Sister Act; Hashtag Activism Is a Unified Voice among the Tide of Violence towards Women. as a Global Summit to End War Rape Begins in London, Rosamund Urwin Grabs a Board

The Evening Standard (London, England), June 10, 2014 | Go to article overview

Sister Act; Hashtag Activism Is a Unified Voice among the Tide of Violence towards Women. as a Global Summit to End War Rape Begins in London, Rosamund Urwin Grabs a Board


Byline: Rosamund Urwin

End war rape 2014 London global summit IT STARTS with a single tweet, a lone shout from silicon speakers' corner. The message spreads swiftly, crescendoing as it reverberates around the internet. Soon, it becomes a rallying cry, a global call for action. This is "hashtag activism" -- and it's the newest tool for campaigners fighting to end violence against women and girls.

Not so long ago the list of trending topics on Twitter was dominated by declarations of love for Harry Styles and loathing for any of the ladies being linked to the Prince of Pop. Now, these sit beside far more serious messages, 140-character declarations of war on injustice, gender inequality and the abuse of women. These hashtags hop from Twitter to Tumblr to Instagram, where the famous pose with hand-written placards.

The most high-profile of these in the past two months has been #BringBackOurGirls. The militant Islamist group Boko Haram has long terrorised Nigeria -- and murdered 59 schoolboys in February -- but the kidnap of 270 schoolgirls finally registered with the outside world. Local lawyer Ibrahim M Abdullahi invented the hashtag and it has since been retweeted two million times. Michelle Obama, David Cameron, Madonna and Girls creator Lena Dunham have all given their support, helping to shine a spotlight on the situation in Nigeria.

The past three weeks -- which have revealed a veritable smorgasbord of global misogyny -- have given rise to three more hashtags. First, there was #yesallwomen, a riff on the perpetual complaint whenever gender-related violence is discussed that "all men" aren't responsible. This conversation was sparked by Elliot Rodger in California whose killing spree married misogyny and mental illness. Rodger detailed the extent of his hatred of women on video: "I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It's an injustice, a crime."

In India, #Wake-UpAkhilesh called upon the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav, to do more to address sexual violence in the region. It came after the gang rape and murder of two young cousins found hanging from a tree. Meanwhile, "SaveMeriam" is the campaign to free Meriam Ibrahim, who has been sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to recant her Christian faith. …

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