The pandemic brought more women in Rwanda online, but there is still a large online gender gap. Women@Web Rwanda, a non-profit that promotes the online participation of women, is a Mozilla IRL Fund Awardee.

We spoke with Project Lead Natacha Umutoni about the group’s work in expanding women’s online access and safety.

Natacha Umutoni, at right, with Women@Web Rwanda participants.
Natacha Umutoni, at right, with Women@Web Rwanda participants.
  • More than twice the number of Rwandan men regularly use the internet than Rwandan women

  • Disparities between genders in digital literacy education, internet and device affordability, and targets of online violence all contribute to the online gender divide

  • Women@Web Rwanda provides digital tools, training, and community supports for women of all backgrounds, but especially for activists, journalists, students, and sex workers

The Issue

Rwanda’s online gender gap is much higher than that of its peers in the region. As of 2021, about 12% of Rwandan men used the internet, compared to only about 4.8% of women. As of January 2023, 36.5% of Rwanda’s social media users were female, and 63.5% were male. Vulnerable and marginalized groups of women stand to benefit the most from increased online access and digital safety training.

The Approach

Women@Web Rwanda’s approach is informed by learned as well as lived experiences of cyberbullying specifically targeted at women. Although they’re often targets of vitriol, women’s voices have historically been missing from online public discourse. The organization offers digital safety and resilience training in Kinyarwanda to journalists, activists, artists, students, and many other women across the spectrum. One of the most important skills the program teaches is how to keep devices and data secure and private – a critical practice for vulnerable people like sex workers, who the organization has recently connected with for tech training. “Digital resilience is the ability to prevail, adapt, and recover in the face of digital disruptions, challenges, or cyber-threats,” Project Lead Natacha Umutoni said. “For the women we work with, this means that despite the violence and abuse they encounter online, they are able to continue to exercise their digital rights.”

Women@Web Rwanda is one of Mozilla’s 13 inaugural IRL Fund grantees, the first exploratory grantmaking mechanism of the Africa Innovation Mradi that supports innovative projects at the intersection of tech and society. With Mozilla’s funding, Women@Web Rwanda has been able to extend services to groups that are particularly susceptible to online and offline sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), reaching out to female sex workers for the first time. The program has helped networks of sex workers create digital information networks such as WhatsApp groups to share safety related information and help them keep track of each other, reducing their risks of going missing or becoming victims of other types of violence.

What Does Success Look Like?

“We will know our work is done when our target groups are able to create tools that work for them and their safety online without needing our help. We will know our work is done when we have policies that protect all women online and hold perpetrators accountable.”


“There are many women I admire in my field of work, starting with Muthoni Maingi, who is an amazing digital strategist and has worked in digital rights for quite some time. I also admire Joy Buolamwini and Timnit Gebru for fighting the tech giants and wanting to include all voices, especially those of the global majority in creating an inclusive AI — even if it has cost them their careers and so much more. I am constantly inspired by the younger women we work with, those who have refused to be shut down by all the violence and erasure that they face.”