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Human Rights Advocacy and Social Media: Lessons from Zimbabwe
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM ET


What does democracy advocacy look like in the age of social media, when activists can more easily connect and organize, but governments can just as easily surveil and sanction? Evan Mawarire, a Zimbabwean clergyman and activist, founded the #ThisFlag movement to challenge the injustices of the Robert Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe in 2016. Mawarire’s movement spread across Zimbabwe via social media and culminated in citizens refusing to go work to demonstrate their opposition to Mugabe’s rule. For his advocacy, Mugabe’s government imprisoned and tortured Mawarire.

This edition of The World Today will focus on how democracy and human rights advocates can deploy social media to create positive change and challenge government abuses by exposing their human rights violations. Mawarire will discuss the circumstances in Zimbabwe that led to his movement’s success and lessons that future movements can learn from his leadership and use of social media. How can social media be best used to catalyze and sustain human rights activism? What are its shortcomings? What can the Zimbabwe experience teach other countries?

Join Perry World House and the Center for Africana Studies in recognition of International Human Rights Day for this important discussion on the intersections of democracy advocacy, human rights, and social media.


Evan Mawarire is a Zimbabwean clergyman who founded the #ThisFlag citizens' movement who challenge corruption, injustice, and poverty in Zimbabwe. For his work, Mawarire was imprisoned, tortured, and charged with treason, facing eighty years in prison. Currently, he is the director of education at the Renew Democracy Initiative, an organization focused on defending democracy in America and the world.


LaShawn R. Jefferson is Perry World House’s senior executive director. She brings to Perry World House over two decades of legal and policy advocacy, strategic planning and communications, and research and writing on women’s international human rights through civil society organizations and philanthropy. She joined Perry World House after almost seven years at the Ford Foundation, where she worked to advance women’s human rights globally. For fourteen years, she also held several leadership positions at Human Rights Watch, where she led its women’s rights research and advocacy work, providing strategic and intellectual guidance to the work on women’s international human rights. She is the author of many reports on a variety of issues confronting women around the world, and has written op-eds and articles that have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the International Herald Tribune. She received a BA from Connecticut College and an MA in international relations and Latin American studies from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

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