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Bridging Gaps With Web 2.0? Yes We Can! Yes, I am!

Jyoti Bairagi, a 20 year old woman, lived in Partla - a remote village in India’s Madhya Pradesh state.

The village, perched on a rocky hill, had no motorable road and no running water. Everyone there wanted a boy and, when a woman gave birth to more than one girl child, it was killed. A girl’s education stopped at 5th standard. Because, the high school was 5 hours away and after school, a girl would return home in pitch dark, thus running the risk of being molested. In few years, she was married off, as parents felt, she sat idle for way too long. This often resulted in early motherhood, post-natal sickness and infant mortality. The state had the highest rate of infant mortality and the worst sex ratio (888 girls to every 1000 boys) in India.

Jyoti didn’t want to get married early. She had heard that outside her village girls went to college and worked in offices. She wanted to be one of them. But first, she wanted her village to be connected with the world, and learn of those changes.

The question was, how?

The concept of media didn’t exist; no reporter ever visited the village – over 2 hours’ walk from the nearest bus station. Nobody had a TV or bought newspapers.

My answer was, web 2.0

I was heading a program where underprivileged communities were trained to produce their own news. I spoke to a few mobile phone service providers. Jyoti’s village had a network!

‘A cell phone is all you need’ I told her.

In Feb’2011, Jyoti travelled to my office in Goa. There I, with help of my colleagues, helped her buy a mobile handset. In the next 2 weeks, besides basic internet use, Facebook and Twitter, Jyoti learnt to subscribe to a free SMS service. She learnt to type a Hindi text message in Roman script and write a microreport using no more than 140 characters. Next, Jyoti learnt to send the SMS to a group of people. Each time, she could reach 145 people. I showed her how to add in that group, people who mattered: journalists, activists, govt officials and police officers. Most of them were active users of social media and could, through re-twits and re-posting, help take Jyoti’s hyperlocal reports to a pan-global audience.
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4 days after she left Goa, Jyoti sent us her first news report: ‘I am in village. With me, my village has got its own media’.

To me, this is what Web 2.0 is all about: empowering one woman to help empower another, bridging the gap between the urban and the rural and, the vocal and the voiceless.

Waiting out there are millions of Jyotis. I strive to reach them all with Web 2.0, so, no injustice against them ever goes untold.

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Comments

jmadhur's picture

Wonderful and Inspiring!

Dear Stella

I just joined World Pulse community. And on my very first day, I came across this article from you. What a wonderful write up it is! Without shame I can say that it is the most inspiring story I have ever read. I still have to learn many things, and I am sure I will. But I can tell you that this article will be a big reason for me to stick around and read on. Without using bookish words, you have described how women from the most difficult situations can be helped to share their stories.

May god always bless you with such eloquent writing
JM

Stella Paul's picture

Thanks and a warm welcome!

Dear JM

First of all, a big and warm welcome to you! Yes, you definitely will love this site, the groups and interacting with all these beautiful, brilliant women.
Glad I could tell my story well enough to make you smile. Thank you very, very much for your kind and generous words. I think that is a great quality you have - generosity of heart. I promise to bring many more stories of empowerment like this, and hope to hear your stories too,in coming days.

Best, sister!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

smritikhanam's picture

Very happy

I am also new here and I also just read your article.My English is not very strong, so I can not express my feelings. Only I can say that, it is the first article I have read where I get some clear idea women in rural and poor areas can find a solution to their problems. I am very happy to read your description of the web tools that you trained Jyoti. In my country also we have many many such women.I am very grateful to get this idea from you on how to help them also. I thank you very much for this

Stella Paul's picture

Same here

Dear Smriti
I am happy too, to see here and to welcome to our community. You are right, poor women from rural areas face more than 1 challenge. But together, we can indeed find solutions to the trickiest of problems. I have been involved in creation of a community based media movement. Let me know if you want more information on this or want to discuss a specific problem. Will be happy to help.

