VOF Week 1: (Raising our voices)
What excites me the most about Web 2.0 is definitely the human aspect of it- instead of reading dry information about a subject, I can interact with people, listen to their stories, learn to understand their perspectives, ask questions, give feedback and participate directly in the dialogue. Web 2.0 allows us to make close connections, access places and people around the globe, to connect, interact and unite around issues we feel passionate about. Instead of being passive receivers of information, we create the content of our interactions ourselves: The Internet brought us access to information, Web 2.0 gives us a voice.
And that's exactly why I see Web 2.0 as an important tool for women's empowerment. Web 2.0 transgresses boundaries, both geographical and conceptual, like class, race or gender. Issues related to women's subordination are personal in nature: the home, the family, the body, and are often not discussed in public. With Web 2.0 we don't depend on states, media machines or news agencies to tell us what is important and what not, we can set the agenda ourselves, express the issues important to us and interact in a truly democratic way. Unlike news and one-way-information, nobody needs to speak on behalf of others or claim to have the only valid truth- it gives rise to different voices, different opinions and perspectives. We connect as equals, which is probably a more feminine way of organising as opposed to rigid hierarchies: Kings and presidents have exactly the same space on Facebook as I do, what they make out of it depends on how active they are.
Women's empowerment requires unconventional ways- for decades we have tried to gain influence through the existing power system. Yet people in power are very reluctant to share their privileges, as long as they have the means to control the system. So gender discrimination was cloaked as being a private matter, sporadic, or just a 'normal' part of the culture. Web 2.0 is a possibility for women (and other marginalised groups) to lift their issues up on the agenda, make themselves heard and visible, to exchange experiences and expertise, to network and organise for their cause.
The sheer choice and variety of Web 2.0 interaction is fascinating. When I flick through my local newspaper, I see only a few issues that interest me and my opportunities to react are slow and controlled by others. With Web 2.0 I choose and the platform myself, I can speak up for myself without the obstacles and limitations of traditional channels, and create a community that shares my visions. It gives me access to interact with and learn from people I wouldn't otherwise have met, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. As an activist for human rights and empowerment, it is essential for me not only to read about people in different locations, but directly interact with them and share insights, ideas and inspiration.