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Digital Dreams…

Wanting to be a journalist is probably the first and only thing I have ever been so sure about in my life. And over the years a lot of my ideas about journalism have also been shaped by my access to the internet. When I was younger, my idea about journalism was simply restricted to writing for printed newspapers or reading the news and reporting for the handful of news channels we had in Bangladesh, who I thought were thoroughly unimaginative. However, as I grew, so did the number of news channels in TV and my access to the internet that allowed me to venture into different aspects of journalism. I learned to understand that the field of journalism does not have to be restricted to which I thought it was. It is now much bigger, somewhat easier to get into and if I work hard enough, I would be able to gain experiences that not many other fields would be willing to offer me.

The internet has caused the world to become smaller, in a sense that people now have more connectivity and greater access to information. Publishing ones work is much easier nowadays. This is also a result of a greater readership online. Being able to publish my work, allows me to have a greater audience than what I would even five or ten years back. Internet platforms like blogging sites are some great places where I get practice of having my work published. I can start to gain experiences, something which I already am, and a bigger firsthand knowledge of the life that I eventually wish to embrace.

Coming from a third world country, technology, especially the internet, allows young girls like me to come in contact with the most wonderful things that the world has to offer without having to get up from our seats almost at all. Some of us lucky ones have learnt to dream big, bigger than what our parents could at our age, and we strive each and every day so that we can realize them. I say ‘some’ because there are still many people here in Bangladesh who are yet to come in contact with the wonders that technology and the internet has to offer. I have always wanted to work for CNN and work as my country’s first ever correspondent to the news casting giant. But I guess, part of my dream is also to be able to empower people more, especially girls and women, technologically through my work so that they can also start to dream big like I do now.

Honestly, I am one of the lucky minorities who had access to the internet (women and men included). However, due to the huge amount of electricity outages, added to the high prices of computer hardware, discrimination, superstitions and unawareness by people living in rural areas, it automatically becomes hard to create a good working environment with computers. The issues of superstition, unawareness and discrimination go hand in hand in Bangladesh in most cases. Most of the public computers, outside the two largest cities, Dhaka and Chittagong, with internet access (which can be very rare) are usually occupied by men and they rarely let women work in them. This is also supported by the fact that a lot of people believe that this will create problems to their lives, they also feel threatened in many cases when women get access to the internet since they see this ‘unsupervised activities by women as inappropriate’ and threatening to relationships. This is justified by the fact that people from the rural areas lack the knowledge in the benefits that technology and internet can provide.

These are some of the basic issues why most women are so far away from logging on and participating fully online in Bangladesh. In retrospect, coming from a poor country like ours, most women here living outside a city centered cosmopolitan environment do not even know what the internet is and even if they do, they do not know how to use it. This could be because of the issue of lack of access and training in computer technology for most of the women living outside the main cities here, since that’s where they have the least access.

Bangladesh is starting to take its baby steps towards more accessibility of the digital world, however we also have more pressing issues in the physical world that need to be dealt with first. People, especially women, find their physical safety threatened even in the most unexpected of places here and this is just a single rock in the mountain. Similarly, there is a serious lack of women-friendly spaces in most parts of the country which adds to women fearing for their safety. Unless these are tackled properly first, the aim of having people logging on and participating fully online can be an extremely hard goal to achieve.

On a more positive note, I can happily claim that Bengalis are famously considered the ‘knowledge-cravers’ in this part of the world. Hence, the local libraries can have almost a pivotal effect when it comes to making internet more accessible and easier to use. The most effective way to make the access easier for women by the local library at this moment would be to introduce separate computers with internet access for women only. Assists could be provided to those who are completely new to this, so that in the future they themselves can contribute to helping others be more active online. The initiators, however, need to make sure that this is seen through and that this does not get discontinued eventually. It is not uncommon here in Bangladesh for an initiative to be discontinued (usually simply out of the lethargy of initiators) after carrying it out for some time. Unfortunately one of the reasons for this can be that people can be very rigid of change.
Currently working as, besides continuing my education, the Action Officer for Durnibar Foundation, a new non-profit organization, we are trying to work with schools in rural areas so that we can provide free classes and training in computers and how to use the internet to students, especially to girls. We believe that they deserve to experience the wonders that computers and the internet has to offer which sadly is something most of us part of the ‘modern’ generation have learnt to take for granted. We also plan to help support local libraries in rural areas so that they can set up computers with internet access so that a wider range of people can get access to this as well.

After having tackled so many problems just to be able to create a good working environment with the computer, there is always the other big issue that surfaces: i.e. cyber-crime. When it comes to my safety in accessing the internet, anti-viruses and firewalls definitely offer me some security which I feel safe about. And then the fact that I’m mostly browsing from my personal computer. But the question still remains. Cyber-crime is still there, and on the rise. And like anything else, this cannot simply be fought singularly. Everyone needs to come together for it. For companies: they need to keep up with recent crime incidents and offer updates accordingly and regularly. For the governments: They need to monitor sites that are hosted on the web and check whether they are appropriate and ‘safe’ for use.