Until then, best wishes!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

katyrdz's picture

inspiring

Hey Stella! Like someone said in another comment, I loved that you put a very good example of the difficulties rural and "third world" women have with techonology without fancy words or complicated details. I look forward to read your following stories!

Stella Paul's picture

Thanks Kat!

Thanks indeed Kat. Situations vary, so do applications of ideas, but at the end, the result is universal: empowerment of women with a voice, with confidence. Its wonderful to be telling stories of empowerment and to hear others'
Best!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Celine's picture

Hi Stella

Hi Stella,

I am happy for Jyoti. Now she has a starting point. Women always break even. They are solution - finders.
ICT has opened up a window of opportunities for women in both rural and urban areas.

Thanks for sharing.

Celine

Stella Paul's picture

Yes, they do!

Dear Celine

Yes, a little late at times, but women do break even. ICT has been, to women like you,me and her, the most powerful source of strength in our journey to self empowerment.

Thanks for the beautiful comment!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

usha kc's picture

Hello Stella really good to

Hello Stella really good to know about the good impacts in rural parts.
your really did very great job for Jyoti.

keep it up dear.

Stella Paul's picture

Motivating

Dear sister Usha

Words such as yours are a constant source of motivation for me. I feel and I believe it too, each one of us in this forum is doing something good everyday. I wait to hear all those stories of goodness.

Once again, thanks for reading! God bless!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

MaDube's picture

Simply amazing

You are doing wonderful work my sister.

This is real empowerment of the grassroots and I commend you and your organisation for this brilliant work you are doing. Keep up the good work and get them all soaring :-). What is your organisation's name? Would love to read more about it and see how we can borrow ideas from you.

Best,
MaDube

Stella Paul's picture

Thank you

Dear friend

The name of the program that I headed is called India Unheard. You can check it out here: http://indiaunheard.videovolunteers.org/
I am no longer a part of it. After helping conceptualize, launch and get it going, I decided to walk out, as the community members are trained enough to carry on their own. However, I continue to stay associated as a journalist and as a supporter.

Can't thank you enough for the comments!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

soulhavenlisa's picture

Thanks

Stella,

Most has already been said by others. I just want to also add my appreciation of your story. Your last words touched me and resonated so much with what I am called to do, shine the light on what many want to keep hidden.

Sending you love from Chicago,
Lisa

Stella Paul's picture

Way to go!

Dear Lisa

And I loved the way you put it...listen to your call and shine the light. Way you go! And my best wishes will go all the way with you!

A hug!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

amiesissoho's picture

Very encouraging

This is very encouraging. Voices of rural women are mostly marginalized in the development and use of technology.So far the mobile phone seems to be closing that divide because most of these women can use their voices.

Amie

Stella Paul's picture

Absolutely!

Dear Amie

Yes, there is so much one can do with just a mobile phone, thanks to the advanced technology. You know as a journalist, I write on environment issues (besides development) and worldwide, there is a huge talk on transfer of technology between the rich and the poor. Now thats of course green tech we talk about. But, from my experience, there is just as pressing a need to transfer technology from men to women, especially those living in rural areas. Once we do that, the world is going to be a much better place.

Love

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

YAOtieno's picture

Web 2.0

Hi Stella,

You have brought Web 2.) to light in a different way - highlighting the power of one woman using her mobile phones.

I like wheb Jyoti says - My village now has its media

This is indeed very inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

A candle looses nothing my lighting another

Stella Paul's picture

How interesting!

Dear friend,
I guess I was reading and commenting on your article, while you were doing on mine. How interesting! So now, web 2.0 is also shaping our timing :) Thanks for your comment and for sharing your story as well!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Zettermark's picture

Possibilities!

Wow! What an interesting and hopeful story!

Stella Paul's picture

Thanks!

Dear Friend

I read about you before I read your comment here. You are a beautiful person, with beautiful thought with great courage to calla spade a spade and right the wrong. Gender bias - whatever form it may come in - is an deplorable injustice.I am and will always be there with you and every other colleague/friend/sister to fight this evil. And just in case it interests you, I just wrote a piece on how leadership isn't defined by gender or sexual orientation. I hope you will like it; http://stellasmusings.blogspot.com/2011/09/veerudada-transgender-leader....

