Voices of Our Future 2009
Voices of Our Future: Web 2.0: Citizen Journalism and Empowerment Training Program
Voices of Our Future is an online training program investing in women's ability to use new technology and media to share their stories and innovative solutions with the world. World Pulse and program partners the Press Institute, the OpEd Project, and the Empowerment Institute provide training in web 2.0, citizen journalism and mentoring to empower a new generation of grassroots women leaders to raise their voices, promote their visions for change and become leaders for their communities. Meet three of our 2009 Correspondents in person! In November, Jacqueline from Bolivia, Malayapinas from the Philippines, and Sunita from Nepal, will be coming to the United States in to join World Pulse’s media and speaking tour. To find out if the tour is coming to a location near you, please visit the Tour Homepage. To read our 2009 Final Program Report, click here
2009 Global Correspondents
Arda prepares daily for the possibilities of school bombings, killings, and families torn apart. In such a world, there is one constant: injustice. As a correspondent, Arda writes from her soul to inspire other women in conflict zones to shine their light on women's rights and to live without bitterness.
"World Pulse is my extended family. This is where I draw inspiration. . from women . . . who are only getting better; angry yes, crazy perhaps, but never bitter."
One of seven children born to illiterate parents, Busayo overcame violence to fulfill her dream to receive a good education. Now 44, Busayo is a guidance counselor handling myriad rape, assault, and sexual-harassment cases. Each case strengthens her resolve to pursue her passion: weaving a world safe for women and girls.
"When women are put in their rightful position, the world becomes a beautiful place to live in."
Growing up in the dusty streets of a high density suburb in Mutare, Zimbabwe, Gertrude noticed early on how the women around her were nearly voiceless and had no control over their lives. Today, amidst severe government crackdowns and press restrictions, she bravely trains women and girls on how to use participatory communication to drive their own development, fight for their sexuality and communications rights, and create long-term social change.
“I will narrate the unheard stories of women in Zimbabwe and build local networks of women to create laws that truly reflect our aspirations.”
An Aymara indigenous blogger and photographer from the highlands of South America, Cristina did not want to wait for someone else to hand her a microphone. Instead, she seized the Internet to broadcast the wisdom of her people. A long bus ride or a steep mountain climb does not deter her from capturing the stories of young and old Aymara across her country. She is determined to follow in the steps of her ancestors and contribute to the revitalization of her culture.
“I want to speak and write about my culture and the situation for rural and urban indigenous women. I want to be part of a huge network of active women sharing our stories.”
A social worker, Dando works with HIV+ people in her community who face stigma and discrimination. Using journalism to free and strengthen her own voice, she fights to help other Zambian women know their rights and how to defend themselves. She hopes to become a member of parliament, where women are still under-represented.
“I believe when women’s voices arise they can reach policy makers who can change the unnecessary traditions which restrict women from expressing themselves.”
Since she was 9-years-old, defying her father’s fists, Edonna felt her voice stirring and had a vision of speaking to large crowds of people. Although in her 43 years she has faced devastating life events of poverty, abandonment, homelessness, false incarceration, and the loss of two daughters, her motivational nature has propelled her to overcome and receive a PhD. Today, she devotes herself to establishing African women’s place in the history of Africa. Deeply spiritual, she envisions a world where nurturing instead of destruction will be our number one priority.
"My personal vision for my life is to develop a community where my truth inspires people to come out of their hiding places and show their real face."
Children, Youth and Women’s rights advocate Gifty releases messages of strength, independence, and development through all forms of media. She loves to paint with words and capture the sounds of society around her. When she provides media trainings to youth her heart bulges with pride as she hears future life-givers, ministers, presidents, and change agents speaking their deepest thoughts, or “adwen,” aloud.
“Being a correspondent is a sacred opportunity to increase the volume of the silent yet loud voices of my sisters in every corner of Ghana.”
