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Digital Literacy can Empower Girls to Make their Voices Count!

My previous journal titled 'My Life! My Script! My Passion! - Mobilizing Girls Voices traced the journey of my life and the inspiration behind Girls Voices - a non profit organisation I set up to mobilize girls to connect and share their voices on issues affecting them ranging from education, health, entertainment, and a host of other issues. I shared some thoughts around the challenges and barriers my girls face accessing the internet. And this journal follows on to look at the subject of digital literacy for girls.

A few weeks after the official launch of the Girls Voices Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/girlsvoices?ref=hl, we started to receive some interesting engagement from some of the girls. Daisy shared that her friend was being abused at home and could not report the case because her father was a police officer. I encouraged her to locate a local NGO that focused on gender-based violence (since she was not located where we had a physical office) and take her friend over to report the case and receive relevant advice. She shared that they had located the NGO and received support that has resolved the case and provided counselling for her friend and her father. Another girl, Shola, shared that her father would not allow her attend design and dance classes which she loved and was passionate about. So, I counselled her on the need to focus on her present education which may be her father's immediate concern and when I encouraged her to explore taking design and dance courses online, she pleaded for a laptop computer she could use to access the internet and take some online courses and we have commenced arrangements to get the laptop across to her to support her. Bunmi shared that she had just broken up a relationship with her boyfriend and was done with relationships for a while so she can face her studies and enjoy loving herself for a while. A number of the girls reach out to me personally and I found out Carla had posted an open inquiry about a good tattoo parlour she could go to get a tattoo. She posted this inquiry on her personal Facebook Account and series of comments were flying in the air. Sadly, a number of boys and men assumed she was inviting some sexual attention and started to make some sensitive comments that were nasty and unhealthy for the young girl. And when I had a chat with her, I discovered she was nervous and embarrassed to have brought up the subject. She said that she only wanted to get a tattoo of her mum, whom she had lost a few years back and missed dearly. She thought she would honour her mother's memory by getting the tattoo, but it turned out to be a nightmare. I encouraged her to be retract her inquiry on Facebook and be surreptitious and careful with sensitive issues like that and avoid sharing such in public spaces. She felt relieved to discuss the issue in a safer environment and with someone she could trust to understand her pain and the rationale behind her search. I shared these stories from my girls (with fictitious names to preserve their privacy) to show how digital literacy opens up a world where girls can share their voices and seek advice to coordinate their lives and advancement. It is interesting that the girls are eager to engage safe platforms they can openly share their thoughts and voices. Some of the girls are connecting with themselves and simply enjoying the feeling of belonging to an all-girls platform they can be comfortable to engage.

My vision for Girls Voices is to mobilize inspirational and healthy communication via the internet and various social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter https://twitter.com/girlsvoices1. I envisaged this would be achievable working with educated girls who have basic digital literacy and already have an online presence on the social media platforms. However, Interaction with the girls via our Facebook Page reveal that the girls face the challenge of accessing the basic tools to enable them access the internet and feel comfortable online. Some of the girls are not able to go to public internet cafes on their own (without the support of a brother or uncle etc) and they feel uncomfortable browsing and checking up their social media spaces when they are followed by such relatives. Again, some of the girls speak of using their Dad's smart phone or laptop and they don't feel comfortable online when using tools they do not own themselves. This presents an indication that the girls may feel more comfortable online if they had access to tools of their own such as a portable laptop, a tablet or a smart phone they could use to navigate the internet to study, follow their social media updates and build their digital technology knowledge. In addition, there is the cost challenge of purchasing the internet subscription needed to access the internet. However, there are ongoing efforts by bodies like the Alliance for Affordable Internet http://a4ai.org/ working hard to mobilize affordable internet subscription and access for Nigerians. We could mobilize the voices of the girls and make a proposal to the Association, so they can incorporate the girls voices in their submissions and have same reflected in their outcomes.