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

SallyB's picture

Beautiful!

Thank you so much for sharing such an inspiring story with us! I am really impressed with both the clarity and purpose of your writing.

Stella Paul's picture

Thanks and hugs!

Dear Sally

Thank you so very much for reading and for caring to write! It not just makes the sharing worth it,but also works as a great motivating factor!

Best!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Iffat Gill's picture

Greetings!

Dear Stella,

I really enjoyed reading your story and am moved by your personal vision of empowering the rural women of your country. I had the opportunity to observe a similar trend during my human rights work in Pakistan. Modern Information
and communication technology just transformed how women think and to what extent they re willing to go now to share their stories of sufferings or suppression on the media especially electronic media. The mobile technology empowered them to stay connected and report women rights violations of not just their own person but also other members of their communities. Really touched by your work.

Keep up the good work and I wish you luck in your future endeavors!

Best wishes.

Iffat Gill

Stella Paul's picture

Beautiful

Dear Iffat

These are beautiful words, and your experience is soo reflected in what you say. I am happy, not just to have these words of encouragement, but also to connect with you - a sister from neighboring country who has been so close yet so far,thanks to our petty political system. We will rise above the situation, Inshallah!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Emily Garcia's picture

Thank you!!!

Hi Stella,

Thank you for your post! It was wonderful to read. You have a true gift for storytelling and I can feel your enthusiasm for new media and women's empowerment in your words! Perhaps you have written about this before on PulseWire, but I was hoping to hear a bit about how new media has empowered you personally. How were you first introduced to Web 2.0 and when did you first feel inspired to start blogging? I admire your ability to share by blogging and hope to continue learning from you!

Best wishes,

Emily

Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Lead

Stella Paul's picture

I sure will

Dear Emily

Thanks so much for writing. I am so happy to connect! You know, the toughest job for some people(I very much am one of them) is to say something about themselves. But having crossed the first hurdle, I feel free now, and happy too, to touch upon that 'oh so difficult' subject. Sorry if I disappointed you this time, but this is just the beginning and I sure will write about the early steps into blogging world. Until then, cheers and thanks again!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Emily Garcia's picture

Dear Stella, Your entry was

Dear Stella,

Your entry was no disappointment at all! And I can certainly understand the struggle to write about one's personal life in a public forum. It's difficult, and for me, totally scary! So, it's a challenge I face as well, but you are already so courageous by sharing so much of you with us through your writing!

Thank you again,

Emily

Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Lead

earthwindfire's picture

Yes, We Can!

Thank you, Stella Paul for this writing. It was difficult to read about what Jyoti's life was like and was destined to become in her early years, but inspiring and encouraging to learn how your program was able to make such a remarkable difference to her and to those of her ilk. It seems you achieve miracle-like outcomes for women who have inherent resiliencies to their environments, enough to make them able to absorb all that was missing in their villages and introduced to them through humanitarians like yourself. That her entire village benefited from your leadership speaks volumes about the value of your work,'bridging the gap between the urban and the rural and, the vocal and the voiceless.' I thank you not only for your submission to World Pulse, but for the energy and caring you expend in the name of empowering women and guiding them to empower others.

Stella Paul's picture

I like it so!

Dear Martina

I like your username - three of the five elements (panchtatwa), according to the Vedic philosophy. Coming back to your comment, I have trained 20 other girls like Jyoti in past 1 year and they are all doing great now. Its an amazing feeling to meet them and each time we meet, they make me cry with all their honesty and their resilience! Who says you find inspiration in a 3-stories library building?

I do believe that skill sharing lays the first foundation for change and after coming to this forum, I am hearing an echo of this way too often. That's a wonderful feeling! Thanks so much for such a beautiful message. We must stay connected to encourage and strengthen each other.

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

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