Born to an illiterate farming family in Central Sudan, Halima screamed in the house until she was allowed to go to school like her brothers. She made the seven kilometer trek on the back of a donkey, an animal that she realized, ironically, was valued more than girls. Now, she is victorious, wearing the toga of a respected journalist and academic living in Saudia Arabia, writing in French, English, and her mother tongue of Arabic. She sheds light on her beloved war torn country of Sudan, especially the lives of the economically and socially displaced.
“It is the gift of the century for women to deliver their messages freely and be heard.”
Mentor: Susan Geear Editorial Midwives: Gemma Dreher, Molli Vandehey-Patterson
Living in the midst of the drug warfare and gun battles in the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro means that it is not uncommon for Ivaldete to encounter the aftermath of violence when she steps out of her door. Yet this self-proclaimed “woman warrior” and 41-year old grandmother finds joy through her art and craftwork, selling purses for extra income. She loves her seven grandchildren fiercely, and calls them her lion cubs. She dreams one day of having a home in a secure area to keep them safe.
“It is a tremendous honor to speak on behalf of all the women who don’t have the chance to scream to the world that “Yes, we exist!”
Jacqueline has worked hard to achieve her dreams and effect change in Bolivia, a country renowned for its natural beauty and indigenous government. Raising two children by herself after divorce, she decided that life would not defeat her. College student by night, she paid for school by working as a translator and secretary, while well as building up her first economic initiative to provide pastry to restaurants, and employing three other women in her same situation. A talented entrepreneur, she has since launched three small businesses and worked with social organizations and indigenous groups across her country for over a decade.
"My motivation in life is to help women realize their dreams. The hardest work, though, is to have them realize they actually do have dreams."
Rejecting the belief that her worth is measured in the number of cows her dowry could bring, Joanne believes firmly in the power of Kenya’s women. As a community information volunteer, she inspires women who have been intimidated into silence to speak against the injustices they endure. For Joanne, being a bold citizen journalist and a poet is an antidote to life in a country where “media only serves those with money.”
“I believe that through my voice, I will be able to empower and influence women all over the world to think outside the box and walk above the veil of suppression and silent submission created by our society.”
Nepal’s increasing unrest hit close to home for Khushbu in 2007 when her father was kidnapped and tortured. Despite media repression and growing insecurity in Kathmandu, this 24-year-old dynamo only pushes harder to speak out and develop her nation by obtaining her degree in economics. Fired up to leave her “stamp emblazoned on humanity,” she visualizes a country where mothers and wives can send their husbands and sons outside without fear of never seeing them again.
“Being a correspondent will help me to show the gruesome realities of Nepal and bring a revolution of change in my country and the world.”
24-year-old Anjana is the main brain behind many youth-led initiatives across Nepal, a nation teetering on the verge of social and political upheaval. From eradicating sex slavery to conserving wetlands and upholding women’s land rights, you will find Anjana at the forefront, inciting and organizing others to claim justice. Despite spotty electricity and internet access, this poet, writer, and activist is making waves, enabling the cries of the unheard to transform this beautiful nation.
“I can put the plights of women in Nepal in front of the world.”
Two years ago Leah was dying from AIDS. Then, she made the long-trek to an Internet café and started connecting with AIDS leaders around the world. With their help, she planned income-generating activities that expanded her AIDS work, that allowed her to train 16 other HIV+ women and nurses in her community. With a newly-gifted computer, she became the first-ever local correspondent for World Pulse and used PulseWire to report on the voices and needs of her community.
“Two years ago I was dying from AIDS. Today, I am alive and thriving. PulseWire has created hope that I cannot describe. I have so many dreams, and now, I’m going to do them all!”
As a single mother raising a 7-year-old child with multiple disabilities in Africa, Liba has her share of challenges. As a survivor of abuse herself, somehow she is finding a way to simultaneously care for her son, while living her dream to provide free legal services to women and children survivors of domestic violence.
