TRANSITIONING THROUGH THE INTERNET
When the internet became a rave in Nigeria in 2001 I was immediately fascinated by it. I already had a prior interest in computers but the idea of the internet made it all the more alluring. I come from a country where almost everything is done in extremes without almost any policing. I walk into a cyber café and there would be computers showing pictures of nude women, advertising porn in such a blatant manner it was almost surreal. Young people in Lagos spent days on ends at these cafes surfing the internet for porn and lonely women looking for some company in cyber space. That was my first introduction to the internet, the first outlook I had at the magical world of wireless images and seamless communication that completely overwhelmed me. I was lucky that my best friend at the time Paul learned how to use a computer and the internet and in 2003 he started giving m lessons when I was 13 years old. He taught me how to open an email account, how use the email features and how to chat on yahoo messenger.
This was my first transition… the internet was no longer a place for only viewing pictures it was now a space for communication and friendship. I was really eager to learn all that I could. I remember being the only girl at the café those days, watching the boys, observing how they opened different websites and what they used them for. I learned a lot in these cyber cafes but it lost its allure when the only thing I could do on a computer was check my email inbox and chat with strangers on yahoo messenger chat rooms. From 2004 till 2006 I stopped using the internet. I didn’t have any friends who sent me any real messages, the internet wasn’t really popular among my friends and I simply didn’t have any use for it until I got into the university in early 2007.
My second transition occurred here…I realized that I could use the internet to learn more about the topics that we discussed in the lecture halls. I was majoring in political science so it was imperative that I kept abreast of current events around the world and find correlations between events happening at home and abroad. The internet became a place of research, a tool for globalization, a small teacher that improved on the knowledge impacted on me by my lecturers. I could do research on assignments and small projects that I worked on. I could compare notes with students in England who didn’t even know that I existed; I could access library databases in Denmark from the comfort of my small room. The internet had become a tentacle of knowledge for me.
It wasn’t until 2012 that another transition occurred. I had just finished NYSC and was job hunting while seeking ways of telling stories of events that had occurred in my life personally and lessons I had gleaned from them. I was in a bad place emotionally and I searched Google for stories of women who had experienced discrimination or were facing difficulties in their countries; by accident I came upon worldpulse.com and some other blogs and online communities that were safe havens for women. The internet during this period became a solace for me. These communities were safe places to vent, a good space to read the stories of others who were struggling and of those who were making changes to ensure equality. I still remember a story I read about a woman who lived in a rural area of South America, her husband banned her from accessing the internet so she had to go a far distance to reach out to members of the online community who always offered her words of courage. I read about the fight against child marriage in Asia and the middle-east, women who had been liberated from such marriages, women who were taking up the cause to raise awareness about the plight of women for whom legal justice seemed like a far off wish and I realized that the internet is such a powerful tool of enlightenment. It had brought me closer to like-minded people who understood me and gave my voice a channel to be heard.
There are so many women who could benefit from access to the internet and online communities like world pulse. Yet, there are very few women in Nigeria who are interested in the internet and even fewer women who will ever be able to maximize the benefits of the internet. A lot of women in rural areas live without electricity, internet access is mostly provided for by telecommunications outfits and in the villages the network connections is usually so erratic you have to go to a town with stronger network connections to be able to use the internet. There is so much that can be done for exposure; ICT centers exclusively for women in rural communities that teach them the basics of a computer and expose them to the benefits of the internet. I know a lot of my female friends who cannot use the basic programs in the computer and are unable to use the internet outside of social media and email services. Not because they didn’t want to but for the sole reason that they have not been exposed to ICT training even in the cities.
I feel blessed to be able to maximize the full benefits of the internet and to have had the exposure to basic programs that I had when I was young and rolling with the wrong crowd because there are so many women who need the knowledge but don’t know how to get it or where to go for such trainings. A lot can be done for women in regards to ICT training and exposure to great online feminist communities because this is one of the most efficient ways of empowerment and reliance any woman can possess…. A safe haven without discrimination with women who are just like us.