Being Zimbabwean – and therefore living within a polarised political and media environment – what excites me most about Web 2.0 is that it is providing a platform for Zimbabweans without partisan or hegemonic perspectives on things to share their views together and thereby create alternatives to the dominant opinions that the mainstream media would like us all to hold.
Web 2.0 allows for anonymity as well as amplification – both of which are often necessary for women coming from repressive societies to be able to tell their stories without fear of recrimination. Web 2.0 also takes out the gatekeeper (eg. content editor, media owner) who so often has vested interests in censoring information that needs to be known. In our Zimbabwean media discourse, talking about sexual and reproductive health rights remains taboo – and mentioning ‘offensive’ words such as ‘vagina’ or ‘sex’ remains something that the male-dominated media sector shies away from. A 2009 ‘Glass Ceilings’ report for southern Africa revealed that the average proportion of women in the media in the region was 41%. If South Africa was excluded, the proportion dropped to 32%. Coupled with this is the fact that many female journalists suffer sexual abuse at the hands of their male peers and superiors. Women can therefore create their own safe spaces through Web 2.0.
Last year in October, I began my own blog because of the frustration I felt at the fact that important issues that need to be discussed are not being addressed by our mainstream media. My blog is called ‘Fungai Neni’ and means ‘Think with me’.
I discuss everything from women’s rights, sex, HIV, concurrent relationships, reflections on life and other musings which I know would never make it into the local media because they are deemed to be too shocking for readers (one editor actually once told me this).
Through it I have been able to interact with people from all over the world to find out if the same things that I witness and experience in my own culture are things that women elsewhere identify with. Once I wrote about the taboo attached to women drinking beer in public in Zimbabwe and a UK-based reader was completely shocked that such an act could warrant the reaction of one being called a whore.
My blog has opened my eyes and sharpened my perspective on things.
But eleven months into its existence with around 13 500 blog visits, I still feel that this platform can become bigger and better. My dream is to develop discussion manuals on the issues that have been featured on my blog to cater for women in communities without access to the Internet. I also want the blog to become a portal for more extensive information sharing and relationship building among women who are committed to overthrowing the harmful dictates of patriarchy.Voices of Our Future Application: Empowerment and Web 2.0