By Kenson McCloud
Government has reiterated its commitment in creating a safe space for girls on the internet in bid to reduce the gender gap that exists in accessing the internet.
The remarks were made as the world marked the commemoration of International Day of Girl Child on Monday 11th October.
According to the Cyber Bullying Research Centre, nearly 47% of young people have received intimidating, threatening or nasty messages online with 40% of girls being more likely to be victims of cyber bullying than boys,.
Speaking during a panel discussion organised by Plan International Malawi at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe, Minister of Information, Gospel Kazako said the government is moving to enforce laws that exists to ensure that no one gets away with cyber bullying.
Kazako said cyber bullying has had major impact on people’s mental health, relationships and jobs hence the need for a swift move to address the problem.
"Very shortly people who do bullying online will be shocked," warned Kazako.
Kazako then explained government’s plans to create digital economy by making internet more affordable to the masses by among others, providing free Wi-Fi in public spaces like schools.
" The secret is to ensure that more people are online, are able to access affordable internet and they are free to express themselves without fear of being abused, " said Kazako.
He further said government intends to invest in digital literacy in order to reduce the gender gap that exists in accessing the internet.
On her part, Mary Chilima who was the guest of honor and also Plan Ambassador against online harassment against girls and young women, said the country is supposed to take advantage of the digital revolution to push for inclusion in accessing internet
Chilima noted that inadequate internet access and prohibitive data cost has contributed a lot to the existing gender gap.
"Currently there is a gender disparity in terms of number of girls that are participating online and the future jobs, health, education will all be online, so this year's theme is to make sure girls are not left behind," said Chilima.
However she commended government’s commitment in addressing the challenges that were raised as hindering progress in reducing the gender gap.
Commenting on the matter, Country director for Plan International Malawi, Phoebe Kasoga said the discussion managed to provide a platform for girls to voice out their concerns regarding online bullying.
"Girls are an important demography that we need to listen to because they have a voice and we do not always have to speak on their behalf," explained Kasoga.
Kasoga said it’s important for the country to embrace the girl’s voice as the country move towards digitalisation.
International Day of Girl Child is celebrated every year on 11th October where different issues concerning girls are explored.