On the one hand, the Arab uprisings have even been dubbed by some media as the Facebook and Twitter revolutions. On the other hand, the safety and security of online social media tools have been put to question with recent State crackdown on youth bloggers and internet censorship in Iran, Cuba and China. The debate on social media reached new heights when a Syrian Lesbian blogger was found to be an American man.
In this blogathon, we were curious to learn about the questions surrounding the use of social media. Is it a reliable source of information? How do we navigate it to make sure that it offers us more benefit than harm? And more importantly how have young women used social media to further women’s rights?
- Fungai Machirori is no stranger to social media. After trying to write for Zimbabwean traditional media and realizing how censored she would be, she put her fingers to the keyboard and started to pen her blog Fungai Neni – meaning ‘Think with Me’, in English. As Fungai puts it, her blog was "born humbly, but definitely not quietly." On her blog, she found a space where she could express herself freely on sexuality and other taboo issues. And, she realized she was not the only Zimbabwean female blogger with taboo issues to pick at. In 2012, she hopes to implement a national project involving new media and the empowerment of Zimbabwean women.
- Kacie Lyn Kocher is not your ordinary American young woman. In fact, not many can claim to be able to start an online campaign against street harassment in a country (Turkey) and in a language (Turkish) that they are just starting to learn and understand. Well, that didn't stop Kacie. She helped found a branch in Istanbul of an international NGO on street harassment called Hollaback!
- For Paola Salwan Daher having an online space as an activist is made easier with all sorts of online social media tools: "create a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter handle and you can be assured your message will transcend borders and reach feminists worldwide..." But, she cautions: "Not all is rosy in the fantastic world of social media..." Find out why.
On an entirely different but related note, this month’s blogathon included a second theme in which young women were asked to comment on the Nike Foundation’s video – the Girl Effect and Plan International’s Because I Am a Girl. The video is a great example of using social media through innovative and creative approaches to popularize an idea and strategy. Around the world, governments, donors, the UN, non-governmental organizations, financial institutions, corporations and the media alike are influenced by the message behind the ‘Girl Effect’ that the solution to a wide range of the world’s problems is to invest in young women and girls.
On the one hand, the growing focus on young women and girls presents important opportunities for the advancement of young women’s rights with increased attention and resources available for work with young women and girls. On the other hand, the investing in girls approach is often weak in its rights-based analysis and mostly tends to look at women and girls as an untapped resource for the advancement of their communities and societies.
- Stephanie Bracken, who works with the African Women's Millenium Initiative (AWOMI) argues that the girl effect campaigns actually help reinforce that “investing in girls”-type programs only further the idea that women reside within the private sphere." Stephanie argues that "Development is part of a complex and interconnected web of causes and effects. Claiming girls as the answer to the problem is shortsighted at best, and ignores the role of neocolonial motives of developed nations at least somewhere along the line."
- Akhila Kolisetty works for the Justice for All Organization (JFAO), a non-profit that works to strengthen the rule of law and expand access to legal services for women and girls in Afghanistan. Akhila was the first to submit a video entry to the blogathon. Click the video below to hear her thoughts on the Girl Effect campaign.
- Alia Al-Khatib is a feminist activist from New York. In her piece, Girls Mass Produced, Alia says while a donation from the 'Western world' to help a girl in the global south can go a long way, she questions the sustainability of these soutions and whether aid really creates structural change. She writes: "Part of me thinks- this donation will go to help one girl or one woman or one community, but will it really truly change the system of oppression that harms this girl or woman or community?"
- Vibeke Brask Thomsen is the founder of Gender Hopes, a non-profit organization that focuses on violence against women in conflict and post-conflict, education of women and girls and their equal participation in all spheres of society. She argues that one of the positive effects of the "Girl Effect" campaign is that it has increased "the number of agencies that are including a gender-sensitive evaluation to any project before accepting and implementing it. Ensuring that girls and women are included and will benefit from a given program has become an essential point for numerous funders when deciding on their funding strategies."
- Finally, we turn to Rabia Waqar who argues that the "Girl Effect" video "reinforces the socially constructed notion that girls are inherently kind" and that this "places certain responsibilities on them – to produce healthier babies with better food and education." Rabia goes on to say that if women "fail to live up to these expectations and reject the role assigned to them (especially as reproductive agents with child rearing responsibilities) they run the risk of being vilified/judged as ungrateful for the opportunities awarded to them."
Through this two part blogathon, we wanted to learn from young women about their perspectives on the Girl Effect video. Mainly, we wanted to gage from young women whether this million dollar social media campaign is an opportunity or a threat to young women’s rights.
- After reading and seeing these different perspectives, how to do you see the role of young girl and women changing in society? What do you think should be done to move beyond just the "Girl Effect" to an empowered women's world? Send us your thoughts: [email protected]