting I felt that my voice is heard and I could make a difference!
Afnan is showing unprecedent commitment and is now a volunteering with Taghyeer Organization through the project led by Oxfam Solidarité and supported by the Wehubit programme of Enabel- one of the project partners, working to promote the digital platforms offered under the project mainly Mapping Her 4 - a platform that aims at mapping survivors of violence to raise awareness towards their rights, the platform is the first Palestinian data repository related to women and is connected with decision makers.
Through this project we enriched MappingHer in terms of cybercrime data as an emerging type of violence that needs specific consideration. I wish that I can be a role model for other young women in Hebron, so that together we can combat cybercrimes and have safer digital spaces for women and girls.