BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA

PLAN International has launched a chat-bot, MARU, to support girls and young women who have faced online violence.

The intelligence software for conversations was launched to mark this year’s commemorations of the 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

Speaking during an engagement meeting with girls yesterday, Plan International country director Angela Muriithi said  online abuse takes many forms including threats of physical and sexual violence, sexual harassment, body shaming and stalking online.

She said the global COVID-19 pandemic has also put girls and women at increased risk of GBV.

Muriithi said girls were at an increased risk of experiencing GBV during the time they were away from school, showing that girls needed safe spaces and protection from violence.

“Plan International has launched MARU chat-bot to support girls and young women who have faced violence online,” Muriithi said.

‘“MARU is a chat-bot created to support girls and women who faced online abuse and harassment.

“The MARU chat-bot is here for anyone who has experienced or witnessed online harassment and to support Activism.”

She said movement restrictions also made it difficult for girls and young women to access places they could report cases of online abuse, hence calling for the need to strengthen mobile GBV services.

Muriithi said the chat-bot provides advice and resources from global experts and activists on how to tackle online abuse.

“Young activists from around the world created the MARU Chat-bot with Feminist Internet and Plan International to support women and girls experiencing harassment online,” Muriithi said.

She urged internet companies and government to create more effective and accessible report mechanisms specific to online GBV in order to hold perpetrators to account.

“These 16 Days of Activism, we stand in solidarity with girls and their allies who have been speaking up for girls’ equality and rights,” Muriithi said.

Buhera Central MP and chairperson of the steering committee on child rights Matthew Nyashanu said Parliament was also making sure women and the girl-child were protected from GBV.

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