Our response to the US leaving the UN Human Rights Council the day before an important session

President Trump has announced the United States will leave the United Nations Human Rights Council a day before the 38th Human Rights Council session on the human rights of women.

We agree with Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General “while the Human Rights Council is by no means perfect and its membership is frequently under scrutiny, it remains an important force for accountability and justice.”

Two panel discussions have been scheduled for 38th Human Rights Council session, The impact of violence against women human rights defenders and women’s organizations in digital spaces and  Advancing women’s rights through access and participation in information and communication technologies.

We agree with the statements shared by the United Human Rights Council, diplomats and nation leaders around the world. However we hope this announcement does not dominate, overshadow nor derail from the important work to be discussed this week. We share solidarity with all US Civil Society groups that will be affected by this announcement and those attending the 38th Human Rights Council session.

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Heroism is not a leadership model social movements should adopt

Heroism within social justice campaign movements is an entrenched ideology and leadership model my generation seems to have unconsciously inherited from male-led and male dominated campaigns. We urgently need to rethink this model as the only way to campaign and to lead. If we are going to make any real impact in our lifetime we must move to a coalition model of diverse leaders.

It is important to appreciate and celebrate bravery an remarkable activism, (but can we stop celebrating people doing basic anti-racist or anti-sexist activism please). The heroism I’m referring to is centering all activity around one person and placing them on a platform which means behaviour or actions can ever be questioned let alone challenged.

Of course calling for a coalition of leaders is easier said than done but it can be achieved. We’ve seen this with the diverse co-founders of Black Lives Matter, #Metoo in America and to some extent with March For Our Lives. Diversity of thought and perspective is invaluable to an an organisation, therefore the opposite, Groupthink can be disastrous.

Social movements, particularly feminist and anti-racist movements, shouldn’t have one face but a multiple diverse faces and experiences. I understand that to grow movements you need an authentic and compelling story or a triggering event. I’ve reluctantly learnt this through setting up Glitch!UK. I am continuously forced to share my story and be the face of Glitch!UK in order to open doors of opportunity and profile our work. However, I do not want to become the brand, I pulled together an diverse interim board of Trustees and I’m adamant to amplify other stories with the little platform we have. I am also committed to continue working in partnerships with like-minded organisation, this is a key value of our organisation.

It is human nature to want to be loved and adored and the way we are wired as human beings means it can be extremely addicting. If for example, you’re an individual, celebrity, social media star or socialite it’s acceptable to be in the headlines and the story be all about you. However, if an individual has committed themselves to championing a cause, a cause wider than them, then the ego must be checked on a frequent basis. A coalition of leadership will go some way in providing accountability and implementing checks and balances. If a leader is not willing to share their platform with other leaders or at least bring diversity to the decision making table then that itself is a warning sign. It’s a blemish of selfishness and ego that will grow and will be the cause of death of that movement sooner or later. If a leader or movement blocks any critique or questioning you’re not in a movement you’re in a cult.

I strongly recommend reading Black Leadership by Manning Marble. Here is one of my favourite lines:

“But it may be the measurement of our ability to achieve full redefinition of American’s democratic project if over time black Americans are able to move away from the charismatic, authoritarian leadership style and paternalistic organisations towards the goal of “group-centered leaders” and grassroots empowerment. In short, instead of leadership from above, democracy from below. The time for all voices to be heard is long overdue.”

Although, Black Leadership talks about Black American leaders the problems identified can be found within all movements, globally and locally. (I can even draw examples from the state of the Church but that’s for another article)

  1. Local Labour leadership in Newham came to an abrupt but necessary (and well overdue) earlier this year. The leadership model was based around one charismatic Scottish politician who for 23 years not only failed to share decision making power with diverse leaders but became even more powerful, stopping any public and political scrutiny of his leadership. The new local Labour leadership offers a group leadership type model with diverse cabinet members.  I strongly believe that is one of the key reasons why they (we) won. I really hope that they are able to genuinely and consistently deliver on this. This will involve making tough and unpopular decisions such as opening doors to groups that supported the old leadership.

2. Momentum and Progress. Both groups would reluctantly like to admit they have something in common. Both movements’ leadership model becoming increasingly based on one person rather than a group, ideology or set of policies. This is problematic because like I mentioned earlier NO ONE is perfect. Therefore both movements must quickly learn to take on board criticisms and in a transparent way, rather than shutting down questions or legitimate unhappiness with announcements and direction.

