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More South Africans becoming online activists to tackle GBV and corruption

More South Africans are using online activism to voice their concerns about political and social issues during the Covid-19 pandemic.
More South Africans are using online activism to voice their concerns about political and social issues during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Image: Alon Skuy

From gender-based violence (GBV) to political reform and the safety of front-line health-care workers, SA has emerged as the clear leader in using online activism to demand and effect change during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is according to the latest Change.org Foundation index, which showed a sharp rise in South Africans using online petitions to voice their concerns, influence policy and persuade decision makers to tackle issues related to the pandemic and other challenges.

The data analysed the top 25 countries with the highest engagement on Change.org from January 2020 to July 2020 compared with the same period last year.

According to the index, the top cause areas in which South Africans started Change.org petitions were economic reform, political reform, human rights, safety of women and girls, student rights, police brutality, economic equality, internet freedom and animal rights.

SA women ran more successful petitions than men.

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The index also showed that more than four million new users signed up in SA since January 2020, six times the number of users over the same period in 2019.

Petitions grew by more than two times from 2019 to this year, and 30% are related to Covid-19.

More women started petitions in 2020.

There was also an increase of 5% in women starting petitions between 2019 and 2020, while there was a 5% drop in men starting petitions this year.

Safety of women and  girls emerged as one of the most trending topics in SA, with strong petitions on justice for victims of sexual violence and the welfare of women front-line health workers.

Preethi Herman, global executive director of the Change.org Foundation, said: “South Africans have a long history of social action and people power. However, the true potential of the intersection of technology and civic engagement has been revealed during the pandemic.

“We want to support this potential by setting up a local country team in 2020 who will provide more customised support on civic engagement.

“This is an important moment to surface voices from marginalised communities, not just from SA but across the African continent.”