There Is No Discrimination Once Online!
Internet does not know if you are a girl or a boy, if you have short hair or long, if you are a Muslim or a Christian. All it knows is that you are a user and want information. So, it is your friend and my friend.
How did I meet this friend for the first time? I was in eleventh grade when I created my first email account with the help of a male colleague from the center where I was teaching children. My sister gave me her engagement ring to wear so that the colleague does not misunderstand me going with him alone to an internet club, an action that not many would commit.
There was one time that I begged and begged my uncle to go with me to an internet club so that I make an email account and get more information about the university that I got into, Asian University for Women. And, that never happened because he was ashamed to be seen in an internet club with a girl or maybe ashamed to reveal that he also did not know much.
Back to when I was younger I learned the basics of computer from my younger brother having access to a computer which literally belonged to my brother, we still did not have access to internet which was both expensive and also did not seem a good idea for my father as it could ‘corrupt’ me and other siblings.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been dependent on men to get an access to internet which has also made it even more difficult and also has been a cause for not having access to internet.
Everything changed when I came to AUW. I got access to internet which is both free and faster. Here I was encouraged to use the internet for all the opportunities it can provide me.
I can have as many accounts as I want and can make accounts for people who don’t know how to either because they don’t know or because they have had no access to make one. Counter to what everyone would expect, I know more about internet than my colleague, brother, or uncle.
Access to internet opened a doorway for me to the world and to fully experience what I could but have missed before. This experience itself has become my fight against all the limitations I had before and be confident in myself that I can do what I choose and stand for. It has helped me be able to connect, learn, and make an impact. I joined the World Pulse, one of the most useful and informative event of my life and something that made me have a purpose and be part of a bigger picture.
However, along with all these amazing opportunities and benefits that access has got me as an individual or someone from a society with a least percentage of internet usage, I have also experienced its bad sides; spam, cyber-bullying, etc. Technical Issues such as these could be dealt with by other resources such as, anti-virus programs, deleting saved passwords or having safe and strong passwords, etc.
However, when it comes to society and the extent of control other people in your family and society would want to have on your online status, can be more effective in keeping away from logging on and participating fully.
Whatever information about me is out there, or whatever I post on facebook and the type of clothes I wear in my profile picture and type of friends I have are immediately reported to my family. Internet is a space where every male subject of my society would want to control me so that they can ‘protect’ me from the ‘others’.
I have written about myself and my dreams, about sex education, about menstruation, and many other on World Pulse and yet have not had the guts to share with the ordinary Afghan people on other websites such as Facebook because I think it will be perceived wrongly. What I share online can easily make me look a ‘loose’ girl.
Conversations such as, “you have not been able to do this right because you’ve been wasting your time on internet.” “Why do you spend so much time online? (Or) Why are you always online on xxx; do you have someone (which is always assumed to be male) that you talk to?” are common with a girl who has access to go online and use internet.
Access to internet does not only help women in their own personal developments and access to opportunities. It has helped women get information about their health and other matters which does not only impact them but also the society. Awareness about such benefits is a step towards ending the stereotypes related to the topic and making internet more accessible to women in Afghanistan What I can instead do is to bring awareness in the society in what.
I have felt very unsafe that my brother knew more than me. He could literally control and decide what I do online or offline just because he had access to computer courses which I as a girl did not. There are still not many female-friendly environments for learning and having access to internet. This along with my dependency on men for knowledge and access to internet has motivated me to know more about the field and do a minor in computer science which I am.
If I did not have access to internet to start with, I can help ensure that my sister has.