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From Dreams to Action

Having recently started working as a freelancer for Bangladesh’s largest circulating English daily, I only now am starting to take my baby steps into realizing my dreams. Having had just a handful of my works published till now with each of them different in their own way, I am already starting to gain experience in the different methods used in the field of journalism –something which I have been thoroughly intending to gain till the beginning. This profession allows me to look into issues in ways many other professions would not even let me go near.

During the time I was still deciding whether I would be able to establish myself as a good journalist, something which I still do sometimes, I have frequently thought about, in retrospect, how the practices in my field has changed so drastically. Things are so dependent on technology these days that even the people from this field (seemingly) a couple of years ago would not have been able to fathom it.

As I write this journal, I am sitting in front of my personal computer and trying to type away a masterpiece. I would be editing, re-editing, and re-re-editing in order to get an acceptable version of this work before I can show it to the world without even opening a second Microsoft Word page. But if I were writing this with a pen and paper (though nothing really beats the satisfaction that these two entities provides), I would have been re-writing this work in only-God-knows-how-many-hundreds-of-pages to get to the final version. Hence, clearly there is something very simple happening here. It is very stinging to admit it but, I am a very true example of how people are almost completely becoming dependent to digital technology to do even the simplest of things. Hence it can be stated that however I, or anyone else, may choose to do something, the need to be digitally literate is increasing by the minute.

From a more general point of view, when it comes to learning the use of internet, or any other digital equipment, it definitely is the primary fact that many cannot afford a digital luxury. Especially in our part of the world. However, for those who can, I would say gender biasedness is one of the main challenges. Girls, especially from the rural areas, from a very early age are programmed that the digital space is just not for them. Their surroundings offer the explanation that it is something more suited to men than women. Much of the problem can also originate from the home. Many parents usually would go to great length to allow their sons to be digitally literate but not their daughters, in which case they think that it is simply not necessary. The whole of science and technology is presented as more of a 'man's thing'. Even movies and other media programs here, which influence people a lot, portray women in the 'less masculine and more feminine' roles. For instance, it is not always that we get to see a woman computer engineer in the south-east Asian movies.

Most people are simply unaware of the potentials of the usage of internet. The same goes for most of our teachers, especially at the primary school levels. It is considered unnecessary at such levels for which the unfathomable information bank of the internet remains unused by most of us.

Then there are the high bills of course. Another problems faced here is that most of the internet providers tend to triple the bills each time the internet speed needs to be increased. This is a major problem for most of the people here since, due to the sever economic instability that they live through on a daily basis the internet becomes almost completely inaccessible for them.

Overcoming the challenges faced by people while trying to get more accessibility to the internet should be as much of a concern as most of the other issues dealt in this region. Older people here are generally the least acquainted with technology -that is something which serves as the main barrier for them. I personally have tried overcoming this problem from the very basic: I have taught my parents how to use the computer and internet. As a result of which, they now realize the full potential of this and how much the internet can actually provide. They now realize that the internet can be a very powerful tool and people should not be biased towards who gets to use it and who does not because the internet itself does not recognize the difference between male and female, and poor and rich.

For those of us handful of lucky ones who do have connections to the internet, minus most of the social prejudice that is present in this sub-continent, there are always some tools, resources, and trainings that would be welcomed -which if people had access to beforehand would likely make them feel more comfortable while using the internet. These could also most definitely work as helping hands while trying to increase the digital literacy amongst the more underprivileged society: i.e. Availability of Hi-speed internet connection (including in the public places), more access to computer (or any IT that can run the internet), workshops on keeping people interested in the internet, guide books with videos of how to use the internet and the browser details, regular updates about the various ways of benefit from the internet, providing training to all classes of people at an affordable price. The list could go on and on.