“A door has been opened in my heart that I never thought would be opened. Now I can heal the wounds of my own history and tell the stories of all the abused women and girls that I have listened to since I started pursing my dream at 6-years-old.”
A self-described “rebel with a cause,” Luz Marina is a strong-willed ambassador for women and children in Bogota, the cultural and political hub of Colombia. As a lawyer, businesswoman, mother, and lover of literature, she seeks to showcase both the intrepid role professional Colombian woman play on the national stage but also the struggles they face to balance their family lives and partnerships.
“The voice of a woman full of love toward others can really change the world."
Surviving in Mindinao, the volatile southern island of the Philippines is a daily concern for Ma Chona. Plunging deeply into remote areas as a development worker, she supports indigenous peoples, farmers and fisher folk, to build microfinance programs and protect their environment. Mining on ancestral lands, extra-judicial killings, and interferences from the Catholic Church with family planning programs may daunt her, but she will not be deterred. Her calling is to be a light for others.
“I can be a pair of eyes that sees the world beyond what is visible. By writing and reporting I can be a heart that echoes the despairs and the aspirations of the communities I know well.”
Since childhood Malaypinas has seen the dark side of globalization in the Philippines. She walked to school barefoot after early morning hours selling eggs and cigarettes to ship passengers in her nation’s ports. She toiled in the banana plantations to earn her way to college and became a young mother. Since secret military forces abducted her trade-union husband, she has raised her fist as a fierce organizer for local health, fair trade, and food security. Her dream is to see the Filipino people live to the fullness of their potential and women free to chart their own destiny.
“I want to show the world that Filipina women are not servants of the world but are servants of peace and freedom.”
Lindy Wafula’s life has been shaped by the harsh reality of the AIDS epidemic, which, when she was fourteen, cost her her parents and her home. Struggling to provide for her younger brothers taught her about the crying needs of motherhood, inspiring her to develop Project Africa, a program to empower rural women and girls through resources, education, and support.
“I don’t tell my story to gain pity but to show that each of us can turn our painful pasts into powerful engines to start the wheel of change in our society.”
Mentor: Taur D. Orange Editorial Midwives: Leslie Parrilla, Sally Hedman
Growing up in Sri Lanka, Manori's childhood memories are clouded with images of military conflict, injustice, and violence. From these harrowing experiences emerged a determined woman with a strong sense of self and a desire to improve conditions for those around her. Manori is a great believer in the power of words to create social justice.
“I find the power of words as strong as ever to lift up a broken spirit, to give hope, to make people take action.”
An Aleut woman in Anchorage, Alaska and mother of four daughters, Maria de Chirikof understands first hand the ravages of emotional violence, having recently ended her abusive marriage. Through the power of web 2.0 she seeks to break the isolation other women feel around the world by showing them that they are not alone. She home schools her daughters in Aleut tradition and women’s history, infusing them with confidence to step out and shape a new world.
“The way to make the world a better place is by letting each woman discover that she is worthwhile and create a positive image for herself that will spread throughout her community and the world.”
Martha is a grandmother and activist living under authoritarian rule in Zimbabwe. As an HIV+ woman in a land where most social services have been wiped out, she inspires others daily to develop positive attitudes toward their own fights against AIDS. As she speaks out through PulseWire, Martha challenges her country’s efforts to silence its people.
“The authorities are so scared of people’s ability to access information on the Internet that they stifle us.”
Nusrat is a young voice from Kashmir, one of the most militarized zones in the world. Even in the midst of violent protests and frequent searches by guards, Nusrat draws courage and strength from the women who face hardships, yet continue to fight for their communities. Writing helps her to stay alive and to detoxify the negative emotions and images she experiences on a daily basis.
"I will bring forth the stories of my people, my region, especially women who have suffered so much, because mere survival tops the priority list in a conflict region. The best part about being a World Pulse correspondent is finding solutions and fulfilling my dreams."
Despite conflict, corruption, and strife in her country, Ayobami believes Nigeria “can be great," but not without women’s contributions. She uses her journalistic voice to bring freeing truths to her community.
