It is exciting to be identified in the global partnership for development which the web has made possible for me, my organization and community. "I have been enjoying your voice for some time now and I am particularly interested to read how at the grassroots level, in your community, your alliance with World Pulse began. In four years with World Pulse, I had not heard that early phase of the story described in any detail" comments Sarah Whitten-Grigsby, on one of my World Pulse journal posts. Her words did the magic! Just the perfect tonic that motivated me to trace my journey to the Web, and of course World Pulse; a common ground we share.
This is not just another story. It is a testimonial and celebration of the role the World Wide Web plays in shaping global citizenship, association, partnership and development. The 8th Millennium Development Goal (MDG) appears to be the least talked about, yet in my opinion, it is probably the most strategic as it can be channeled towards advancing and accelerating the achievement of goals 1-7. Global partnerships can play a critical role in remedying major global imbalances and problems like poverty, gender inequality, epidemics, war, illiteracy and environmental degradation, among others. Incorporating equity of access to computers and the internet can go a long way in that regard.
I bare witness to the workings of global partnership and cooperation and how the web offers an avenue for capacity building, information and resource exchange/sharing, networking, and associated support. In 2005, the Women Global Green Action Network (WGGAN) embarked on a global search for grassroots women environmental activists and advocates; and the organization sent out an online call for nomination and recommendation. I had no inkling about this opportunity, but had enjoyed the good fortune of being recommended by the Executive Director of the Rural Africa Water Development Project (RAWDP); an associate in the social development sector in Nigeria; who was very familiar with my grassroots green initiatives and women's empowerment endeavors.
I was filled with excitement when I was invited to attend and contribute to WGGAN's '1st International Grassroots Women Environmental Strategy Meeting' in Mexico City from 12 - 14 March 2006. Also tied to the opportunity, was an invitation to attend the 4th World Forum from 16 - 19, 2006; as a regional member of WGGAN. These events paved way for me and my organization to gain global recognition, exposure and connections.
When Melinda Kramer, the co-founder of WWGAN moved on to establish the Women's Earth Alliance (WEA), my liaison with her continued. In 2007, I received an email invitation from WEA, to apply to attend the 1st African Women and Water Conference held at Karen Nbi, Nairobi (Kenya) in 2008. I was afforded the opportunity to attend the event in the company of an associate. A ready choice was Anna Avong, the then Kaduna State President and current National President of the Attarkar Women Association of Nigeria (AWAN). I was able to submit a joint online application, which was accepted and resulted in our selection.
Our eventual participation in the August event remains a memorable accomplishment because with my support, a grassroots women leader in my community was able to gain international exposure. Very much so, our joint participation opened a new chapter in my organization's ability to deliver Water, Sanitation and Hygiene intervention projects in Attarkar and other communities. With the knowledge and skills acquired from the conference, and through a partnership between WISE and AWAN, several WASH programs have been successfully planned, developed and implemented. Women who have continued to benefit from our WASH programs are taking on leadership in improving access to safe water and sanitation in their communities. Hygiene practices have also continued to improve, leading to drastic reduction in associated diseases.
Among the grassroots women leaders from different parts of Africa, who participated in the Water Conference, Sizani Ngubane a participant from South Africa and I were informed of our selection to attend the Women Leaders for the World (WLW) Training Program of the Global Women's Leadership Network (GWLN), which held at Santa Clara University in July of the same year. Two weeks after my return from Nairobi, I made it to the United States and got enlisted as a GWLN global citizen and change leader. The training program was truly a journey of discovery and reflection for me.
Upon my return from the WLW training, I received an email from Melinda about World Pulse. So began a journey to a common ground I now share with over 70,000 women from 170 countries around the world. It was a welcome and rare privilege to be numbered as the 217th member of the World Pulse Online Community! I quickly realized the numerous opportunities I could benefit from the World Pulse Community, yet I was limited by many factors. I was away from my base for a greater part of that time as I was undertaking a masters degree program at the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA). It was a particularly challenging period for me as I had to shuttle between Kaduna and Akure to keep pace with the demands of my social activism, consultancy service and academic works.
