Hosted by Webster University Geneva in December 2020, Hayat Mirshad was invited as a key panelist in one of the sessions in the Forum on Women’s Rights in the MENA Region: From the Arab Spring to the Post-COVID-19 Future. The conference’s aim was studying the emerging feminist activism in the MENA region and examining new social movements in the digital age, women and nonviolence, and political activism during the pandemic where Hayat participated in the panel titled “Women’s rights movement: Technology and digitalization: opportunities and obstacles”. In her presentation, the young feminist activist addressed the opportunities that the digital media platforms have created for women human rights defenders, mainly through providing them with spaces for their voices to be heard. She acknowledged the advantages of this particular tool in drawing the attention of the public to all women and girls’ demands, struggles and the diverse issues that constitute dignified presence for them as equal citizens irrespective of their ethnicity, background, sex, gender, religion, and age. Hayat also mentioned how the vulnerable groups and minorities benefited from these digital platforms to voice their needs. “The digitized space supported an environment of solidarity among feminists and activists around the world, and increased the accessibility and the ability of women’s rights activists and organizations to communicate with thousands of women and girls without restrictions or limitations to the freedom of expression.”
Mirshad concluded her presentation by also addressing the predicaments of the digital world as well, where many women and girls still face hurdles in digital literacy which include access and affordability challenges, lack of education, and socio-cultural norms. “Unfortunately, many women activists fighting for gender equality are still a target of cyber-bullying, misogynic comments and campaigns, shaming, … and are continuously threatened of exposing their personal information, hacking their accounts, and many times getting killed.”