The Power of Digital Action: #BringBackOurGirls
http://youtu.be/nDVRg_7y9aY - Girls Voices put together this video reflecting the global voices that are demanding action #BringBackOurGirls
Emily Cale (starred by Joey King) stood out for me as the key character in the 2013 American political action-thriller, 'White House Down' which told the story of an assault on the White House by a paramilitary group as a Capitol Police Officer tries to stop them. The movie also starred actors like Jamie Foxx (as President James Sawyer), Channing Tatum (as John Cale - Emily's Dad) and a host of other actors and actresses. However, the character of Emily was central to me because she was smart to put her digital device to good use when she recorded sections of the invasion of the White House and shared it on her YouTube Channel, which became the only images that the authorities outside the White House could access to use to identify what they were up against and strategize how to save the situation. Although her character starts out as a sullen brat glued to her cell phone, Emily emerges as a strong character when her digital literacy and digital access becomes the pivotal dynamic in the movie as her YouTube video becomes the vital intelligence that the 'good guys' use to strategize and plan to save the President and whatever is left of the White House.
I chose to start off with a little about the movie, 'White House Down', to strengthen some of the points I wish to highlight in this journal regarding the importance of digital access and digital tools to the welfare and security of women and girls as well as the potential digital action presents to address critical issues facing communities around the world. On the 14th of April, 2014 there were reports that over 200 girls were abducted as they prepared for their physics examinations in their school in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria. While there are quite a number of reports available on the internet, it took quite a while before a wide public attention was drawn to the subject and there may be fears that the delay has led to the difficulty currently experienced in the rescue mission for the girls. Below are some links to news reports on the abduction of the girls.
However, credit must be given to the social media push that eventually gave this subject the global attention it is receiving at the moment. In the week that the incidence occurred, there were only skeletal reports of the incidence and the reports ended up exposing conflicting information on the number of girls that were abducted and the number that successfully escaped. The lack of credible updates on the progress of the rescue mission for the girls provoked a social media frenzy which broke out on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube and many other social media platforms. Nigerian men and women were passionately expressing their concerns and desperation to get the Nigerian Government to secure the rescue of the girls. Series of campaigns were emerging to mobilize Nigerians to demand better action from the Nigerian Government and as the days went by, series of posts and tweets were unleashed calling on the Nigerian Government expedite the rescue of the abducted girls. Successively, Nigerian women started to mobilize protests in Abuja, Kaduna and Lagos States across the country. The social media frenzy #BringBackOurGirls and #SaveOurGirls went viral and the international community also joined in. Last weekend, women and girls (and men too) were engaged in protests in London, Washington and Canada, Australia and other countries. The support from the International Community is also reflected in various social media campaigns by famous celebrities around the world. The instructive element for me in all of this is the potential of the internet to mobilize community action on various levels; first on the national level and on the global level. The Hash tag made a world of difference in this global action to demand the rescue of over 200 abducted girls in Nigeria. The internet is currently flooded with resources; News Reports, Blogs, YouTube Videos, Facebook Posts, Tweets and Photographs around the subject of over 200 girls that were abducted from their school. In addition, there are indications that the international community would provide support to the rescue mission for the girls. Famous Wikipedia also provides some information on the subject in the link; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Chibok_kidnapping
While so much efforts have been ongoing to mobilize affordable internet for Nigerians and Africans at large, we can see that digital literacy has a potential to contribute to key developmental issues in our communities. Who would have thought that the hash tag could mobilize such global attention for a security challenge in such a little community in Nigeria? Northern Nigeria is already famous for producing some of the worst indices in the education of girls as well as alarming indices of girl-child marriage, and yet, the few girls who are still motivated to go to school and secure their education cannot be guaranteed security of their lives, even in school. This is where digital literacy and digital access comes in to close the gaps and augment existing security systems that may be in place. And this takes me back to the story in the 'White House Down' movie that I shared in the start of this journal. I cannot help my imagination drifting to think what the case would have been today if any of these girls had a cell phone with which they were able to take pictures to quickly share on Facebook or Twitter, let alone an amateur video that they could post to YouTube. I would be expecting too much from such community girls who are barely trying to get an education despite the extreme poverty most of them live in. But that is our cry back here in Nigeria and most of Africa really, because there is so much you can do with the press of a few buttons on your cell phone or tablet to, not only to send out a quick cry for help in the face of danger, but also to access a vast world of resources and information that keep moving our world around day after day. There is a strong need to have our girls and women empowered to access basic digital tools and the necessary digital literacy to enable girls and women connect to the internet and be able to access digital applications like mobile applications that can be designed to strengthen the security systems in the communities and protect girls and women. The presence and availability of the digital access and digital tools would be able to mobilize a sustainable digital action to support advancement and development even in the local communities.
While the global cry #BringBackOurGirls continues, we pray for the health and safety of these girls that have been abducted and we hope for a successful rescue of the girls as well as their reconciliation with their families who are in deep pain and despair at the moment. Please join the global voices to tweet #BringBackOurGirls or #SaveOurGirls. Change.org, the worlds' platform for change is also mobilizing people to take action by signing a petition to mobilize world leaders to take action on the rescue of the abducted girls. You may wish to sign the petition using the link https://www.change.org/petitions/all-world-leaders-bring-back-nigeria-s-...
As we join the global digital action to #BringBackOurGirls #SaveOurGirls, we should engage this digital action with more innovative ideas to mobilize digital literacy and digital access that would transform our communities, particularly for girls and women. Our Voices Count!