So, for a greater part of the period, I did not have reliable access to the internet. The situation was made worse because of the prevalence of cyber crimes in my country at the time. I no longer found cyber cafes safe enough for my online communications and activities. Yet, there was so much I needed to do online with respect to my masters research, managing my organization and communicating with my collaborators and clients, and also keeping in touch with my social networks and contacts.
As a matter of obligation, I needed to protect the interests of my online contact by limiting my use of unregulated internet cafes. I had a personal laptop and realized that it was necessary for me to own a personal modem. I eventually put some money together for it and subscribed for an internet service. This singular move fast tracked my online activities! With improved, safer and more secured access to the internet I began spending more time researching, learning, sharing, connecting and collaborating online.
For example, in 2011, Professor Lin Hightower (an alumnus of WLW ) from Kennessaw State University, generously offered WLW alumni an opportunity to apply for a Free Website Design and Redesign by WLW Grad Website design students. My organization was selected from a pool of applications they received; as revealed by the email selection notification I received. "Olanike, hope your week has been good. I am pleased to tell you that your project has been selected for our web design class. If you are missing information we need the rest of information by the end of this weekend. We do need everything so please get us pictures of your project and happy pictures of people involved with your work. Pictures help people connect to your website. Please confirm you have received my email. The students are excited about working with you. It is a lot of work and usually takes about two semesters, so be patient as we move through the development process. You will get two designs to select from and you will give us feed back on things you want us to change or tweak" wrote Lin in her email. I was able to take active part in the design of my organization's website through regular email and Skype communication with Professor Lin and her team who championed the Web design project.
Same year, I was also able to take a go at the 2011 Voices of Our Future (VOF) application. Though I did not make it on the list of the 30 Correspondents who were selected for that year's training, the application process offered me a great experience that helped me discover my unique speaking voice. My participation helped me discover the untapped power of my voice, and the change I was passionate about also became more meaningful and important by the day. I realized that my passion and commitment towards environmental sustainability and women's empowerment is what makes me 'me'. Accordingly, I learned to be focused, became inspired and more motivated, gained confidence and knowledge sharing capabilities, and made amazing connections with my fellow applicants and the World Pulse online community. I choose not to list names of the amazing women I met during the process because space will fail me.
Everything and everyone I was exposed to on World Pulse in 2011 onward, motivated me to take part in the 2013 VOF application; and I am forever grateful that I took that landmark step. Fate shined on me and I became a World Pulse Correspondent. I can never forget the scheduled Correspondent Orientation as well as Question and Answer calls, training sessions with my Sarah Happel and Sasha Rabin (my assigned Vision and Editorial mentors respectively), my fellow correspondents and the World Pulse Training Team; which all happened via email exchanges and Skype calls! I participated fully in the requisite six months citizen journalism and digital empowerment training, and with all the support around me and the invaluable feedback received, I was able to complete all the eye and mind opening assignments.
Just as we were rounding up the 2013 VOF training, another opportunity opened up for all the Correspondents. It was an internet radio show training offered by the Sylvia Global Media Network (SGMN). I knew next to nothing about producing internet radio and TV shows and was all too happy to take advantage of the opportunity. The training culminated in my initiating and becoming the host of a radio show titled 'WE- Women and Environment' on Sylvia Global Media; which was launched on this year's World Radio Day. The show is geared towards highlighting insightful dialogues about women's rights, roles and responsibilities in environmental restoration and governance, with an array of local, national and international guests.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has had great impact on my personal and organizational development; and I am still grappling for the words that will aptly capture what I have come to know, experience and enjoy. In giving back to my community, I want to continue to enhance women's knowledge and skills in using ICT learning, teaching and sharing resources to improve their socio-economic outcomes. There is no doubting the fact that the web is a boundless, inclusive and empowering platform with limitless opportunities for women.WWW: Women Weave the Web