However, I guess the people here are already very much aware of the fact that, at least in Bangladesh, the government has all the reason not to be worried about the issue of digital literacy, and access to the internet mainly because they have enough problems in their hands to solve already. Hence, it is mainly up to the general public themselves now to start working on this issue. If anyone now asks me, ‘Have you helped others on Internet use and digital literacy?’ my answer would be, YES. I, alongside working as a freelancer, am working in a non-profit organization called Durnibar Foundation which was founded by a friend of mine. We have an extensive project were we promised to take care of the issue of digital literacy and we have started from the basics. We started from our own homes. We helped our parents and younger cousins be more accustomed to the internet and more importantly we started teaching them to me more digitally literate. After this is done, our next phase of the projects is to help out extended family members who may not be as economically stable as others. They are in a way the least likely to be digitally literate due to their economic stance in society which is made worse by the constant fluctuations in internet (and computer) costs. This is phase is already being pursued at the moment since many of us who are part of Durnibar Foundation have already started working on it.

Our final phase would be to go public. That is the main intention that we have but we will need more, much more resources and definitely cooperation from the public. But this will take time. A very long time because trying to achieve something like this in a country with a population of 160 million people is no easy task. However, regardless of this, I have my hopes up. And just maybe, one day I will be assigned to tell the story of this project by Durnibar Foundation to the world –about the great things being achieved by it. Then again this is simply a dream. If this happens, I definitely will be a happy journalist. :D

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

Comments

KOMoore's picture

Congratulations Raisa!!

I promised my self I would get started with my readings early and not wait until the last minute to do my readings so I could truly savor the writing of the author. In your case, Raisa, I even had time to read your previous submissions. When one takes the time to read through them a story of success emerges including moving from your desire to write as a journalist to actually having regular free lance work and being published! It is important to realize that you are moving on your journey.
I also believe you make a wonderful case for why the country should invest in internet access and affordability. By empowering the people economies with turn around.
I look forward to hearing about your continued progression and success. I recommend as a listener that World Pulse may want to use your story as they aggregate works and advocate for support.
Good work Raisa and thank you for your courage!

Warm Regards,

Karen

Raisa Ashraf's picture

Thank You! :D

Dear Karen,

I have been fortunate enough to have received positive response from contributors like you and I am truly humbled each time this happens. :D It is nice to see that people are looking at me as in inspiration because that is honestly the last thing that I have been termed as over the years. But I guess that is what inspired me to pick up writing in the first place. :D It helps me to channel my thoughts and feelings in ways I never can by simply talking to people in person.

Anyways, I hope to interact with you more in the future. And I hope I will be able to continue writing the way I am doing now! :D

Yours Truly

Raisa Ashraf

judyannet's picture

Raisa, I have to begin by

Raisa,

I have to begin by quoting your words "...writing this with a pen and paper (though nothing really beats the satisfaction that these two entities provides..." I feel like you took these very words from my mouth. I am a writer myself and having had to change from paper to computer was something.

I quite agree with you when you say that society has programmed girls to know that the digital space is not theirs this is also true not only in your country but also in Kenya where I come from, however this very issue is changing as rural Kenya opens up to technology. As you mention people especially the young in some parts of the world have not realized the power of the internet. It would be great to hear how the young people in Bangladesh use the internet? Is it mainly for Social media? It is great to also learn that personally you have started doing something for digital literacy in your community, now that the future lies in technology I think your project could not have come at a better time.

Finally, I have a friend of mine who keeps saying that a 'dream is a goal with a deadline' so if you set yourselves a timeline I think one day you will actually get to tell that 'big' story.

Cheers.

judyannet

Greengirl's picture

Hello Raisa

We are all learning by the day and I cannot but thank you for sharing this illuminating piece about digital access and literacy in Bangladesh. You are a true example of what it means to not have to wait on the government for everything. I like the fact that you are in your own unique way contributing towards bridging the digital divide in your country. Of course, every big thing starts small. I have no doubt that as you forge ahead your dream of reaching out to many more people will materialize. My advise for you- Stay focused and sustain the momentum.

I look forward to more success stories as your work evolves.

Best wishes,
Greengirl

Pushpa Achanta's picture

Committed effort

Dear Raisa,

Thanks for this candid piece. You probably know that women and girls in India face similar challenges like their counterparts in Bangladesh.

Continue your courageous writing and work.

Warmly,
Pushpa

Soumya Vilekar's picture

efforts never go in vain

Dear Raisa ,
You shared a vivid picture of the situation of literacy and internet access in Bangladesh alongwith the importance of being digitally literate.
Thank you for sharing the piece and raising a voice unanimously .
Best wishes,
Soumya

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