Connecting the dots
It began with the vagina monologues. Moved by the stories penned by Eva Ensler I stirred. The timing was sadly, perfect. Every thirty minutes a woman was being raped in Kenya. This systemic gendered attack seemed impossible, but possible.
Why was sexual violence so rampant in Kenya? Why were women in this context, my context so vulnerable? What was the government going to do about? How could women better be protected? Why? What? How? When? I was young, searching for answers and consumed by a hunger to know more. And then somewhere along the way, the web happened.
I took in all the evidence, literature, analysis, opinions, everything. I took it in hungrily. Knowledge is power. And it was right there. All I had to was click. I soaked in the stories, the realities, the tragedies and the gains. I discovered women using the internet as a space, a medium to articulate their realities, their concerns, their issues. Threads and threads of deeply layered collective struggles were revealed.
Delirious, scared, excited I sat down and typed. What started off as an email-a letter- to my family and friends about the rape crisis in Kenya turned into an appeal; to have the conversation, because not having it was dangerous. I pressed send. I couldn’t stop. I kept sending online petitions, video blogs, articles everything. It triggered the conversations. In my little circle, we were talking about it lifting the lid off the silence that breeds stigma, fear and indifference. I used the web to feed myself and those around me with information on difficult, uncomfortable, unsettling issues that thrive on socio-cultural norms that hush frank discussions on sexuality, gender, sexual violence and HIV/AIDS.
Fast forward later, and I volunteered at a gender violence clinic. On a slow afternoon the phone rang, and I answered it. In the next few minutes I was chilled to the bone. A survivor of gang rape wanted to know what to do. It had just happened. My heart shattered. My mind searched frantically for the right words, the right information and I knew my response could change everything.
In those few minutes, the stories, the struggles, the facts I had seeped myself in floated to light. I used them. I took from what other women had shared, had learned, had faced and shaped my response. A couple of hours later, this brave survivor- a woman of strength- came to the clinic to receive care and support.
In those spare fragile moments, the web had become pivotal. And that is the promise of the web 2.0.
That using social networking sites, blogs, videos, articles, and more, we can be connected to the experiences of women around the globe. We can share what works and what doesn’t. We can demonstrate, we can point to evidence and we can channel this to shift thoughts, attitudes and actions.