Us, womankind, casting our stories together into the cybersphere
It is almost midnight but Magdalena Suhat and Rosalinda Bantilan are still deep at work, defying sleep. Suhat’s two middle fingers are alternately pressing the keys on a desktop keyboard, writing a radio script while Bantilan, is fumbling with the mouse of a laptop, a headphone over her head, recording her own voice, using a web-based audio editor.
This is their debut into the digital realm: the first time ever to use computers and launch an expedition online. With them are Salima and Leigh, both in their 20s, coaxing and coaching them; the young mentoring the old, the wise learning from the tech-savvy.
Both Suhat and Bantilan are indigenous women. Suhat, a Manobo, 54, is the oldest among the trainees learning digital radio skills for the grassroots. She leads a tribe in Arakan, North Cotabato. Bantilan, a B’laan, 45, also heads a group of mat weavers in Malapatan, Sarangani. Their poor and remote villages have been impacted by protracted insurgencies.
But despite the challenges of poverty and conflict, they are life-long learners. They are becoming peace builders and mediators. Tonight they are polishing their recording, and tomorrow, they would present their radio plugs. The plugs would be rough-hewn but their commitment to use the digital media is promising. In a month, the digital radio plugs on women engaged in building a culture of peace, as bannered by the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1325, would be heard over several radio stations in parts of Mindanao that are battlefronts, where the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the National Democratic Front are clashing with government military troops.
Empowering community-based women peace builders like Suhat and Bantilan so that they become actors, their presence counting in Peace Tables and negotiations are emblematic of what is exciting for me about Web 2.0. The digital media ensures the visibility of doubly disadvantaged women, like those of ethnic minorities, particularly an older generation who are also, like me, digital immigrants. The Web as New Media won’t leave us behind, instead it grants us crones the citizenship, allowing access to digital technology as tools for peace activism. And come to think of it, they –we -- have barely explored social media networking yet!
I have read about the shapeshifting anew of this digital culture: “it won’t be a chaotic cobweb anymore, but a ‘cybersphere’, where its billions of users will be spinning their own tales, the Earth telling its own story.”
This possibility also ignites excitement: another level of democratization for this global technology. I am hopeful that older women will embrace bravely this improvement as an upgraded tool.
I can already imagine the rivulets and streams and flowing rivers of buoyant texts and images and stories. And, I tell you, the Suhats and Bantilans, as well as the Salimas and Leighs, will be there, a compassionate community of Womankind, casting stories of empowerment, of peace building and conflict transformation into that Cybersphere’s endlessly flowing, liquid conversations.