Web 2.0: What's in it for Women?
Web 2.0 has an amazing ability to break down barriers, whether geographical or social. It would have been a distant dream for almost all of us to interact with individuals from around the world and across different social strata and cultural affinities, expending minimal effort and money. With access to Web 2.0, such connectivity is just a click away. Web 2.0 accelerates ‘collaborative consumption’ as users create and share content they feel is not only of interest to themselves but also to the wider community. Web 2.0 fosters participatory behaviour as is evident by the sheer number of likes, comments, and Tweets, expressing different opinions.
The most exciting attribute of Web 2.0 is that it empowers individuals to be active global citizens. Through our activities on Web 2.0, we engage in digital advocacy; challenge certain beliefs, policies, and actions; encourage others to get involved in various decision-making processes; and contribute to the existing pool of knowledge. It has never been easier to mobilize resources, such as funds and volunteers, to bring a noble cause into fruition. With the amount of data that Web 2.0 stores, it can be a massive historical document.
Global women’s empowerment movement gains momentum through its ability to reach out to people in order to share information sometimes from the remotest regions, to seek assistance for pro-equality projects, and to support other activists. Victims of injustice can connect with each other and find or, better yet, create platforms to demand and realize justice. For instance, Facebook page Guerrilla Force against Eve-teasing (ইভটিজিং বিরোধী গেরিলা বাহিনী) unites Bengali-speaking women against sexual harassment and regularly shares relevant research outcomes and thought-provoking stories. One of the reasons women endure spousal abuse is that they are economically dependent on their partners. Web 2.0 has made it possible for countless women to unleash their potential and to be self-sufficient through online businesses and freelancing.
While women’s representation is low offline, Web 2.0 presents opportunities for their voices to be heard. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has talked about how women are not only the majority of its users, but drive 62% of activity in terms of messages, updates, and comments, and 71% of the daily fan activity. Women have 8% more Facebook friends on average than men, and spend more time on the site. (Aileen Lee, Why Women Rule The Internet, 2011).
I have been actively creating and sharing content and engaging in online conversations pertaining to social issues for the last 2-3 years. For instance, last year, when a self-proclaimed-pious girl remarked online, “If you wear revealing clothes and provoke men, you will bring harm upon yourself,” I shared my experiences of being harassed even though I was fully-covered, dismissing any link between dress and harassment. After seeing my Facebook post on ‘sexual harassment in stores,’ a newspaper editor suggested me to write a feature on gender-based violence. Today, I am part of this vibrant community of resilient women because of Funds for NGOs, an information-sharing website for NGOs.