Articulating our own unique voices and those of our communities through web 2.0
Web 2.0 has allowed me to find my voice and a stronger sense of identity. When I started my own blog a few years ago, and posted my observations of the world, the posts collectively aggregated my personality. Then Facebook came along and displayed my friends, photographs, wall postings altogether drawing an even richer picture of who I am and what I stand for.
Individual blogs, Facebook pages or tweets can now make news! This ability to self-publish and reach an unlimited audience is real empowerment for me… And made me visualize how transformational it would be to hear from those who have been voiceless until now. This germ of a thought led to the writing of a proposal, which won a competition and awarded me the funds I needed to implement my digital experiment – a pan-Indian video blog for low-income women. Women Aloud Videoblogging for Empowerment or WAVE was born, and has changed my life and worldview forever.
WAVE was set up around the belief that videos highlighting community problems and their solutions from women’s perspectives would be brought together on a shared, interactive platform for discussion and resource mobilization. The 130 videos that we have uploaded on the major video sites like YouTube and six others have received many comments and have been viewed by around 32000 people in 78 countries since we went live in April this year.
Besides these statistics describing the impact the videos have had, we see how most of our network of 50 trainees representing all 28 states in India have stayed in close contact on Facebook, even 9 months after the group training that we conducted. The girls and non-profit staff around them have told us how confident they have become as a result of learning new technical skills, articulating their points of view and then seeing their work appreciated online by their peers and others.
I think the rich interactivity allowed by Web 2.0 tools like blogs and social networks has increased the potential for innovating solutions to pressing problems facing women around the globe. I believe that communities in the developing world can quickly find their own solutions if you empower a few motivated young women with the education, technology skills and confidence they need to get started. As I learned from my WAVE experience, projects where young women are encouraged to write, research, analyse, articulate, connect with other strong women, and participate in community affairs, outside her home can make amazing things happen. Going a step beyond and finding ways to allow these young women to earn an income for their contributions, instills more confidence in them and gains their family’s support as well.
I have seen that including these potential leaders of change into a knowledge-sharing network where they can access information about international conferences, funding opportunities or any other kind of support can reap incredible results. Web 2.0 tools can be powerful ways of enriching their experience with peers and mentors as they are often burdened with intense social pressures at their age from families and society to get married early and give up their careers.