On my own part, I have a personal laptop that I use to work and I have a modem that I purchase monthly internet subscriptions to keep me online and working. I also have a tablet and a blackberry phone which together leave me grappling with high internet subscriptions totalling about N12,500.00 ($75) monthly and I still face occasional poor network access making navigation online difficult. This just scales up my running costs. So, the major tool I would like to access to feel more comfortable online would be lower internet subscription options that are still effective.
Using the internet continues to be a learning experience for me and I love the experience. Where faced with a big challenge using the internet, I turn to my husband or any close associates that may possess the knowledge to overcome the challenge. And if I am unable to get any physical support, I resort to the famous internet school of 'Google', 'Yahoo' and other search engines and read widely until I acquire the knowledge I require to overcome my challenge. I am constantly amazed at the wealth of knowledge available on the internet. I recall my initial challenge getting round Twitter, especially when I realized I could no longer follow any contacts. I browsed over and over again until I learnt that I could not follow more than 2000 contacts without a close corresponding follower-ship. And then I gradually resolved the challenge with my Twitter Account. Also, I loved the way I saw businesses and organisations run fantastic Facebook Pages but thought it was a big deal that only persons with some special training could achieve. Although, there are a number of professional trainings that are responsible for some very impressive Facebook Pages, I totally learnt to build and maintain the Facebook Page of my Organisation by reading up some online resources. I have also been able to take some online courses that have built my skills in consulting on gender issues, conflict management as well as photography and cinematography.

Digital Literacy is two-faced; while it is very vital to acquire basic digital literacy to thrive in today's world, it is again demanding and sometimes challenging acquiring digital literacy. And, the challenge of digital literacy manifests in various ways and dependent on individual preference. For instance, some persons are commendably versatile on the internet, but lack corresponding interests in social media. Also, the challenge of personal tools to engage and navigate the internet as often as desired presents a major barrier to digital literacy. And when faced with the challenge of high costs of internet subscription (like the case is in Nigeria), one is unable to spend as much time online as may be desired and that delays the progress of digital literacy.
In the area of high internet subscription costs, I am hopeful that the Alliance for Affordable Internet would be able to secure better internet subscription options that would be affordable for Nigerians. My first recommendation is in the area of improved internet service, there are still severe problems of poor network connection that make it challenging accessing the internet. It is important that the Nigerian government intensifies the demand for telecommunications networks to provide excellent internet service to Nigerians so that it would not be so challenging to watch videos and other media resources online. Also, students would be able to engage the wide variety of online courses available and strengthen our education and knowledge-base. Another recommendation would be in the area of improved supply of affordable tools to increase access to the internet. There is a commendable presence of cheaper options of portable laptop computers, tablets and smart phones and an increased supply of same would further boost digital literacy for Nigerian women and girls. However, there should also be increased provision of such tools. For instance, companies and other corporate organisations that conduct lottery competitions from time to time can increase the offer of such tools (like laptops, tablets and smart phones) in their lottery prizes and the telecommunication networks should also be encouraged to offer internet modems and internet access for commendable period of time and all these Organisations can be encouraged to target women and girls for such offers and this would remarkably improve digital literacy for women and girls in Nigeria.

My Organisation, Girls Voices has a growing follower-ship of young girls who present a company of individuals looking to engage the platform, but their desires are highly challenged by the absence of tools to sustain their internet access and I find that many of the girls rarely update their pages and occasionally comment when they can. These girls must have had a growing passion and some level of digital literacy to be able to open their personal Facebook Accounts and may be better engaging and inspired if they have the basic tools to sustain their internet access and boost their digital literacy.

Indeed, digital literacy possesses the capacity to boost girls' and women's empowerment and enable their voices to count in Nigeria. Where girls and women are able to secure safe online access and environments to express themselves and connect to an active, digital world. Let's join to make girls' voices count!

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

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Comments

susa's picture

More power to you!

Dear Carolyn,

I was so happy to read about your advocacy for making girls' voices heard. You have done a great service to the girls who are a part of your Girls' Voices network and no doubt they will inspire others and the network will grow. As you pointed out, the challenges of living in a digital world are many, from social and cultural to financial, and in some cases the journey can be frustrating or even dangerous. I applaud what you are doing to make digital involvement possible for so many girls and to help them find and express their own voices. More power to you!

Kind regards,
Susa

Carolyn Seaman's picture

Hi Susa, Thank you for your

Hi Susa,

Thank you for your great words. I do need the power to pursue all the creative ideas to achieve digital inclusion and literacy for my girls; i am just so passionate about the world of possibilities hidden in these girls and i am constantly motivated to mobilize inspiration for the girls. I am also attracted to the dynamic collection of your areas of expertise and may be looking to some possible collaboration as we get to know one another better.

Carolyn Seaman

JT Long's picture

Sage

Dearest Carolyn Seaman:
What great advice you give. You really are providing a much needed service for girls and it all starts with understanding the real challenges they face and the safe connections they are craving. I hope safe, affordable digital connection is truly a reality for everyone very soon. Then everyone would have access to your great insights.

