”16 Days of Activism, 16 Days of Stories.”
Watch our board member Elina Nikulainen’s video on safe and equal online spaces through Facebook EU Affairs’ campaign: https://fb.watch/27x-7XXqH1.
my name is Elina Nikulainen. I’m an intersectional feminist from Finland. I’ve been working on Gender Equality, Justice and the elimination of violence against women and girls for more than a decade in Europe, Asia and the Pacific.
Currently I lead the oldest Finnish feminist organization Naisasialiitto Unioni, which was established in 1892. As you can see from my background I am surrounded by the champions of fights past, such as the suffragets.
Having worked in many different continents, one thing that is painfully clear to me, is that we share the struggle for justice everywhere. The hurt women experience in the hands of their loved ones is dubbed the shadow pandemic for a reason. What seems clear from the reports we hear from women’s organizations and others working in anti-violence is that COVID 19 has exacerbated violence everywhere.
Now, One of my specialties has been focusing on the intersection of technology and violence against women and violence in online spaces. As our lives have moved even more to cyberspace during this pandemic, the need to ensure women’s and minorities safe and equal access to online spaces has become even more urgent. Violence has been and remains a way to control women and minorities and to ensure that power is not equally shared.
Women and girls are already being silenced by the amount of violence, harassment and hate they receive online. We also know that women of color for instance face multiple times more harassment and that other intersecting identities such as sexuality are targeted by perpetrators.
There is no silver bullet to solve the safety challenges of online spaces but let me share with you three key aspects:
1. Online violence needs to be taken seriously. We need online violence against women seen as part of the continuum of violence against women that has the same roots in misogyny. It has the same devastating impact as does offline violence and it often also spills to offline spaces. Many laws should be updated to include this and law enforcement must be trained to respond appropriately. In Finland, we still hear of belittling attitudes when women report online violence. Perpetrators of online violence must be held accountable, there must be consequences. Freedom of speech does not equal the right to harassment.
2. Social media platforms need to prioritize the prevention and response to violence. More funds need to be channeled to strengthening reporting mechanisms, for instance the reports of violence and harassment must be read by people speaking the local language AND who are trained in VAWG, incl. minorities. Hateful content should not be rewarded with visibility, the algorithms themselves need to be fixed.
3. Currently I am also a board member of the Finnish Feminist Masculinities organization Miehet ry. One of the reasons I wanted to be part of founding the organization is because offering online communities for men that are supportive and not based on misogyny or other types of hate is crucial in our efforts to keep the online environment safe. Men need also online connections that foster empathy and self-reflection. Now this need for connection is being fulfilled by many toxic options. In addition it is important for men to offer support and use their priviledge to address both structural and individual challenges women and minorities face online. Men need to be held accountable and they need to share collective responsibility in transforming masculinities into empathetic, responsible and accountable ways of living. We need men to take action, to be the change that we need to see in the world. This will not only help women and minorities, changing tight norms of what it means to be a man helps men themselves and makes their lives happier.
These three suggestions are some of the key ingredients we need for change.
The organization I am currently leading,
has been working for over a Century to ensure women’s equal participation in society. As we fought for suffrage and other legal change, we must now – a hundred years later – fight for equal participation online.
This is not only a question of women’s rights and minority rights, not only a question of living lives without the fear of violence,
this is a question of democracy
and a question of justice and
requires efforts from everyone
social media platforms
During these 16 days of action, I am asking you to indeed take action
with sufficient funds
to ensure online spaces are equal and safe for everyone.