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Social Media can be a tool in support of conflict resolution

Empower women through hashtags – New ways to sustainable conflict Resolution? This was the central question of an interactive workshop during the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum on June 23, in Bonn.

Along with the participants, panelists from media, politics and NGOs discussed the potential of social media as a tool to actively involve women in the process of conflict prevention and resolution, as demanded by the landmark Resolution 1325 adopted by the member states of the United Nations Security Council 15 years ago.

“Social media enables women to tell their own stories”, said Leila Nachawati Rego, co-founder of the independent digital media platform SyriaUntold (Madrid). “Those stories are related to the civil society, close to the grassroots and beyond filters of the politics.”
However, “there is a gender divide in the field of information and communications technology, e.g. the low number of female participants online”, as Sopheap Chak, Executive Director of Cambodian Center for Human Rights (Phnom Penh) mentioned in a video message for the event. “It is a global issue that women still face gender-based discrimination.”

In respect of the violence against women online, Nachawati pointed out that “95 percent of hate speeches on the Internet are against women.” “Anonymity and encrypted communications are crucial to women using social media so that they can protect themselves”, she said at the panel discussion moderated by Jaafar Abdul-Karim, reporter and talk show host of Deutsche Welle and a HeForShe advocate of the German Committee of UN Women.

A further challenge, “the low literacy levels of female adults, especially in rural areas”, was identified by Wagaki Wischnewski, Public Information and Media Officer of UN Convention to Combat Desertification (Bonn). Therefore, “using traditional media tools, such as community radio, is equally important.”
“Social media can be a powerful tool for awareness raising, social mobilization and organizing”, said Beatrice Frey, Social Media Manager of UN Women (New York), stressing that “it won’t solve a conflict, but, if used effectively, it can be one tool among others in support of conflict resolution.”

To involve women in the process of conflict resolution, “a mixture of all ingredients, social media and traditional media alike, should be used”, said Jane Morrice, Vice President for Communication of European Economic and Social Committee (Brussels). “Using our voice is the key, we need to stand up and knock down the doors on all platforms”, Morrice concluded.

The workshop was hosted on behalf of the network Gender@International Bonn by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Deutsche Welle, United Nations Organizations in Bonn and UN Women National Committee Germany.

International partners and co-hosts

DW’s partners for the approximately 40 workshops and events being held at the 2015 Global Media Forum include, among others, Amnesty International, Grimme-Institut, the United Nations, the OSCE, Reporters Without Borders Germany and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The conference is co-hosted by the Foundation for International Dialogue of the Sparkasse Savings Bank in Bonn. Support is also kindly provided by Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the City of Bonn and the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

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