On November 17, 2023, Safe Sister Fellowship held a training event for 40 young women and men on mental health, safety, and rights in the digital environment. With the support of INTERNEWS (US), the event covered various topics including Password and password Manager, Data, Mis/disinformation, Online Gender Violence, Mental health awareness, and healthy strategies to avoid victim trauma.
During the event, Madam Mariatu Tamba, the Facilitator of Safe Sister Fellowship, highlighted that digital media, especially social media, was initially created as a tool to connect and improve lives, but it is now increasingly being used as a weapon against young people worldwide. She advised the participants to use strong passwords to secure their digital space and prevent cyberbullying, adding that a password helps defend data against unauthorized access to personal information and further ensures safety from cyber criminals. Mariatu Tamba also called on the participants to remain diligent in their daily lives and support their peers in educating them about the dangers of gender-based violence online and offline.
Mrs. Lois Simche Lebbie, the co-facilitator, emphasized the impact of social media on our lives, highlighting its role in reducing physical interaction. She noted that while social media has numerous positive aspects, it also has its downsides, exposing young people to violence, harmful content, and the constant need for validation from others, which can have detrimental effects on individuals’ well-being. Mrs. Lebbie warned participants against any form of sexual harassment and advised them to prioritize their safety both online and offline. She strongly warned participants not to share intimate pictures or videos with anyone, including friends, on social media platforms, emphasizing the importance of consent.
Donald Theo-Harding, the Managing Editor of Salone Times Newspaper, appealed to young people to verify information before sharing it on social media, noting that fake news has the potential to create chaos in society.
Speaking to the press, Veronica Conteh, one of the participants, expressed her gratitude to the facilitators of Safe Sisters for training them on the use of digital media. She said that the skills acquired from this training would help her protect her data in cyberspace and enable young women and girls to use digital media more safely and responsibly. Mariatu Tamba expressed her appreciation to INTERNEWS (US) for providing grants to empower these youths.
Safe Sisters is a joint initiative of INTERNEWS and Defenders that seeks to address the growing epidemic of online violence against women by empowering them to learn digital safety skills to protect themselves online. Safe Sisters/INTERNEWS (US) has been training and empowering young women and girls on how to use digital media in Sierra Leone for the past three years.