Last week was a big one for the effort to strengthen digital resilience among women and youth across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It featured a series of major regional events centred in Amman, Jordan—all convened by Salam@, a program implemented by The SecDev Foundation.
First up was a high-level meeting spotlighting digital safety and digital violence against women across the MENA region. This session brought together 35 representatives from government, NGOs, academia, civil society and embassies. Keynote speakers included Her Excellency Wafa Bani Mustafa, Jordan’s Minister of State for Legal Affairs and Head of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Women Empowerment.
Next up was the first-ever Salam@ Regional Summit on digital resilience. This multi-day, hands-on session convened Salam@ team members and stakeholders from 11 MENA countries—more than 100 participants, all told. Reflecting on three years of Salam@ programming, they reviewed key successes and lessons learned, and they explored next steps to keep the momentum growing across the region.
Finally, Salam@ staff, advisors and partners shifted to the shores of the Dead Sea for an intensive retreat focussed on ensuring future sustainability and new partnerships.
Salam@ is a journey of development in my career, and for Jordan and the Arab world, it has been one of the pioneers in spreading the culture of digital safety.
This program phase is ending but Salam@ continues as a way of living. With the tools, resources, network and mentality it has brought, digital safety will remain a top priority.
Salam@: Three years of progress for women
Since 2019, Salam@ has been promoting digital resilience among women, youth and civil society groups in seven countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. Practically, that has meant working with local partners to build locally-tailored digital resilience programs. Already, more than 30,000 people have benefited directly—with millions more engaged on social media.
Salam@ takes a holistic approach. Public awareness campaigns feature visually engaging social media content. Digital audits help civil society groups recognize their vulnerabilities. Training programs and digital clinics help people use digital tools more safely. A unique support service integrates technical, legal and psychosocial support for users—women helping women—including survivors of digital harms.
In three years, Salam@ has promoted digital resilience on an unprecedented scale for the region:
- 17,000+ people have benefitted from digital resilience training.
- 11,000+ have attended digital clinics and awareness sessions.
- 3,500+ have been helped by emergency and technical support services.
- 20+ million engagements with Salam@’s online campaigns broaden the impact.
The concept of digital safety is rather recent for most Libyans… As the newest members of the Salam@ family, we have been receiving great support from the entire team and we are going to continue working towards a safer digital environment
In Algeria, Salam@ has become a reference, and most sectors recognize us and contact us for training. It has opened the door for collaboration between countries in designing digital safety campaigns and sharing resources.
Building on what works
Instead of framing digital safety in technical terms alone, Salam@ has been pioneering a public health approach to online violence. The team works with local partners to identify key risks—and then strategically and holistically promote digital hygiene among women and youth. Wherever possible, the team seeks to strengthen people’s capacity in ways that support multiplier effects through communities.
Summit participants placed special emphasis on continuing to address three dimensions of online gender-based violence: technical, legal and psychosocial. And the main message coming out of the week was loud and clear: let’s keep working to make MENA digital space safer and more welcoming, especially for women, youth and marginalized communities.
Punctuating that message, Salam@ took the opportunity to launch a Digital Safety Sign Language Dictionary for the deaf community—the first of its kind for the MENA region. Stay tuned for more on this groundbreaking effort!
Salam@ is a journey of cultivating the culture of digital safety in North Africa and the Arab world in general. The journey is the treasure.
The road ahead for Salam@
Three years ago, alarmingly few ordinary MENA women recognized their digital vulnerabilities—and the issue barely registered in the media or public discourse. Slowly but meaningfully, we’re changing this conversation. In some countries, Salam@ is becoming recognized as a go-to authority on digital resilience, including through more than 375 media appearances.
But the engine of progress remains direct engagement with women, youth and small organizations. This is the work that is tangibly strengthening people’s digital resilience. This is the work that is helping people take safer advantage of digital tools to build better lives for themselves and their communities. All week, that brought real urgency to discussions of long-term strategies to keep that work going strong.
Fundraising is always fundamental. Participants also explored the value of nurturing enduring communities of practice among partner organizations, experts, professionals and others who’ve become part of the Salam@ family over these last three years. Their ranks include many of the people who found their way to this remarkable summit in Amman—and their commitment is an encouraging sign for the road ahead.