Global Resources

Can social media effectively include women's voices in decision-making processes

Author: E Loiseau, K Nowacka
Publisher: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
Publication Date: Mar 2015

Social media has exploded as a popular and powerful tool for bringing women’s rights issues to the attention of the wider public, and has shown potential for bridging the gap between grassroots women’s activism and policy-making processes. This briefing note by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reviews successful social media campaigns, analyses obstacles, and provides recommendations on how to broaden the scope of action on women’s rights and gender equality.

The briefing note examines the extent to which social media can be used as an effective lever to amplify women’s voices, and identifies strategies to better facilitate their impact on decision-making processes. The note draws on seven years worth of engagement with a range of civil society and government stakeholders on the OECD’s Wikigender platform, including the key arguments shared during a recent Wikigender online discussion on “Advancing women’s rights through social media: which strategies?”.

Areas defined by the discussions as having been enabled by social media include hashtag activism, tackling violence against women (such as HarassMap, launched in Egypt), and public accountability. Meanwhile, significant barriers are also noted, namely women’s limited access to technology, information overload, and censorship and harassment.

The three key messages highlighted by the briefing note are that:

* Social media has proven potential for mobilising attention and accountability to women’s rights, and challenging discrimination and stereotypes

* Obstacles remain in translating women’s online advocacy to pushing for systemic change through policy

* Strategies to enhance social media’s potential for women’s empowerment include facilitating their access to technology, increasing women’s representation in public life and media, and working with a cross-section of actors.

Building on this final key message, three main recommendations are presented which were drawn from the Wikigender online discussions, where participants shared examples of effective strategies to make women’s voices heard in the SDGs in order to achieve equality:

* Train women to make greater use of information technology for communication and the media: ensuring equal access to and use of new technologies is critical for maximising social media’s advocacy role. Training gender advocates on, for example, the use of hashtags, monitoring impact, and developing strong messaging, could optimise women’s social media use.

* Increasing women's capacity to participate in decision making and leadership can help the success of online advocacy campaigns focusing on women’s rights. 

* Strategic partners can help to ensure that advocacy can influence both decision-making processes and public awareness on key women’s rights issues.

* Involve a cross-sector of actors, including grassroots women’s networks, traditional media and men to build on and collaborate with local women’s movements in order to strengthen advocacy efforts. In particular, linking social media with traditional media can scale up campaigns, while involving men and other nontraditional partners can reinforce messaging and help campaigns attract greater attention both locally and globally.