3. British Feminism. British Feminist movements are full of heroisms. Firstly, we should not adopt this style of behaviour and mirror this form of leadership from male-lead movements. Feminism should never be about one person. It should be a collective and if that collective is not diverse or diversity is an afterthought it is not feminism and that movement will be heavily criticised and will eventually fail. Feminists can and must work together in the spirit of sisterhood. Within the fight to end patriarchy and redistribute power there is plenty of room for common ground. As the late Jo Cox MP said in her maiden speech, “we have more in common than that which seeks to divide us.”

There is a responsibility as supporters of the cause and feminist to not fall into the trap of creating heroes too.

We must also take some responsibility by putting a stop placing unattainable expectations for one leader, expectations to have all the answers and be 100% perfect all the time. It is mission impossible. If we don’t press the abort button on this mission we will eventually and continuously be disappointed and become resentful. This will derail progress made and could quite possibly set back decades of hard work and achievements.

To be a woman calling out patriarchy and misogynoir on social media seems to be a :new thing”.  My advice is to use discernment to assess whether these women are genuinely for your cause or need a platform to profile themselves. While we must never condone bad behaviour, if the majority of your activism is about cancelling women and allies, which it is very easy to do on social media, for a reckless action that they are willing to learn from then we eventually run out of women leaders.

Why?

Because no one is perfect.

Recently I’ve been learning to not cancel EVERY body but instead call feminists in and give professional forgiveness. Obviously if rouge feminists refuse to listen and become a real threat to feminist movement and individuals then of course they should be cancelled.  Remember, great activists sometimes say and do bad things, and at the same time career, climbing activists can sometimes say the right thing and at times be on the right side of history.
Group leadership is more effective and sustainable than one single leader. Good leadership is open to sharing power, challenge and criticism, if you you’re not then I’m afraid you’re part of the problem. Supporters and members of movements must unlearn certain behaviours in order to quit idolising and /or cancelling every single human being, if you don’t then you’re too part of the problem.

 

 

Exciting news: Glitch!UK at the European Parliament

We are very excited to announce we will be holding our first two Glitch!UK events at the European Parliament, Strasbourg next week!
As part of European Youth Event 2018, on Friday 1st  June Glitch!UK will host it’s first interactive panel discussion* inside the European Parliament on the impact of online abuse and hate speech on democracy in Europe, and it will be chaired by our Founder Seyi Akiwowo. Panellist include Former Italian Minister for Integration and Member of European Parliament Cécile Kashetu Kyenge and Yentyl Williams, Founder and Director of Young Professionals Network. 
On Saturday 2nd June Glitch!UK deliver it’s first Combatting Online Abuse Activist Bootcamp to 100 young leaders from across Europe as part of the European Youth Forum’s Yo!Fest. This 90 mins workshop will be facilitated by our Founder Seyi Akiwowo and Catriona Graham, Policy and Campaigns Officer at European Women’s Lobby.
You can follow our adventure via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram #FixTheGlitch #EYE2018
The panel may be live streamed.

 

Council of Europe Notes Online Abuse in it’s Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2023

We welcome Council of Europe​’s points on online abuse and social media in it’s Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2023.

“Media and social media play an important role in our lives, particularly when used to share information and expand awareness of a wide range of issues. However, evidence also shows that social media in particular are subject to abusive use, and that women and girls are often confronted with violent and sexualised threats online.

Particular platforms acting as conveyers of sexist hate speech include social media or video games. Freedom of expression is often abused as an excuse to cover unacceptable and offensive behaviour.

In the same way as with other forms of violence against women, sexist hate speech remains under-reported, but its impact on women, whether emotional,psychological and/or physical can be devastating, especially for young girls and women.”

Read the full Strategy here

Million Women’s Rise March

Honoured to speak at Million Women Rise march last weekend. The energy in the air was indescribable. We march against male violence and patriarchy and we wear red in solidarity with survivors ❤
Below is a copy of my speech- we must challenge patriarchy and we must challenge those who do not exhibit good sisterhood

My name is Seyi Akiwowo, I founded Glitch!UK an advocacy, campaigning and training organisation that aims to end online abuse against women .

In February 2016 my life change, a video of a speech I made at the European Parliament went viral and I faced horrendous online abuse and harassment.

Online abuse is not about robust debate it’s about intentional harassment of women in order to force us to leave the online public space, to modify our behaviour and to submit patriarchy and to censor our voice.

