Women deserve safety, dignity and freedom – online and off

Ciru Muriuki, a broadcaster, content creator and corporate MC. She has recently been on the receiving end of cyberbullying after the death of her fiancé, Charles Ouda.

Photo credit: Photo I Pool

What you need to know:

  • Charles Ouda ‘Charlie’, a star actor who made immense contribution to Kenya’s film industry, has died.
  • His loss leaves a huge gap, including in the feminist world, given his outstanding role in upholding equality and justice for women and girls.
  • One of his last public appearances was at the anti-femicide marches held across the country two weeks ago. 

This week, Kenya lost a son: Charles Ouda ‘Charlie’, a star actor. His contribution to Kenya’s film industry can’t be ignored. His loss leaves a huge gap, including in the feminist world.

I honour this outstanding man for upholding equality and justice for women and girls. One of his last public appearances was at the anti-femicide marches held across the country two weeks ago. 

He was vocal against violence targeting women. By adding his voice, he demonstrated true solidarity. His compassion and allyship inspire women to continue fighting for their rights and dignity.

His legacy should fuel the ongoing struggle for a just world where women live and thrive in safety. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

Our hearts go out to his fiancée, Ciru Muriuki, who has been on the receiving end of cyberbullying. Allow her to mourn. 

It’s unfortunate that whenever a woman loses her partner, she is often blamed unfairly. Rather than receiving support, many are ostracised and accused of somehow causing the death.

No woman should have to bear responsibility for a partner’s death without evidence. Let’s stop this culture of shaming widows and girlfriends.

Instead, we should surround them with compassion and assistance. Blame only exacerbates the woman’s grief and trauma. This woman deserves sympathy and kindness, not hostility and guilt.

The relentless trolling of women on social media is now a dangerous epidemic, pushing vulnerable women into mental health crises.

They often involve misogynistic threats, lies that destroy their reputation, sexual harassment comments and life-ruining privacy invasions.

Studies show that online harassment exacerbates mental health. The psychological impacts of these are immense, with women suffering degraded self-esteem, heightened anxiety and depression.

Some tragically take their own lives. In 2019, a university student committed suicide after her ex-boyfriend circulated her nude photos online. Again in 2021, a 17-year-old girl took her life after being body-shamed on social media.

Indeed, being a woman in today’s world comes with immense pressure.

Besides online trolls and the burden of a struggling economy, we are expected to juggle careers, families, social lives, and somehow always look put together.

This endless strive for perfection takes its toll on our mental health. 

Naturally, women often put others’ needs before their own. But a time comes where we must say “enough is enough” and prioritise self-care.

Learn to recognise when you’ve reached your limits – when you are constantly anxious, overwhelmed, irritable, or depressed, stop!

Health experts also say symptoms like headaches, stomach-aches, and changes in appetite or sleep patterns can indicate excessive stress. Ignore these red flags at your own peril. 

Most expectations society places on women are unrealistic. It is okay to slow down and set boundaries.

Seek professional support if you need it. Focus on your accomplishments rather than your failures, real or imposed by society.

Self-awareness is important; it helps you create a lifestyle that nourishes your mind, body and soul. You are stronger than the pressures around you. Treat yourself as you would your loved ones.

Meanwhile, we must take a stand against the elephant in the room: online persecution of women.

The government must take decisive action to end the epidemic with stricter laws and policies that would criminalise online bullying. Police and the courts must prioritise investigating and prosecuting such cases.

A partnership between the state and social media companies to rapidly remove abusive content and users would be a relief.

Affordable support services must be made available to help women recover from social media trauma.

The Internet must empower women, not terrorise them. Women deserve safety, dignity and freedom – both online and off.