ACCESS TO INTERNET IS LIKE ACCESS TO LIFE ITSELF (WEAVE THE WEB IN NIGERIA)
The life with untapped potentials is the way I can describe my life until 2009. I felt that something great was missing in my life and I took the big step to collect loan from the bank to buy a laptop, wire my office for internet access. My other colleagues were looking at me as somebody from another planet.” Are you sure you want to spend this so much money just to have access to internet? We wish we can convince you to invest this money on things that will benefit you and your family” They lamented. Here is my story and the story of an average Nigerian women and girls.
I was already a master degree holder seven years before 2009, yet till that year, I was still a pure illiterate as far as internet and web is concerned. Immediately I got myself connected the first thing I did was to go to Google because that is the popular place people go to when they are connected to the internet. I then searched for women organization around the world because I have a vision for years to help and empower the women in my community but I did not know how to go about it. The first organization that came into view was Association of Women in Development (AWID). I went straight to the website and click to join the group. The first newsletter I received from the organization, there was this competition organized by WorldPulse, The Voice of Our Future Correspondence (VOF). Since any woman all over the world could be part of the competition, I went straight into it even though I had no knowledge of journalism and web 2.0. It was during this program that I was able to learn, how to access my mail, how to attach documents to mails, how to chat on yahoo and blogging. I also joined facebook and twither through the program. Light was a serious problem in accessing internet in Nigeria, and so during the program I had to go to public cybercafé where they have standby generator because whenever light went off the internet in the office automatically goes off. The problem of the public cybercafé is also another serious problem because they are very few, always congested and taken over by the “yahoo boys” the boys that engage in internet scam. They are very wide, dangerous, fetish and women is always their target. Therefore whenever I had to go to the café, my husband had to follow me as my body guard throughout the time I had to spend there to protect me from being attacked by these boys. To own your personal modem for browsing is very costly and unaffordable for an average civil servant in Nigeria. This discourage many especially the women from venture into accessing internet and so they are contented in being an illiterate as far as internet is concerned. I was in a MDG (Millennium Development Goal) program two years ago as a resource person to give a training workshop to some teachers. In the workshop, I had 50 participants in my class among which there were 37 women. When I asked that how many of them have the knowledge of computer and internet no matter how small, there was none. I was so sad and concerned that when the chairman of the Local Government came to visit us at the venue of the workshop, I made an appeal that the Local government should organize training for the teachers on how to access internet. I also appealed that the teachers should also be given computer on credit to be paid on installment so that they too could be involved in the happenings around the world. To this present moment my appeals have not yielded any positive result. Do not be surprised that all these teachers (participants at the MDG) were all university graduates of many years yet they are complete novice as regards to computer and internet. In the survey I carried out recently, out of the 45% of Nigeria population whom are women according to the last census, less than 15% of this population has some knowledge of internet while only about 5 % actually have access to internet due to the reasons mentioned above. This development brought about my vision to have ‘Females Only’ cybercafé in every state in Nigeria. The ‘female only’ cybercafé will provide a safe place for women to have access to the internet without fear of attack or being molested. There will always be instructor around to teach women coming to the café that have no knowledge of internet on some rudiment on accessing internet. Therefore the café will be an internet training ground for the women, help them to be well informed of happening around the world and also able to raise their voices on issues that concern them and mount pressure on government or any quarter where the right of women are being trampled upon.
Though with tears and with a lot of struggles, power failure and all other hindrances, I made it a point of duty to stay connected on the internet and within the five years of my access to the internet, I have had series of opportunities:-
-Immediately I got connected in 2009, I was able to enter into the program of Voice of Our Future Correspondence organized by worldPulse, met a mentor that is like a guiding angel in my life, won a scholarship to go for Empowerment Training at Empowerment Institute in NewYork. I traveled out of my country and enter a euro plane for the time.
- Through the training I received during the VOF program and additional training from the Global Press Institute online, I am now a journalist and a reporter. Several of my articles have been published by Global press Institute.
-Through the Empowerment Training I attended in NewYork, I was able to meet David and Gail, the founders of the Empowerment Institute and also the founders of Imagine Initiative who gave me the opportunity of being the Imagine program manager in Nigeria.
- The vision to empower women and girls in my community that I have been carrying about for years not knowing how to make it happen became a reality during these few years. My NGO, Women inspiration development center, Ile-Ife, Nigeria was registered with help of Worldpulse board members and Empowerment Institute. The Center in collaboration with Imagine Initiative has organized workshops for about 430 women and girls on ‘Knowing their own truth’. In the center we have helped several women and girls involved in domestic violence and sexual abuse. We have trained several homeless girls on vocations in which they are using now to take care of themselves and their families.
-I now belong to network of women of more than 100,000 people around the world
All these are happening within the few years of my access to internet and I know the sky is the beginning.
With my single lap-top, I have trained fifty-six women and girls on how to access the internet, some of them even joined worldpulse community but their problem is continuous access to internet for them to be able to participate well in the worldpulse community and other social media community. The email address some of them opened during the time I was training them have been closed down because they were not using them as a result of lack of access to internet.
Hear the word of one of the women I am working with, “I my life is not complete by not accessing the internet but what do I do? I just have to continue like this until I am able to afford a lap-top and internet modem”
Another woman that is connected with internet on regular basis has this to say, " My God, I have been missing all these years, there are so many opportunities on the net, I wish I can convince all other women to be doing this, I have been having a swell time my sister".
Therefore I want to say categorically that "Access to internet is like access to life and so being deprive of it is like being deprive of life and when there is no life, the individual is dead". It is therefore pertinent that women should have access to internet globally and this can only be achieved if access to internet is made cheap and within the reach of a common woman and girl so that they can weave the web without tears