There is an increasing number of attempts to silence women and diverse groups online through various forms abuse, ranging from but not limited to revenge porn, doxing, harassment and mob-style trolling. There was one young girl in the UK who was subjected to online abuse, body shaming and harassment because she said “I hate hummus”.

This is a glitch in our online world

This glitch is an increasing threat to democracy as women are being silenced in political discussion and expressing political beliefs.

It’s a glitch because  41%  of women survey in Amnesty International recent research said they feared for their physical safety.

It’s a glitch because 3/4 of women are censoring themselves

It’s a glitch because Women’s Aid research showed 48% of Domestic Violence survivors had been harassed or abused online by their ex-partner once they had left the relationship.

38% reported online stalking.

A further 45% were abused online during their relationship.

There is a significant problem with law enforcement across the world not taking reports of violence including online violence seriously.

Online abuse is a glitch in the online world that can and must be fixed

These are glitch that can be fixed if we moblise and put pressure on governments and social media companies to protect women online.

We must lobby for transparency and better self-regulation of all social media companies

We must lobby for legal reform and legal protection

This glitch can be fixed if we all make a commitment to be a good online citizen and an active by-stander online.

To end I’d like to share something my friend and activist, Zita Holbourne said to me on International Women’s Day.

We celebrate. We reflect. We challenge

We celebrate the amazing achievement all women have made, whether that’s being the “the first” or for creating women movements and campaigns.

We reflect. As much as we celebrate we must take a moment to think of all the women that cannot celebrate yet, who are being cut, trafficked, killed, bought, sold, exploited, undermined and ignored. There are women in the borough of the 2012 Olympics who with their family of small children are living on £34 a week!

We Challenge.  We challenge the institutional patriarchal and racist structure

We challenge imposter syndrome

We challenge our friends and family who need to be better allies

We call people in as well as call people out

We challenge those that do not exhibit good sisterhood – this week a woman ran a negative campaign calling out the first woman of colour mayoral candidate for not having children, we must challenge this division.

We challenge ourselves.

Warmest Thanks

‘ello! 

Happy New year! 

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and a well-deserved break. 

Four years ago, Forest Gate North branch took a chance on a young 21 year old Labour activist and not only selected me to be their Labour Councillor candidate, but embraced me as a member of a supportive and hardworking family. Then less than a year later Forest Gate North residents elected me as one of their ward Councillors . I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and building relationships with residents across the ward. I know it sounds cheesy but honestly, it has been a real privilege to represent you and make positive changes to the ward and borough I grew up in.

Today I have written to the Procedures Secretary of the Newham Labour selection process to withdraw from the panel as I am no longer seeking re-selection.  

It has been a humbling four years; I would especially like to thank Forest Gate North branch members and residents for supporting important campaigns and activities around youth safety, re-zoning of Maryland Station, helping set up a thriving community group in Maryland, regeneration of Thorogood Gardens and Muraland Public Arts project.

I also would like to say, it has been a pleasure working with all branch officers over the years. Thank you for helping to keep Forest Gate North an active and growing branch. I remember when our branch meetings were just about quorate and held in the smallest room, upstairs at Durning Hall. Door-knocking Sebert or Odessa Roads would take forever because there was a group of us. Now with a growing membership we’re in a much bigger meeting room, and out campaigning locally and in marginals as a big Labour squad #SquadGoals. From working with you all, I’ve learnt how important it is to champion the local Labour party, our message, and ensure that we not only have a presence locally but demonstrate good local leadership.

Thank you to Forest Gate North Safer Neighbourhood Police team, local housing associations, the Youth Zone, local businesses and Forest Gate Community Neighbourhood Officers. It’s been great (and fun) working in partnership with you.

Thank you to my colleagues on the council, especially members of Overview and Scrutiny over the years. We’ve produced really great recommendations, I’m particularly proud of our work on Domestic Violence.

Thank you to my lovely ward colleagues, past and present. Thank you, Rachel, Anam, and Ellie for all your encouragement, advice and grace. 

Once again, warmest thanks to all Forest Gate North residents for the life-changing opportunity, and I wish you all the best. 

Warmest wishes, 

Seyi x

Glitch!UK at UN IGF 2017: Combating Online Violence Against Politically Active Women

A few months ago I was invited to be on the National Democratic Institute’s panel at the United Nations Internet Governance Forum (shout out to Soraya for recommending me!)

Online violence against politically active women is an increasing threat to democracy particularly as we move political participation online, it deters young women aspiring to have a political career and attempts to silence women online.