"Now I am all set to explode like a bomb, a good bomb. Instead of leaving devastation and destruction behind me, I will leave beauty and much more."
Raised by an uneducated widow in a society that disdains widows, Olutosin emerged from the shadow of discrimination and abuse to become a warrior for the sexually-violated masses in Nigeria. A witness to the mean streets of the capital city of Lagos, she condemns rampant government corruption as well as penal codes that force girls who have been raped to present three witnesses in court. A glittering example of dignity and healing, Olutosin aspires to become a renowned speaker on sexual assault.
“I will unveil the mind of raped women, repair lives through words of encouragement, and heal the wounded in Nigeria through articles written from new angles that will be read across the globe.”
As the first child of five siblings Stella sang praises in her Kenyan church. Today, she is just as passionate about lifting women out of destitute situations as she is about music, hoping one day to record an album about the women of Africa. Since media brought rape and sexual violence to the forefront of public awareness in Kenya seven years ago, Stella has devoted her life to encouraging women who have suffered abuse to speak out and reclaim their lives.
“I want to see more women empowered through web 2.0. I want to see lives changed so that more women can learn to fight for their place in their homes, relationships, and their workplaces.”
Sunita blazed a path by becoming the first girl to complete high school in her impoverished town in Nepal. Since then, her thirst for justice led her at age 16 to start a successful local savings club for women in her village of 500. She has traveled across her country recording the stories of rural villagers, even while witnessing bloody attacks by the Maoist insurgency. Now, at Bangladesh’s Asian University for Women on a full scholarship, Sunita vows to continue educating women to eradicate poverty.
"I want to make a network in every country and bring changes in people's lives. The power of words is the key to shake the world."
Mentor: Caroline Thorne-Lyman Editorial Midwives: Leslie Parrilla, Molli Vandehey-Patterson
As a Muslim woman of Indo-Pak origin, Tanya is not content to allow the propaganda surrounding Pakistan – which she calls home – and her religion to remain unchallenged. She hopes to blend her passions - performing arts, filmmaking, and journalism with human right activism to portray the many facets of life surrounding South Asia and the Muslim world. She is determined to build bridges between the people of this region and elevate it’s many voices.
“If I can create awareness and positively impact one woman, my message can make it to a generation beyond.”
Mentor: Lynn Margileth Editorial Midwives: Karthika Mohan, Leslie Parrilla
Living in New York’s rough and tumble Bronx, this mother of two small sons hails from Britain. Inspired by the spirit of Camelot, she engages her fellow immigrant neighbors in quests for urban reconciliation. Her voice spreads even further, however, as an artist, a writer, and an advocate for an international network of thousands of mothers who are galvanizing to build a safer, saner world on behalf of all our children.
“This land of immigrants, of its cultural diversity, tension, violence and indomitable grace, has profoundly impacted me. My writing seeks to break through cultural barriers of misunderstanding and foster peace.”
Republic of Moldova
Victoria was ecstatically blogging the scene when tens of thousands of youth protested recent elections in front of parliament in Chisinau, the capital of communist Moldova. A young journalist, truth-seeker, and documentarian, she thrives on every day coincidences, deja-vus and omens that fill her world with color and joy. She works to show the world the budding hope in her little-known country, and explores its pressing issues of emigration, corruption, and the tensions that exist between ethnic Romanians and Russians.
“Bring the chance we need, people of Moldova! The bloggers create the change! Time to wake up!”
Growing up in a conservative Mexican town with six siblings and parents who were the town’s first mixed religious couple, taught Cristina a lot about resolving conflict. After several draining years working in mainstream media and watching her country spiral into worsening gang violence, she has become passionate about “peace journalism”—providing stories of solutions and people working for a better society. She is a true believer that journalism can change the world.
"To be a woman today is a long road to walk. It’s a road to recover the power that culture has taken from us."