In their faces (or on screens)
In traditional media, we (women) don’t make news. Uganda’s Daily Monitor now has an established structure for their “People in the News” on the Short Takes page during the week; a deliberate policy to include women. There has to be a woman. The standard number of people is three, and every day of the week, one of those three is a woman. Having worked on the floor that does this page, I can tell you this is hard. There are days that are good, days when Winnie Byanyima is appointed Executive Director at Oxfam International, days when South Korea votes a female President, even days when Japadhola Queen Cecilia Owor dies. Many days are dry though.
Why are women not making news? It could very easily be that media does not think the things we do, or say, are newsworthy. It could also be that women are not in positions that create news. This is where Web 2.0 comes in. Having worked in media for a couple of months I have learned that media can make you. When they choose to write about you often, with or without solid information, they make you stand out. They give you a story, if there is none. They empower you. Web 2.0 has users that range from journalists to NGO workers to community leaders who will not give you a story, but who will write YOUR story. Better still, you can write your own story, and literally put it in the faces of computer-users across the globe. Is there any greater power than forcing people to read or listen to you? For the women whose stories have been deemed not newsworthy, for the women who are positively changing the world, for the women whose stories have never been documented, this would go a long way. It is a power that when harnessed does a lot for global women’s empowerment.
The most exciting thing about Web 2.0 is accessibility to both audience and the user. If the user is a journalist (or in most cases, a citizen journalist), by sharing on this platform, they do away with the impatient editor who just wants to beat a deadline, the sales department that is only after rates and the established targeted audience for the traditional media house. The result is you write your story. If you must out some organization for failing to do their job, there is no observed protocol and you can bring them to account. And, no one asks “Will this story sell?” It is about the story, and not the profit. The ability to remove all these structures that can become barriers is part of the power I find in Web 2.0. It empowers me every day it “kills” off a house style and the sales department- whose employees I have never met. Web 2.0 makes it possible for me to tell a woman’s story, her joys and pains, giving her the agency.