CIPE’s Center for Women’s Economic Empowerment (CWEE) advances gender equality in emerging markets to build more inclusive, thriving economies and democracies that deliver for all citizens. This briefer outlines how online gender-based violence and sexual harassment (GBVH) impacts women’s economic empowerment (WEE) as seen through CIPE’s work, lists some examples of CIPE programming, and presents areas of interest for future research, project, and policy exploration.
CIPE projects around the world engage women leaders, the private sector, and civil society partners in order to address the many cultural, social, and legal barriers that hinder women’s participation in the economy and society. A 2021 report by the World Health Organization highlighted the high global prevalence of GBVH, finding that one out of every three women globally will experience GBVH in her lifetime. The report also noted that as women interact more virtually, instances of online harassment have increased dramatically. This online abuse not only works to suppress the voices of women, but it also affects the safety and wellbeing of women offline.1 Oftentimes, online abuse is a direct manifestation of offline GBVH against women. Online abuse includes actions enabled by technological platforms and social media to attack, silence, and control women and girls. This type of abuse provides the harasser(s) with a level of anonymity, can cause widespread defamation, and seldom leads to consequences for the harasser(s).
Why Online GBVH Matters for Women’s Economic Empowerment
Empowering women economically is vital to helping women push against cultural and social norms through improved economic conditions and independence. For many women, just being online automatically makes them a target for harassment and abusive content. While heightened access and use of technology has nurtured women’s economic empowerment in terms of ease of business, it has also made these businesswomen more susceptible to online abuse. For women business owners who have shifted their businesses online, online abuse has proven to be an extreme challenge that can result in a decrease in productivity, loss of employment, loss of market access, and fraud, among other challenges. Online abuse aims to disempower women and other vulnerable communities, including minorities and persons who identify as LGBTQ+—undermining essential voices in society and inclusive democracy.