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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.
http://www.punchng.com/news/boko-haram-abducts-200-schoolgirls-in-borno/
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/23/200-girls-missing-n...
http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47593#.U2pPwfldXE0
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/04/21/parents-234-girls-ki...

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!

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

Comments

Carolyn- You beat me to the punch! I am glad to see the power of the web and social media being written about as it relates to the Nigerian crisis. I am working on an article in a similar vein, so I very much appreciate your words here. Thank you for providing the links, as it gives continuity to this story...you are indeed 'weaving the web"!

It is imperative to the continued increase of women's empowerment that girls (and women) have access to digital literacy, as well as the tools with which to use their literacy skills. But for the safety of girls and women, and all peoples really, we need to have accessible mobile safety systems that can be triggerered via mobile devices. Even so, I wonder what help that would have been for these girls, who surely were stripped of all devices and possesions.

In the end, we need to keep raising our voices to educate, rally, and change the hearts and minds of those whose thoughts and subsequent actions are so vile. If hearts can not be changed, which I know unfortunately is not always reality, then the interventions become more complex- more than I want to go into here.

We continue to help others find their voice, access resources for literacy and digital means, and stand as one during these times.

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

Hi Michelle,

I don't want to accept that I beat you to the punch, so I am still waiting to read your article(smiling!). But on a serious not, I believe there is a wealth of ideas we can generate from people's opinions and concerns on the security crisis back here in Nigeria and like you said, we can go weaving the web with the flow of information we share in this Community.

Some of my thoughts were influenced by my imaginations of what the case would have been if a number of the girls had mobile phones, then we could start hoping that at least someone would have attempted to be a hero to perhaps hide the phone with which some stronger details of their location could have been better identified. However, that was just my imagination going wild with thoughts and wishes. Also, there was a report that provided some indication that some of the community residents chased after the abductors and had an idea where they initially camped with the girls, but they were unable to rescue the girls because they lacked the military support it would take to achieve that successfully. Again, my thoughts drift to think how a phone call, sms alert or other alert system would have mobilized the military support that would have changed the situation. Already, it is clear that communication break down was a major contribution to the initial time that was lost before the nation was mobilized to demand action from the Government.

By and large, the subject of improved security systems in Nigeria would need to be addressed going forward from this crisis. And that would provide a good opportunity to also secure the safety of girls and women which can be strengthened with applications that can be sustainable using mobile phones and other devices.

I don't want to go into another journal here. But, I must appreciate your support for us through this trying events and we continue to hope for better access to resources and tools that would support digital literacy and digital access that would enhance the quality of living in our communities.

Loads of Love
Carolyn Seaman
www.facebook.com/girlsvoices
www.twitter.com/girlsvoices1

Carolyn Seaman
Girls Voices
Abuja-Nigeria
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/girlsvoices
Twitter: https://twitter.com/girlsvoices1

Hi Carolyn-
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I have gotten very behind, so I will see if I get to my article. I spend more time reading and commenting, which I love to do. It is not wrong to dream or let thoughts drift- it is in dreams the best ideas are born! I know that in parts of India there is a system in place for women to use a mobile app to obtain emergency assistance or request to be tracked. I am curious to see efficacy reports so that we can take what works and what doesn't and expand their use across th globe.

Let's keep dreaming- and Hoping- for the end of vlolence against women and girls!

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

Dear Michelle,

Pleased to read from you again. And what a fantastic intervention here. I agree that there is need to follow up on the reports from India so we can evaluate if it is a best practice we can adopt here in Nigeria as well as around the world. I'll be on the look-out and I also hope to hear from you if you learn anything helpful.

Jointly dreaming and hoping for the end of violence against women and girls!

Carolyn Seaman
www.facebook.com/girlsvoices
www.twitter.com/girlsvoices1

Carolyn Seaman
Girls Voices
Abuja-Nigeria
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/girlsvoices
Twitter: https://twitter.com/girlsvoices1

Dear Carolyn,

Thank you for your sharing your thoughts. I really hope it will be possible to try out your ideas about using
mobile phones/the internet for some sort of an early warning/rapid response system for girls in risky territories some day soon. As evident from the hashtag campaigns aimed at freeing those girls; someone is always watching on the internet - We are all interconnected. If we could make use of this global community in a positive way; by looking out for each other and by reducing the impunity of those who commit violent crimes.. Perhaps this world would become a little bit saver, and a nicer place to live in..
The technology's there, now we just have to use it in the right way for the right purpose :)

Again, thank you for your thoughts!!!

Peace!

CamelRider

Carolyn Seaman's picture

Shared Hopes!