Below is a copy of the speech I will be making tomorrow. You can watch via the IGF Live stream tomorrow, 2pm (UK time).

 Thank you National Democratic Institute for inviting me to be part of this brilliant panel and hosting a very important discussion on a growing problem for 21st Century society and democracy. If I may I would like to first touch on the Freedom of expression point.

 During our training workshops and events we are asked the same two questions “When does freedom of speech become hate speech?” and “Shouldn’t women expect robust debate in politics?”

For Glitch!UK the answer simple!

Online abuse is not about robust debate it’s about intentional harassment of women to get them to leave the internet particularly social media, modify their behaviour to please patriarchy and self-censorship.

There are some things that are just clearly hateful and do not belong in robust debate. Sending racist abuse, rape threats and sharing a video without someone’s consent are clear red lines. Once we tackle this, then we can turn our attention to the remarks that are not so clear cut.

Social media companies must respect and do more to protect the right of women and diverse groups to express themselves online.

Sadly, this is not happening.

Women aren’t allowed be free to express themselves, their opinion or even post a selfie. Women aren’t allowed be strong and confident in their opinion online and especially women of colour.

“Which STD will end your miserable life?”

“if all whites agreed that the best course of action would be to exterminate blacks, we could do it in a week.”

“This is why monkeys don’t belong here.”  “I hope you get lynched.”

These are just some of the many messages I received in storm of abuse and harassment earlier this year. This was some time after a video of me making an intervention at the European Parliament went viral. 

On one hand, the online world is merely a reflection of the state of our society; on the other hand the online world seems to be a comfortable place for those who know they cannot behave in such a way offline.

It is not just a video that attracts abuse or harassment

It’s a selfie with my head wrap and braids,

It’s proudly celebrating UK Black History Month,

When creating online events for people of colour to have a space to meet

Or when advocating for black people’s human rights to not be badly mistreated or die in police custody.  

My experience is sadly not uncommon and is an indication of how far society has to go to achieve true equality.  

There is an increasing number of attempts to silence women and diverse groups online through various forms abuse, ranging from but not limited to revenge porn, doxing, harassment and mob-style trolling. There was one young girl in the UK who was subjected to online abuse, body shaming and harassment because she said “I hate hummus”. 

Driving women out of public space is no new thing. But I agree with National Democratic Institute online abuse and harassment is a new challenge to democracy, digital inclusion, progress towards gender equality, as well as the integrity of the information space.

I cannot stand here without talking about Diane Abbott, the UK’s first black woman MP and current shadow Home secretary. Not only does Diane Abbott top the list of MPs for largest number of abusive tweets received, but she received ten times more abuse than any other woman MP.

Many women have contacted myself and Dianne Abbott telling us they are seriously re-thinking a career in politics because they see the abuse politicians that look similar to them receive.

So I founded Glitch! UK, an organisation aiming to end online hate speech and online violence against women and girls. The Cambridge Dictionary defines glitch as…

“a problem or fault that prevents something from being successful or working as well as it should”.

We believe this both sums up the current state of the internet and social media but is also a malfunction that can be fixed.

So Glitch! UK: Campaigns, Collaborates and Educates

We lobby social media companies and governments to do more to stop online abuse. We have developed a set of recommendations for social media platforms and deliver training workshops for young people, women who are in politics and those who aspire to have a career in public life.

We have 5 approaches to combating online violence which organisations and governments can also adopt and I’m happy to go in to some more detail during the Q&A..   

  1. Raise awareness of online abuse, that it is a growing problem and it’s has a culminate impact.
    • Amnesty International recently published a report on the impact of online abuse around the world. I’m proud to have been a media spokesperson for this report.
    • 23% of the women surveyed said they had experienced online abuse or harassment at least once.
    • 41% feared for their physical safety.
    • More than 3/4 of women made some changes to the way they use social media platformsas a result of online abuse.
  1. Increasing knowledge and understanding of rights online. 

FarGenetic Engineering for Dummies (11) too many women in politics are led to believe the misogyny and racist behavior online is part of the role.

  • What has proven effective so far is raising awareness of rights online and identifying ways social media companies can address online abuse Women feel more confident to identify and report abuse, they understand the glitches have joined the movement to end online violence.

 

3. Lobby for transparency, better self-regulation of all social media companies

4. There is a significant problem with law enforcement across the world not taking reports of online violence seriously.

  • I’m pleased that in April this year, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan launched the Online Hate Crime Hub. These key skills need to be shared with all police offices to help ensure women are not being prevented from reporting online abuse. 