Thank you for sharing these inspiring stories and best of luck in your venture.

Yours,
JT

telling stories; creating communities

Carolyn Seaman's picture

Wow!

Hi JT,

You leave me speechless with your amazing words. I truly lack words to say .... but I deeply appreciate you and confess that I am even more motivated to do more and share more.

Truly grateful

Carolyn Seaman
Girls Voices

Fiona J McKenzie's picture

Really Impressed!

Dear Carolyn,

I've read the piece above, looked at your profile and checked out the Facebook page you've created - congratulations! You've done some impressive work in putting your professional and academic experience into a project that will enable other young women and girls to find their voices. You've also thought carefully about who you want to help - and why. I was intrigued that you have focused on young women who might seem to have more advantages in terms of digital connection facilities etc. but as you rightly point out, they need to develop their confidence, understand how to use the net and perhaps become enablers for others.

Wishing you the best of luck with this project and your other endeavours.

Best wishes,

Fiona

Fiona McKenzie

Carolyn Seaman's picture

I Appreciate You!

Hi Fiona,

I feel honoured by your sweet words and I appreciate all your support following my work and all I have shared - you motivate me to do more and I appreciate you. Indeed, my focus is fixed on young women who are fortunate to access education because a lot of them are still not digitally literate because they lack proper access to digital tools to support same. This leaves our women marginalized from many opportunities that can empower them and establish their voices in the communities. In any case, my job is interesting because I get to share from my own experiences which keep transforming everyday as I explore and engage the internet. I will continue to share my experiences and the progress with my work with the World Pulse Community and I am glad you got my back! Thank you.

Carolyn Seaman
Girls Voices
@girlsvoices1

Raquel Jacobs's picture

WOW!

Dear Carolyn,

I congratulate you on such a huge project. As a Nigerian, I understand fully the problems and I am super proud of this project. I liked your Facebook page and I look forward to reading from you about the girls and how you are able to help them.

Sisterly,
Raquel

Raquel Jacobs
Beyond the Classroom Foundation

*BTC is committed to improving the teaching and learning of less privileged children in public schools* 
Blog: www.beyonddclassroom.blog.com
Twitter: @BTC_Foundation
FB: https://www.facebook.com/pages/B

Carolyn Seaman's picture

Thank You!

Hi Raquel,

Thank you for your kind words. I am glad to find a Nigerian sister who recognizes the challenges at play here. But, I am positive that we are able to overcome these challenges and Nigeria's women and girls would come to achieve digital literacy to move our nation to heights we know we can attain. I appreciate your Like on our Facebook Page and I did send a shout out! Indeed, you will be informed on all our activities and other inspiring stories from girls around the world. Thank you.

Warm regards

Carolyn Seaman

AlexandraJM's picture

Thank you for your insights!

Carolyn,

It's wonderful to hear about your dedication to helping girls increase their digital literacy. I visited your Facebook page and love what you are posting to help girls share their voice and boost their confidence.

The examples you provide above about the girls who have already reached out to you for help and advice are a testament to the power of the internet to educate and connect people. Thank you for describing in detail the challenges that you and others in your country face when it comes to accessing the internet. The solutions you propose are well thought out, and I wish you the best as you work to make digital literacy an affordable and safe reality for all girls in your community.

All my best,
Alex

Carolyn Seaman's picture

My Pleasure Always!

Hi Alex,

I am glad on many levels here; first, you were able to gather insights from all that I shared. Then, you did visit our Facebook Page and appreciate our posts, which are all calculated to inspire and inform girls from other girls stories and achievements.

Despite the challenges we face accessing the internet back here, I am motivated to keep pressing for digital access and digital literacy for our girls. And I am constantly brainstorming to identify the bright ideas that will help us mobilize digital literacy for our girls. I will continue to share my thoughts and experiences with the World Pulse Community.

Hey, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! We would love to have you up-to-date on all we share. Thank you.

Warm regards

Carolyn Seaman
Girls Voices
@girlsvoices1
facebook.com/girlsvoices

RosemaryC's picture

Digital literacy for girls

Dear Carolyn:
Thank you so much for your post, which gave such a clear and empathetic insight into the issues of digital literacy for young women. The digital world should be a community where we look after and help each other, and you are helping to make it so for the girls you work with.
Best wishes,
Roisemary

Hi Rosemary,

I appreciate your kind words and I am motivated to do more to encourage girls to acquire digital literacy. Indeed, we can do more when we connect together to help one another.

Truly grateful

Carolyn Seaman
Girls Voices

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