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A Whole New World

There are several challenges and barriers in creating change in my community in Nigeria where I grew up. Rights of the girl child are trampled upon in Delta state. The people are resistant to change, a lot of women are illiterate and poverty level is high. Women are believed not to have a say even in their homes. Women for instance would allow the circumcision of their daughters either because the men say so and they want to save their marriages and family names or they think it is one way to reduce promiscuity.

Even though the girl child education is beginning to gain grounds there are still lots of ignorant people. Many still believe that the woman’s place is in the kitchen so no matter how read and competent a woman is she cannot attain certain positions in some organizations. A woman for instance is mostly given job opportunities in the sales and marketing department of a bank with an unrealistic target and expects that she trades her body to enrich the bank. Single female staff are not to get married until after 2 years because they believe marriage is a distraction. A lot of privately owned organizations do not pay women on maternity leave.

Issues of domestic violence and women’s rights are usually swept under the carpet. There was recently an hour rape video of a girl being raped by five male students of a University and all the university authority, the state government and the local police could say was that the incident didn’t happen in the said locality without details of any investigation, until some individuals took up the case, the girl was identified and two of the guys arrested.

I believe that when people get information and are aware of issues around them2011 and their consequences, life takes on a new meaning, issues gets attention and they are resolved, lives are saved properties are restored, like the rape case which is one of many other examples. The place of education cannot be over emphasized either through training, awareness campaigns, counseling, the media etc as these are some of the several ways to overcome these challenges and barriers and Pulse Wire is indeed a great tool as community issues gets global attention with global solutions through contributions and actions from the global community.



RosemaryC's picture

Yes, a whole new world indeed!

Dear Queenette:
I had seen a post on Global Voices about this terrible incident and am glad that a few people were determined that the culprits should be held accountable. Social media really do give people a way to draw attention to situations where authorities do not act on their responsibilities, as in this case.
I think you are quite right that when people learn about issues and choose to act on that information, change can happen quite quickly. There are many inspiring stories of how social media gives individuals power, and how technology is supporting citizen action. People have lots of views and a desire to act, but before mobile phones and open source software, didn’t often have a chance to express them or to act together as citizens. It’s like they say in “Field of Dreams” – build it and they will come!
World Pulse is an example. I also like the story of Ushahidi, which is now quite well known as a social media platform that people are using to monitor and follow elections and violence associated with elections. It began quite simply with one young woman in Kenya, who was hearing reports about violence in the election and realized the power of giving people a way to learn what was happening and where. She got together with a few computer experts and they created a way for people to send in reports on their mobile phones about incidents, which were mapped and then could be seen online. This allowed people both to know what was happening and to avoid areas where there were problems.
Ushahidi, which began as an individual response, has won many awards and since caught on world wide. I believe people used this kind of technology in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti.
Another example is FrontLineSMS, which is open source software that allows NGOs and groups to send and receive messages through basic mobile phones. Again, it grew from one person’s awareness of a challenge and his determination to find a solution, and now has grown into a wide range of activities. I first learned about it through a project in Malawi where a young American was working to help a district hospital with only two doctors find ways to communicate effectively with all the volunteer health workers in distant communities that the hospital served, and it was a brilliant success. It became Medic Mobile and then started a campaign to encourage people to donate their old mobile phones.
Another brilliant example is how people are using technology to produce maps of areas like Kibera that were not mapped before.
It seems to me that the power of these various approaches is that they empower the individual to have influence far beyond their immediate area. And one of those areas, it seems to me, is in sharing information about the importance of including women in business and development and peacebuilding as equal partners with men.
I sometimes do work with the military on role playing exercises, and one of the ways I help soldiers understand why they should pay attention to women is to cite the example of Australian and New Zealand soldiers in Bougainville after the conflict there. Because many of the patrols were made up of men, and they assumed they should talk to the community leaders, they spoke mostly to men. But then one patrol included a woman and she spoke to women in the community. She learned that because of their trade in vegetables, they travelled along the coast and knew where there were problems. That was information the peacekeepers needed to maintain both their own security and that of the communities. So I show the soldiers that talking to women as well as men in the community is not just a case of respecting rules about gender equality – it is a sensible approach to maintaining their own security. This makes a great deal of sense to them, and it stops a lot of the political arguing which happens in discussions about gender policy.
I wish you all the best in your work. You have a great opportunity, it seems to me, to share stories of women's achievements with people in Nigeria through your work as a television producer. (And sorry this is such a long post - as you can tell, I get excited about social media and open source software and how people are using these new technologies for practical activities to improve life for so many people.)

Kindest regards,

Queenette's picture

I Appreciate

Thanks Rosemary, i enjoyed your post as well i didn't realize it was lengthy until i saw the part your apologies. we cant know it all, we learn every day and i have sure received some from your post.

Thank you very much.

Lagos, Nigeria

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