Through social media, women have a new space to speak up and be heard. With its power to encourage solidarity and collect shared experiences, social media has become a new frontier for women’s rights activists to organize and allies to join the fight for equality and justice. From politicians and lawmakers to farmers and small business owners, conversations are connecting women around the world so they can support one another in the push for gender equality.
On Social Media Day (30 June) we’re celebrating women and men who are leading action in online spaces and using the power of social media for good.
Tarana Burke founded the #MeToo movement to create a platform for girls with similar experiences to connect with one another in a safe space. In 2017, a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano sparked a global deluge of disclosures and solidarity from women who had been silent about their experiences of sexual assault.
Since then, #MeToo has spread across the globe and crossed racial, economic and other boundaries.
In France, it echoed with the hashtag #BalanceTonPorc, in Italy with #QuellaVoltaChe, in Turkey with #SendeAnlat, across the Arab States with #AnaKaman, in China with #RiceBunny, in Spain with #Cuentalo, and so on… Over time, the digital campaign contributed to real-life results as perpetrators faced justice, companies adjusted their policies, and people all over the world started having conversations on consent and ending sexual harassment.
As #MeToo gained global attention, Monica Ramirez, president of the Alianza Nacional de Campesinasto, an organization that seeks to end the exploitation of women farmworkers in the United States of America, penned an open letter of solidarity to women in Hollywood who had come forward with their experiences. From the unlikely alliance, the #TimesUp movement was born, using the loudest voices in service of the most marginalized, and creating unity to break the silence around sexual harassment, end gender discrimination and fight for gender equality.
“Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) started with a group of journalists and writers that got fed up with the daily news about murdered women that were shown in a sweeping manner and were received with great passiveness,” according to one of the founders of the movement, Vanina Escales.
While the campaign against gender-based violence, especially femicide, started in 2015 as a protest by a collective of artists, journalists and academics in Argentina, it quickly spread across Latin America and has grown into a feminist alliance.
“In 2015, Ni Una Menos meant ‘never again’ for women. With a simple, clear and common language, we said not one less (ni una menos). We welcomed all [people] to join… It was a massive demonstration that moved the social structures of the country. Today, and more so since 2015, there is a new social pact, ‘Not Without Us’. There cannot be a social pact without us. “
In 2014, Actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson invited men to join the movement for gender equality by taking part in the #HeForShe campaign. Since the launch, men and women around the world have used #HeForShe to declare their commitment to end gender discrimination and to invite others to join the movement.
Every year, from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November to Human Rights Day on 10 December, we commemorate the 16 Days of Action of Gender-Based Violence by calling on the global community to #OrangeTheWorld.
From lighting buildings and landmarks in orange and hosting events decked in the color, we call on everyone around the world to take action to raise awareness and prevent violence against women and girls.
In April 2014, 276 teenage girls in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria were abducted from their school hostel by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Parents and community members took to social media, sparking outrage around the world and creating the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. While more than 100 of the kidnapped girls have been found or released, many remain missing. Bring Back Our Girls has become a lasting movement in Nigeria, where it has expanded to include calls for action around many human rights abuses, such as other kidnappings and killings, as well as action for safety and security, healthcare and economic reform.
In spring 2012, author Laura Bates set up a website called “The Everyday Sexism Project” to catalogue instances of sexism that women experience on a daily basis. The aim of the project was to encourage women to share their stories of sexism, no matter how minor they may seem, and expose the stark reality to the world that sexism is very much alive and widespread, and mostly so normalized within our societies that we don’t even protest most of the time. When the project became a hashtag, the conversation became global and unstoppable.
The backlash filled with hateful comments and abusive reactions were as strong as the testimonials from women. But, even in the face of the negative responses, women’s strength and resilience shone through.
A series of ads, developed as a creative idea for UN Women by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai in 2013, used genuine Google searches to reveal the widespread prevalence of sexism and discrimination against women. Based on searches dated 9 March, 2013, the ads exposed negative sentiments ranging from stereotyping as well as outright denial of women’s rights.
Confirming the urgent need to continue making the case for women’s rights, empowerment and equality, the hashtag #WomenShould exploded across social media and generated worldwide discussion.
On 23 May 2014, a man killed six people and then himself, leaving behind a manifesto in which he stated that the reason was because he wanted to punish women for rejecting him and he envied attractive men who could accomplish things he couldn’t. In the days that followed this terrible event, social media became not only a space where people of all genders expressed their horror and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones, but also a space for serious conversations about sexual harassment, rape and misogyny.
While at first the conversation was about how “#NotAllMen are like that,” it soon grew as a counter-testimony with the hashtag #YesAllWomen, highlighting how the aforementioned crime was the result of a culture of misogyny, sustained by toxic attitudes that surround all of us, subtly reinforcing the patriarchal ideas of alpha masculinity and submissive femininity.
Today, some 30 per cent of women worldwide who have ever been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner over their lifetime. Choosing to leave and leaving an abusive relationship is a complicated process rather than an instant event. That’s exactly what writer Beverly Gooden wanted to explain in November 2014 when she shared her story of domestic violence with #WhyIStayed, in reaction to people who were questioning why women don’t “just leave” if they are survivors of domestic abuse.
She then asked her followers to share their experiences using #WhyIStayed, and soon the hashtag became a movement, raising awareness about the ugly power dynamics of domestic abuse, shedding light on experiences of survivors and creating a community of support.
When women across India were outraged and fed up with victim-blaming in cases of sexual harassment and sexist comments, they wanted to channel their anger into action, so they turned to social media to organize. Through the hashtag #IWillGoOut, like-minded individuals started to connect, and soon the conversation echoed on the streets with the nationwide #IWillGoOut march that mobilized and brought together women from all walks of life to protest sexual harassment and gender inequality in India.
After the protests were over, activists turned back to social media channels to continue the conversation, which evolved into monthly meetings to lobby for policies that would advance gender equality and safeguard women’s rights.
In 2020, we’ll be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action with a new campaign,“Generation Equality: Realizing women’s rights for an equal future”. We’ll be calling on everyone, to take up the unfinished business of the Beijing Declaration and demand equality now. Show your support using #GenerationEquality on social media!