In 2016, the spread of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) propaganda online dominated social media feeds of vulnerable communities. ISIL set out a restrictive vision for women and girls across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Meanwhile, Syrian women were escaping violence inside their country and were cut off from their home. Digital Public Square (DPS) sought to amplify these marginalized voices from across the MENA region and to open discussion on critical issues such as education, mobility, and work outside the home. Since much of the audience for this initiative lives in sensitive environments where Web users face heavy censorship, the DPS project team needed an accurate, rapid solution that provided greater safeguards for respondents’ privacy than traditional in person interviews.
The project was successful in elevating the voices of women marginalized by ISIL and revealed alternative narratives which contradict ISIL propaganda on the role of women and girls. People around the world learned about the brutality of ISIL from the authentic voices of women and girls with lived experiences under the ISIL regime. Audiences across the globe could now, for the first time, measure how their own countries’ attitudes toward women and girls compared to the views expressed in other countries. Less than four weeks after Digital Public Square published the results on the Aswat.me interactive website, the platform received over 500,000 site visits, engaged over 65,000 individuals in 16 countries, generated over 93 million impressions reaching over 18 million people, streamed over 230,000 video views, and received 62,000 page likes and 160,000 post likes on Facebook.
RIWI’s technology enabled us to do what many previously believed to be impossible: to anonymously source over 100,000 authentic citizen responses across the Middle East and North Africa in a matter of weeks, amplifying women's voices in this ground breaking initiative. Farhaan Ladhani CEO