I had applied to be a Voice of the Future correspondent a year ago and decided to apply again after experiencing a certain situation during the call for 2011 applicants. Besides the political ramifications the incident had, it had ‘really hit home’ in terms of the power of media and social networking, particularly in regards to feminism.
I had been asked to be part of a debate for Al Jazeera’s social media show “The Stream,” and although a few friends coached me before hand, nothing could really prepare me for what had actually happened. The issues of discussion were quite unclear—in terms of the topic of debate I was told beforehand verses the actual debate—but I was quite excited knowing that the guest host was supermodel Alek Wek, not because she’s famous but because the country she’s originally from, South Sudan, had just become the newest country to my region, the Horn of Africa.
Before the debate started, Alek was asked whether she was a feminist or not, and I was taken aback by her answers. Not only did she blatantly state that she wasn’t a feminist (which is her right), but the subsequent comments that she made were odd. She said she wasn’t a feminist because she learned how to share in a household full of brothers. For the first time in my life, I heard someone say that feminists don’t know how to work as a team.
As awkward as her comments were, I was again shocked by a comment made by the person I was ‘debating’ against. He said that young women in Eritrea do national service only to become the wives of army generals. Not only is that completely false, but I felt personally offended as a young woman who has done her military and national service, not to become somebody’s wife but to ensure my rights as an equally participating citizen in the national development drive.
Further on in the ‘debate’, I had been interrupted by Alec Wek as she completely distorted my words and falsely accused me of being insensitive. Her misinterpretation of my statement, though I had corrected her later on in the show, caused many people to write me demeaning ‘hate mail’ and use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to tarnish my name and image.
I had felt awful for about a day, but then it hit me: “If there are those who use Web 2.0 to degrade me, than why can’t I use Web 2.0 to spread the truth and clear my name?” A couple of days after the show, I had started a blog and had it networked on to my Facebook. That weekend, I had a total of 1,975 hits! Through friends, I had learned that my blog posts were all over Twitter. Taking advantage of Web 2.0, I was able to take a potentially demoralizing situation and turn it into liberation! Through Web 2.0, I was able to find my voice and let the world know it.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future Application: Your Journey and Vision.