Hi Sister,

I am grateful for the wonderful platform that World Pulse provides me to freely share my thoughts to a wide audience that can also freely reason and share in my thoughts. I also hope for the day that mobile phones and internet access can be more available in our communities and can be used to establish an effective early warning/rapid response system for our girls and women.
I believe that the power of the hashtag has been clearly displayed in this Nigerian experience and would join to encourage our Government and other Institutions to explore the added potential that lies in digital access and digital literacy. My Organisation is also designing a project that would work in that area and I would be sharing our progress with the World Pulse Community as that develops.
I appreciate your contribution and totally share in your hopes.

Warm regards
Carolyn Seaman
www.facebook.com/girlsvoices
www.twitter.com/girlsvoices1

Carolyn Seaman
Girls Voices
Abuja-Nigeria
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/girlsvoices
Twitter: https://twitter.com/girlsvoices1

Greengirl's picture

Dear Carolyn

I am glad that I found time to read your well pieced together and very thoughtful post. The whole situation surrounding the abduction of those hapless teenage girls is really depressing; and like every affected and concerned persons I pray for their safe rescue.

You did great to have highlighted the important roles that digital access and literacy can play in times of distress. I cannot but reason along with you that access to a digital device may have made some form of difference in the case of the girls; at least before their abductors got around to stripping them of their accessories. Really, it is about time for women and girls to start exploring digital tools for safety and security purposes. It's all about becoming informed enough to put it into such use. I can only hope that our government realize and appreciate that, enough to ensure that internet becomes more accessible and affordable in our country.

While we await the safe return of our girls, I wish you the very best in your unfolding endeavours.

In solidarity,
Greengirl

Carolyn Seaman's picture

In Appreciation....

Dear Greengirl,

In appreciation of your kind words and similar line of thought, I also look forward to the day when the internet becomes more affordable and accessible to all, particularly women and girls. It would certainly be helpful if women and girls are able to use various digital tools to strengthen their safety and security.

Once again, I appreciate your feedback.

Carolyn Seaman
www.facebook.com/girlsvoices
www.twitter.com/girlsvoices1

Carolyn Seaman
Girls Voices
Abuja-Nigeria
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/girlsvoices
Twitter: https://twitter.com/girlsvoices1

Tam's picture

Global Action

Dear Carolyn,

You have sent such a strong and much needed and much welcome article on the current crisis, as yet unsolved, of these kidnapped girls. The global response with the use of the internet shows the power that we now have, to press for governmental action in the immediate, and world change in the larger sphere. The networking that is going on through the hashtag response through Facebook and through the many online petitions has thankfully had great effect. It is through the networking through World Pulse that I can now feel an unbreakable web. We are growing so much stronger.

Your article is filled with information and suggestions of what we can continue to do. The ongoing plans to make mobile phones and other devices available to all women and girls are critical. The links that you have given as added information are very valuable. With this situation, as with all of the situations reported on by all writing for World Pulse, we now have the means to continue to press together for solutions. Your article both presses me and encourages me to find every way I can to build an even stronger response from my country. Knowing you are there, increases my optimism and determination. I continue to hope for the safe return of the girls, and will not stop until every woman and girl lives free. Thank you again for sending such important news.

With love in Sisterhood,

Tam

Carolyn Seaman's picture

Yes! Global Action!

Dear Tam,

I am truly grateful for your great words. I can sense that you totally got my track of thoughts and that thrills me a great deal. I totally agree with all you have said and I join you to hope for the safe rescue of the girls.

It is disheartening that they are yet to be rescued and it is even more disheartening when our Government fails to provide valid and proactive updates on their rescue mission. And this is why Nigerians pressed in to demand international support to the rescue mission. We also turn to international news updates from CNN and the likes to follow up on the updates.

In any case, the focus is the girls as we pray for their rescue and safe return to their families.

Thank you again for your great words.

Carolyn Seaman
www.facebook.com/girlsvoices
www.twitter.com/girlsvoices1

Carolyn Seaman
Girls Voices
Abuja-Nigeria
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/girlsvoices
Twitter: https://twitter.com/girlsvoices1

Kadidia's picture

The power of digital action

Carolyn,

I agree with you. In this particular case, technology has been and is still at the heart of the action.
We all know how powerful and helpful it is when used properly.
Let's pray that these girls are all rescued. Thank you very much for sharing your comments with us.

Kadidia Doumbia

Carolyn Seaman's picture

Great Power It Is!

Dear Kadidia,

I appreciate your feedback and restate that there is indeed great power in technology when it is used properly.

I join you to pray for the rescue of the girls and their safe return to their families.

Thank you

Carolyn Seaman
www.facebook.com/girlsvoices
www.twitter.com/girlsvoices1

Carolyn Seaman
Girls Voices
Abuja-Nigeria
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/girlsvoices
Twitter: https://twitter.com/girlsvoices1

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