Last year, the Electoral Commission of Uganda declared that the January 14, 2021 presidential elections would be “scientific,” meaning that campaigning would be done entirely online. The commission prohibited in-person events in order to align with Covid-19 prevention measures. Politicians had to capitalize on digital and social media to engage with voters.
As a data and digital rights researcher at Pollicy, a feminist civic tech organization that researches gendered online violence in African countries and provides digital skills training for African women in politics, we thought this election would be a great opportunity to monitor social media content and analyze how online violence against women in politics manifested on the Ugandan internet. What we found was unexpected: Ugandan women politicians use social media far less than their male counterparts, which could be related to the abuse that women experience across platforms. Women candidates were almost entirely absent from Twitter.