Transformation starts in my mind. I am transformed hence I courageously direct the way I am defined. I let others know who I am and how to define me. I change stereotypes, societal beliefs and attitudes which objectives are to militate against me, just because of my physical appearance or because I am a woman. The age of www: women weaved in a web has helped me overcome challenges. I interact with other women to draw inspirations which have helped me in speaking for myself, define who I am and how I want people to define me. I gain support which has incredibly uplifted me.
Yes, I am a woman, outstandingly known among a chain of other women especially through the World Wide Web. I am connected to women from more than 190 countries of the world via the World Pulse. I am weaved in a chain of sisterhood. I draw inspirations through my virtual connections and this gets me more attached to global community. The ripple effect of my connection to the virtual world is that I gain knowledge and skills with which I make more impact on women in my community, women around the world. In our network of sisterhood we share our experiences. We transform our world. We realize the similarities of our living. We the women have come to realize that it is only our boundaries that demarcate us. The language we speak is encouragement, motivation, inspirations through which we push ourselves to move higher in our careers, in our life endeavors.
Scores of years back, I was growing up as a girl-child in a remote village of Orlu in Imo state, Nigeria. I was brought up by a widowed poor mother. There in my village children of poor parents did not have opportunities like those of rich parents. A woman-headed household can never be at par with others. My siblings and I did not have access to education. We did not have access to internet. I became socialized to not think of rising above poverty line. Any form of ambition I nursed was met with questions as: who is her father? Which family is hers? The class thing is heightened when the society realized I was growing up with a disability. Moreover I was a girl-child. And then these questions: does she not know that she is a woman, what does she think she is doing? God forbid that woman with disability want to stand at par with men, with able-bodied persons.
A girl-child growing up with a disability is a laughing stock. I was stigmatized, discriminated and denied opportunities. Opportunities of going to school, opportunities of admission in the schools in my community. That was the same school that warmly welcomed other children living without disabilities.I was denied opportunities of nursing ambitions like any other child. Coupled with my poor background the society attempted to define me and the kind of life I should live. All efforts to prove otherwise were seen as hanging my coat in a position meant for elephants, that is, planning of a life perceived by the society as 'impossible' for a woman like me.
I overcame the deadly attacks of derogatory remarks, psychological trauma and pejoration. I rise above stigmatization when I joined this global network that give women a global voice in 2009. I started using the internet to connect to the world. Before I say ‘Jack,’ I see myself weaved in a net of women from 190 countries of the world. Each time I post to my journal, the comments I receive are so inspiring, motivating and encouraging. I search to know more about my friends, my online fans, my motivators. That was the beginning of episode that changed my mind set. Mine God! This is awesome, unbelievable! I received information on online courses, applications for trainings. I read online journals, I became uplifted.
Each time www is mentioned to my ears, my mind goes to WP, the pulse of the world, a platform which has given great opportunities to me-- a woman living at the grassroot level in Nigeria to interact with other women from around the world. There is something that I share in common with my network of ‘sisters’ from around the world. For instances, my sister who lives in Europe told me that because she is a woman living with a disability, her challenges are double compared with her male colleagues who also live with disabilities. An online friend from Asia informed me that because she is a woman living with a disability, no man has agreed to marry her.
Just contributing a comment on an issue that matters most to me in 2011 earned me a learning trip to a Human Rights Institute in Canada. The experience turned my life around. Little did I know that it was the beginning of my journey? Same year I was selected for online citizen journalism training by the World pulse. This was alongside other two professional trainings in Indonesia and Brazil. Wooh, I ain’t seen nothing. Just in a twinkle of an eye a ‘nobody’ in me was changed to ‘somebody’ of the world. I was encouraged to write stories on issues that have almost been neglected by the whole world. My journal posts are being used as reference points by development agencies and policy makers around the world to transform the lives of individuals. Again in July of 2013 my air ticket for a Diploma Course in Development Leadership in a University at Halifax was bought and sent to me by an online sister. Today, I hold an important position that give me opportunity of using my skills and knowledge in transformation works that change lives in my country.
Even though women in Nigeria are generally confronting the challenges of patriarchy which subject women to men's control, direction and dependency, illiteracy, working round the clock and not having time to access the internet, erratic power supply, poor and slow internet connections, poverty and lack of resources to pay at the cyber cafes, security issues as women feel unsafe in public places including cyber cafes, these challenges are worse and doubled for women living with disabilities. For instance, some women with some form of disabilities are targets for ritual killers in Nigeria. This kind of women are at greater risks going to cyber cafes at any time. Again all the cyber cafes in Nigeria are disability unfriendly. The visually impaired woman, a woman confined in a wheel chair and some others do not have access to the cyber cafes operating in Nigerian cities. In Nigeria where men hardly agree to get married to women with disabilities, majority of women with disabilities who are unmarried hardly get any form of economic dependent. Again as a lot of Nigerians resort to use of smart phones, personal computers and internet accessories-- instead of patronizing cyber cafes-- as alternative to accessing internet and communication technologies; and use of power generating machines as alternative to electricity supply, 99% of persons with disabilities who have been subjected to street begging as only means of livelihood in Nigeria cannot afford to buy smart phones, personal computers, internet modems and constant recharge cards, or power generating machines. Come to think of it, in Nigeria persons with disabilities can hardly afford to own a decent accommodation, not to think of buying and fueling power generating machines that might enable them access to internet and communication technologies.
It is painful to me, I see it as a denial of right that a segment of the society that needs empowerment more than the others are yet the mainly 'non-computer literate,' the 'poorest of the poor' in the societies who cannot afford decent houses, good paying jobs and therefore no access to internet. If a saying by my sister here that 'access to internet is access to life' then there is no access to life to millions of women with disabilities in my country. This is more painful to me considering the powerful opportunities the www has provided me as a woman. Even though I face challenges of poor connections, unstable electricity, financial constraints while accessing the internet, www has opened doors of opportunities and resources that should not have been possible. I appreciate all the women who have been weaved in this web of connection with fellow women from around the world. We break barriers together, we transform our world. Together we are building bridges across oceans. Let us do more by helping others like me who are in dire need of transformation.WWW: Women Weave the Web