Giving Women A Voice Through Technology
A little goes a long way. Three years ago, I spent some time in the slums of Guayaquil, Ecuador working with an organization called Mi Cometa to map the movement of leading organizations working towards social change. There were amazing, strong young women, many of whom had never been to school, yet were taking care of their families and looking to make a difference on the side. It was amazing to witness what happened once they realized the power they had within themselves.
I’ve traveled alone in Asia, to Turkey, Indonesia, Nepal, Japan, and Thailand. I lived in the slums of Thailand for a week because I met a wonderful nun who invited me to stay there. In India I partnered with an NGO to help with preliminary work for my organization, WiserEarth, a virtual space that isn’t just a website, but a sustainable community.
Now, at WiserEarth, we are laying the groundwork for a much larger movement of women’s empowerment across the globe. Currently we connect over 35,000 members to the social justice and sustainable community. We estimate that around 15,000 of these members are women.
Theresa Williamson of Catalytic Communities, working to illuminate the efforts of favelas, or shantytowns, across Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, found WiserEarth to be the perfect space to bring visibility to these local solutions, ranging from daycare and living centers for the elderly, to soup kitchens, environmentally-friendly brick manufacturing, HIV prevention programs, fluoride treatment, and their own sewage systems. The space empowered her by removing a technological burden for her nonprofit.
As the Executive Director of WiserEarth, I have seen many women come onto the site, enter the conversation, and emerge with a much richer sense of themselves. As a free site, we attract individuals from all walks of life.
One such individual hails from Scotland, Narda Dagleish. Narda, a fashion designer by trade, came onto the site with a passion for art, peace, and compassion. As she reached out to people, she touched many hearts. She plants seeds that sprout into hubs of activity. She worked day and night to create designs for the group WiserCopenhagen, which drew interest from local news and collected the accounts of WiserEarth members reporting live from the climate change conference in Copenhagen last December. She is connected with over 850 members, and has to date made over 4,000 contributions to WiserEarth, everything from groups to resources to words of peace, which carry great weight within the close-knit community.
Theresa and Narda are just two of the billions of women throughout the world searching for a place where they can be heard and make an impact. At WiserEarth, members can clearly see the results of helping to create community and linking social justice and sustainable efforts.
And these efforts aren’t just online anymore. Last year we launched WiserTuesdays, face-to-face gatherings of cross-sector collaboration around technology, sustainability and social change, spearheaded by our inspiring Communication Director Camilla Burg. In Paris, France, where they were first launched, these efforts have brought together over 100 people and spawned a grassroots social change conference which will take place in June. In the United Kingdom and Liberia, they’ve also found a home. Women and men present, discuss and connect around innovative ideas for change.WiserTuesdays make the most of limited resources by gathering together that most critical of resources, human energy.
Passion without an outlet dies slowly. Here at WiserEarth, women can come and be heard, act on their passions, and make a difference. We level the playing field through social media. It’s our hope to empower many more women like those I met in the slums of Ecuador and India, and to give them that realization that they can achieve much within their local community, and add their voices to the global sphere.