MOVING FROM VICTIMS TO VICTORS, FROM GRASS TO GRACE: DIGITAL EMPOWERMENT FOR NIGERIAN WOMEN AND GIRLS
I remain a victim until the year 2009 when I felt that something was missing in my life and I took a bold step to change my destiny forever. What did I do? I bought a laptop with bank loan, wire my office with internet and started exploring the web. Other women in my office was looking at me as if I was insane, they kept saying; but this money you are spending on internet could be invested on something better that will benefit you and your family. I had a contrary opinion and that was to get connected to the world, to access resources from around the world to better my life, my family and the women in my community.
Therefore I took the bull by the horn to move from grass to grace, from victim to and take my destiny in my hand as I got myself connected to the world through the web. Immediately I got connected in 2009, the first opportunity that came was the Voice of Our Future Correspondent Program (VOF) organized by Worldpulse.
I went into it with full enthusiasm. Light was a serious problem in accessing internet in Nigeria, and so during the program I had to go to public cybercafé where they have standby generator because whenever light went off the internet in the office automatically goes off. The problem of the public cybercafé is also another serious problem because they are very few, always congested and taken over by the “yahoo boys” the boys that engage in internet scam. They are very wide, dangerous, fetish and women is always their target. Therefore whenever I had to go to the café, my husband had to follow me as my body guard throughout the time I had to spend there to protect me from being attacked by these boys. To own your personal modem for browsing is very costly and not affordable for an average civil servant in Nigeria. This discourage many especially the women from venture into accessing internet and so they are contented in being an illiterate as far as internet is concerned.
Despite the inadequacies and insecurities, I emerged as the winner of the Scholarship to attend Empowerment Training at the Empowerment Institute and Certification in NewYork, USA. At the Empowerment Institute, I learned a powerful and innovative social change program that I now bring to women throughout Nigeria in the hope of giving them a chance at a better life. This program is part of an International Initiative called IMAGINE. I am the Nigeria Program Manager of this initiative. You can see more of this on www.imagineprogram.net
In the last year of my access to internet, from 2009 to date I have achieved what I was not able to achieve in the forty-five (45) years of my life. These are my accomplishment to date:
• After the VOF program, I became the correspondent of worldpulse and I have written several articles in my journal which can be access through this link http://worldpulse.com/user/1463
• Through the training I received during the VOF program and additional training from the Global Press Institute online, I am now a journalist and a reporter. Several of my articles have been published by Global press Institute.
• Through the Empowerment Training I attended in NewYork, I was able to meet David and Gail, the founders of the Empowerment Institute and also the founders of Imagine Initiative who gave me the opportunity of being the Imagine program manager in Nigeria.
The vision to empower women and girls in my community that I have been carrying about for years not knowing how to make it happen became a reality during these few years. My NGO, Women inspiration development center, Ile-Ife, Nigeria was registered with help of Worldpulse board members and Empowerment Institute. www.womeninspirationce.wix.com/widcng
• The Center in collaboration with Imagine Initiative has organized workshops for about 430 women and girls on ‘Knowing their own truth’.
In Women Inspiration development Center we:
We have helped 55 women and girls involved in domestic violence and sexual abuse.
We have trained 30 homeless girls on vocations in which they are using now to take care of themselves and their families.
We have conducted this same empowerment workshop for 16 women with disabilities in Lagos.
We have led talks and enlightenment campaigns for over 600 women and girls in eight villages in our community, teaching them how to protect themselves from domestic and sexual violence.
We have participated in the 16 Days of Activism in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 taking outreach programs against violence on women and girls to secondary schools in our community.
We were able to secure a grant of $1000 from African Women Development Fund, Ghana in 2012 to organize “phone in” radio programs to enlighten our community on violence against women and girls.
We have secured a grant from Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (VGIF) to conduct Empowerment Workshops, Social Media Training and Vocational training in Local fabrics for 80 Street Girls in Nigeria.
We have secured a grant from World Wide Web (Web We Want 25 Years of Action) to organize phone-in programs on radio for 26 weeks on awareness campaign of the usefulness of internet, how internet can better your life and the need of every women and girls to be part of the web
We have taken this awareness campaigns to schools and villages in the community
Above all I now belong to network of women of more than 200,000 people around the world. This is power of weaving the web.
I have trained fifty-six women and girls on how to access the internet with my single laptop, some of them even joined worldpulse community but their problem is continuous access to internet for them to be able to participate well in the worldpulse community and other social media communities. The email address some of them opened during the time I was training them have been closed down because they were not using them as a result of lack of access to internet.
Hear the word of some of the women and girls I am working with:
“I know something is missing in my life by not accessing the internet but what do I do? I just have to continue like this until I am able to afford a lap-top and internet modem”
“so we can also become somebody big in life like you if we have access to internet, please help us” says Ronke a secondary school girl
“ I also want to have access to facebook and sending emails, you have to help us ma” says another girl” Iyabo” in another secondary school
How can I help Nigerian women and girls to move from victims to victors, from grass to grace and for them to be able to take their destiny into their hands?
This is bringing me back again to the vision to have ‘Females Only’ cybercafé in every state in Nigeria. The ‘female only’ cybercafé will provide a safe place for women to have access to the internet without fear of attack or being molested. There will always be instructor around to teach women coming to the café that have no knowledge of internet on some rudiment on accessing internet.
1. The café will be an internet training ground for the women.
2. Help them to be well informed of happening around the world
3. To raise their voices on issues that concern them and mount pressure on government or any quarter where the right of women are being trampled upon.
In Nigeria, one out of ten women has access to computer and internet. Digital Empowerment becomes germane for Nigerian women and girls and for this to happen “Cybercafe for Female only” is the answer.
Access to internet and Digital Empowerment makes me what I am today, therefore I want my sisters in Nigeria to also move from being victims to victors, from grass to grace and to take destiny in their hands as they weave the web.