There is also the topic with rising importance: Body Image Issues. The internet has also given people greater access to criticism and negativity. By being anonymous online, people are often protected by the same technology that liberates so many others, while they criticism, stigmatize and reinforce the structural discrimination that exists in society, online. This is especially harmful for women as they are often criticized much more harshly, leading to body-image complications, losing confidence and faith, harassment over the internet and often leading to severe results (even suicides). So greater awareness about internet etiquette and protecting oneself from the same should come alongside greater access to this new technology. Governments and technology companies simultaneously need to review laws and repercussions to protect victims against such behavior.

There is still a very long way to go when it comes to women from all walks of life participating fully online. However, like many others, I do dream to be there when this will actually happen. Till then, let’s keep our hopes up. Let us keep ourselves safe. Let’s strive for a safer activity online amongst women so that everyone can dream as big as I do now.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »


inetmom's picture

Out of the Cocoon

Dear Raisa - I wish all young people would appreciate their internet access and use it to empower themselves the way you do. I firmly believe that those who are able to look outward are also those who facilitate global change, one person at a time. As you think of teaching digital skills in schools, and think about supporting libraries, also realize that these two entities can extend the capacity of each other. Can schools be open to the public to learn computers? Can the library be a place people who are not on-line can learn about the benefits of the internet? Good luck with your work and keep reaching for your goals.


Raisa Ashraf's picture

Dear T,Thank you very much

Dear T,

Thank you very much for your appreciation for my humble work amongst the hundreds that were submitted for the WWW Campaign. :D It is my honour that you do. :)

As for the questions that you've asked, I have a definitive answer: definitely! :D Honestly speaking, libraries are essential to a community in every aspect possible. It is a place where people from every walk of life congregate in the pursuit of knowledge. So, if good programs and opportunities are provided here, people can definitely learn about the benefits of the internet. When it comes to schools providing lessons to the public, one must remember that schools are for the public in the first place, so of course it can be open to the public. But if it just for classes on computers, it will have to be done after the school hours so that the student's studies are not hampered.

So, there you are! :) I hope I have managed to answer your question with enough justice.

I hope to stay in touch with you even after this is over so that we can talk about these kind of things more! :) D

Till then,

Yours truly,

Raisa Ashraf

Tam's picture

Reporting from Bangalesh

Dear Raisa,

How exciting to learn about you and your desire to be a reporter. How wonderful that you have found World Pulse. I have learned a great deal about current successes and lacks for women and girls regarding internet access, through this report. The fact that your dream of writing is both a dream for yourself, and at the same time a dream for all women and girls in your country, shows how broadly you intend to reach, and so with your plans I wish you much success.
The information you have provided on the lack of resources due to poverty and rural living, are important for us to know and remember, as the inequities of resources worldwide must be addressed.
You also have provided us with important information on how ongoing attitudes by men continue to prevent or make difficult freedom for women in your country, strengthening the link to wherever freedom is being curtailed in other countries, and hopefully strengthening our collective international voice that all forms of restriction and danger to women in fully expressing ourselves and living our lives, must be addressed and stopped.
I am particularly grateful for the information you give on the current dangers that exist for women on line. It is a strong reminder for me that we must address the bullying, the stalking, the pornography and the general social pressures that especially young women face.
It is clear that you are already a strong woman reporter, and that many women in your country will benefit from your writing and example. I look forward to continuing to learn from you about all that is going on in your area.

With Love in Sisterhood,


Raisa Ashraf's picture

Thank You

Dear Tam,

I am glad and grateful at the same time that you have appreciated my work. :D I couldn't be happier that my tiny steps towards my dream is being acknowledged. It is humbling to read about all the things that you could gain from my work. I really do hope to carry this on in the near future and hopefully you will be able to read them with equal enjoyment! :D

Yours Truly

Raisa Ashraf

Lylinaguas's picture

Go for it!

Your perseverance and drive to achieve your goals are main reasons why you are where you are now. You definitely will be able to achieve more because you have what it takes to make things happen for yourself. Persevere in achieving your goals and it will happen. My best wishes for you on your endeavor.


muhorakeye's picture

chère Raisa - je sui

chère Raisa - je sui fortement interesse par votre histoire et Je souhaite à tous les jeunes gens apprécient leur accès Internet et l'utiliser pour se donner les moyens comme vous le faites. Je crois que ceux qui sont en mesure de regarder vers l'extérieur sont aussi ceux qui facilitent le changement de femme mondiale, vous avez une bonne réve et je vous felicité en vous disantque vous etez parmis les femmes dont la societe a besoin mais nous touce ensemble aide les autre femme a utilise l'intrnet sur tous dans le milieux ruraux

Muhorakeye Esperance

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