One of the most exciting things about Web 2.0 is how it has been used by activists to fight injustice and challenge repressive governments on a global scale. It has given marginalised voices an avenue to express themselves. It has also enabled online communities bound by common interests that tackle issues across continents irrespective of the real-time locations of their members. A social movement started on Facebook could lead to rallies in several countries.
Events like these highlight a new kind of international co-operation- one that is formed not by governments but by the people.
An example is the case of the Nigerian Ambassador to Kenya who was accused of battering his wife early this year. An online newspaper in Kenya published the story with graphic pictures of the woman’s bruises. The story and pictures went viral almost immediately as other online news websites and blogs especially in Nigeria picked it up. Soon, a Facebook group was formed calling for the sack of the man. This group was made up of women from different countries around the world. Offline, women’s groups in Kenya and Nigeria also went on protests marches demanding that the ambassador be removed. Thanks to these campaigns on and offline, the ambassador was recalled to Nigeria.
One can only imagine how this story would have turned out before the days of the internet. The news may never have reached Nigeria. And using his influence, the Ambassador could have killed the story in the Kenyan newspapers. However, unlike traditional media (broadcast and print) stories on the internet are hard to kill due to the ease of sharing, re-posting and downloading.
With knowledge of this, women in countries where their rights are not being respected can reach out to the world by sharing their stories on Youtube, blogs and even using their Facebook status or Twitter. These stories can then be shared and social movements formed around them. These movements once taken up by activists in other countries can lead to pressure on governments to effect policy changes that benefit their people.
To make the women's empowerment a truly global one, it is therefor our duty to share not only the stories which affect us within our country or communities, but also to reach out to other women around the world using the tools available on the internet and to help their tell stories too.
As a journalist, I have to contend with having some of my stories being unpublished because they "do not sell papers" or because they might offend "the powers that be."However, thanks to Web 2.0, I can still tell those stories either on my blog or using a social networking site like Facebook. The stories once viewed there can evoke thoughts or debates that would help people to make up their minds on issues that in the long run affect all of us.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future Application: Empowerment and Web 2.0.