    5. Training

    • For young people so they can better understand online abuse and how they can act as good online citizens
    • For those who work with young people so they can spot the signs – rather than just issuing bans on phones and websites in schools.
    • Training for women in politics and those aspiring to have career in public life.
    • We must train online tech companies and those developing apps and social media platforms. They must learn from the mistakes and glitches of current social media. 

As I draw to a close I’d like to talk about diversity and inclusion when combating online violence against women in politics.

When talking about the online abuse women and politically active women face we must be intersectional and look at women with multiple identities. I don’t just face misogyny I face racism too or as Academic Moya Bailey calls it

We need diversity within tech companies both of engineers and the moderators. When reporting online abuse users are faced with a very white male reporting system and response.

Finally, there is responsibility on women and men in politics to advocate and be inclusive of all women engaging with the online space. Yes these women are activists and politicians but they are also journalists, models, bloggers, mums, senior leaders in companies and the future generation. We must stand up for their right to be a woman online too.

Thank you for listening!

 

 

 

 

 

Is our blood not worth more than oil #LibyaSlaveTrade

Last Saturday my friends and I joined the protest against the Slave Trade in Libya. We kept repeating ourselves in such disbelief “I can’t believe we are protesting about *this* in 2017”. Despite the weather reaching 0 degrees at some points the turnout and solidarity  was warming. I will say this though, it was disappointing to see a real lack of diversity of people at the march. I’ve been on several marches, Black Lives Matter, Women’s March, Anti-Austerity and Student Fees and there was more diversity at those marches then on Saturday.  Why? Now this *could* be down to lack of awareness or promotion (gives side eye). If so, we should question why this modern day slavery is not in mainstream news. However, the turnout to me symbolising a lack of genuine allieship/ solidarity when it comes to black issues- black issues or slogans that aren’t as “cool” as #BlackLivesMatter.

Slavery in countries like Libya is not a black issue nor is it an African issue, it’s a global issue and there should be a global outcry.

This is why I’m so pleased to see the Libya Slave Trade petition to the UK Government exceeded the requirement to not only receive a formal response from the Government but for there to be a debate. There will be a Westminster Hall debate on Monday 18th 4:30pm.

I’ll be honest I wasn’t that impressed with Government’s response this morning. I may come back to this in another post. However, we have four days to put pressure on MPs, Minsters, political advisers to listen to our outcry.

Here is what you can do right now to ensure the debate at Westminster Hall is meaningful and will hold the UK Government to account:

   1. Write/tweet/email to your Member of Parliament asking them if they will be attending the debate on Monday.

I’ve spoke to my MP for West Ham who is intending to not only be at the debate but speak. Below is a template email you can send. Here’s how you can find out who your MP is.

   2. Ask your MP how they plan to keep the UK Government accountable. 

Those in stuck in slavery don’t need 650 MPs sharing how sad and disgusted they are. They need action and they need it now.

   3.  Attend the debate

Attend the debate on behalf of those we are advocating for. Let Parliament and the press know this is a huge issue, that we are watching and we want action. (I unfortunately will be in Geneva preparing to speak at the UN about online abuse but will be watching online and tweeting loads.)

 

Template email

(Shout out to a great friend of mine Audrey. We had a discussion about what we can do to support those stuck in slavery including writing to our MPs. Audrey  then sent a wicked (good wicked) email so I’ve based this template email on one sent on Sunday)

Dear [insert MPs name],

I hope you are well.

My name is ____ and I live ___ and I’m writing about the  recent coverage of the Libya slave trade.

Like many, I was shocked and upset to see the plight of many human beings that are being sold into a slave trade in 2017. I attended the recent demonstration march outside of the Libyan Embassy and was struck by how many people, just like me were disgusted by the treatment of human beings in Libya and wanted to do something.

I have since found out that there is a debate in parliament on the 18th December at 4.30pm and was hoping that you would be attending to stand up and condemn what is currently happening. I would also like to find out, in light of what is going on, what the British government will be doing to pressure the Libyan government to take action.

It is not lost on me, that as shocking as this new revelation is, modern slavery still very much exists all over the world and I would really like see this debate shine a light on this and more importantly what we as a nation are doing to safeguard the vulnerable and punish the employers that are profiting from this practice.

It would be great to have a further conversation about what your party are doing in particular to address modern slavery in the U.K.

I look forward to your response.

Kind regards

[Your name]

 

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