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Listen. Be Heard. Amplify. Connect. ACT.

On the damp floor of a mud hut in rural West Africa, 40 km on a dirt road from the nearest phone, computer or radio tower, an 18 year old illiterate girl named Fatim is giving birth to her fifth child. Her tiny body has aged quickly from a succession of mostly unwanted pregnancies that she cannot, or will not prevent. She doesn't know the meaning of the words 'family planning,' or 'birth spacing'. This is not her husband's baby. Tomorrow, she will take her newborn into the bush, set it under a tree, and walk away.

There is no one holding a mic to Fatim's voice to let her be heard; there is no one reaching out to discuss her options and help her access resources. Yet.

Fatim is not one specific woman, but a composite of many I have met in over a year of volunteering in Dogon country, Mali, who do not have the tools, the freedom, or the education to connect with others in the movement towards self-empowerment, improved health and education.

But this is changing with Web 2.0, citizen journalism and social media. These revolutionary forms of communication and education are unique in that they are grass-roots, dynamic, real-time and universal. They give a far-reaching voice to people in the movement for women's empowerment who haven't yet had the opportunity. Web 2.0 enables women to connect with each other and to speak out, uncensored and to a boundless audience. It is the best medium yet to help bridge the gap between women who don't have the resources to advocate for change, and their sisters around the world who do.

Web 2.0 is empowering for me because it allows me to amplify the voices of people I work with here in Mali, to help them connect with and seek support from people across the world who share their vision. This is not a one-directional conversation; It is equally important for women coming from privileged places to join the conversation about global women's issues, and to understand how we are all essential actors in the movement to empower women. My work is to build the communications and networking capacity of women involved in Reproductive Health, Family Planning and Natural Resource Management. The organisation I work with helps women share resources, as well as use media tools both local and global to garner support. We are beginning radio shows in local dialects about family planning and HIV. We archive pedagogical tools used for trainings. These technological and communications skills are indispensable in empowering women to bridge that 40 km gap between Fatim and the nearest phone, computer or radio tower. But Web 2.0 is a tool that can bridge a much larger gap: I want to connect Fatim not only to the nearest town, but to women across the globe.

Comments

olutosin's picture

Bridge the gap....

Beautiful angle darling.......keep the voice loud and clear.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

carolepng's picture

Moving...

:'-( very moving piece.

-We all have a special purpose in life. It is up to us to pause for a while, identify it, grab on to it and follow through -

Julie Tomlin's picture

Your vision and passion..

.. is very inspiring. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on women and social media and what these tools can achieve.
I enjoyed reading your assignment - you obviously feel very strongly about helping women like Fatim and this really came through.

Yours,
Julie

@julietomlin

Very powerful story! Keep up the good work. As you continue building networks, especially using the Web 2.0 platform, you are helping to spread the importance of this application.

check out the USIP website ( www.usip.org ) for a paper by Sean Aday, et al entitled ' Advancing New Media Research'. It mentions 5 levels of analysis to measure how new media can affect change: individual transformation, intergroup relations, collective action, regime policies, and external attention. You may want to reflect upon these factors related to your continuing work.

Frances Faulkner's picture

both ways

I like your emphasis on communicating from both ends. In the past, what little education that has been offered in some places is handed to women who then "listen" but have maybe not had a voice in return or a forum to share their own thoughts. Now, given increasing opportunities for those women to speak back, it remains equally important that those with potential to educate do some deep listening themselves. This "conversation" is at the heart of your work and it is so great you are doing what you are. Inspirational!

Frances

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