Digital access, a path toward empowerment
Information is considered as one of the most valuable assets one can poses in today’s world. The nature of information is so that it is non-discriminatory; it can belong to anyone who seeks it. Yet, regardless of its nature, to a degree, access to information still remains to be related to resources. In considering that women in some societies, such as Kosovo, still have limited inheritance and property rights due to cultural expectations, higher unemployment rate, fewer representation in political offices, fewer leadership positions in business, and even less years of education compared to men, we are able to see why women remain disadvantaged in digital information ¬- be it access to it or dissemination of it.
Still, with the increase in interconnections and interdependence in the world, women are getting their hands every day more on smart phones, tablets and laptops. Technological gadgets today play several roles, aside from being devices to enable one to carry out their work more efficiently; they are entertainment and social tools. While in some societies that used to be more traditional such as Kosovo, the majority of women may initially seek out these gadgets for social and entertainment purposes, these eventually lead them to the endless pool of educational information online - which if nothing, opens up their mind to a different worldview.
In Kosovo, women, more so those in the urban areas, have already begun to participate actively online, be it in the political, economical, health, environment, media as well as entertainment domains. They make their voices heard through their statuses, posts, notes or even only through comments – but they speak up! Considering that earlier on within the Kanun of Leke Dukagjini (The Albanian Code of Conduct), they had few rights, and their input in decision making was limited this is a significant improvement to their role in society. To make their voices heard, partake in decision making, and benefit from the rights granted to men, in some regions of Kosovo, and other Albanian territories, as a result of the patrilinial (wealth inherited though a family’s men) and patrilocal (after marriage, the woman moves into the household of the husband’s family), women revoked their womanhood, swore an irrevocable oath to practice celibacy and lived as men. Although this practice was more common in earlier times, the lingering symptoms of a patriarchal mentality, to some degree, are still present in the culture. though there have been significant improvements, especially in the digital age, which due to its nature enables women to see a different mirror of their role in society than the one they had been used to before. While progress has been witnessed in the capital sub-culture, of Prishtina, much needs to be done in the vast majority of the country in terms of women empowerment and possession of resources that give a doorway to digital access to women; other than solely depending upon whether their boyfriends, brothers or fathers purchase them digital gadgets …
Today, given the high internet penetration among the greater population in Kosovo (approximately 76.6% according to www.STIKK.com), there have been efforts to give virtual channels of distribution to women entrepreneurs from all around the country. One such initiative was started from the Norwegian Embassy in Kosovo, called www.balkanspring.com, an online shop, showcasing Kosovar made products from women, available for sale to the international community. The initiative may help to offset the effects of political and economical restrictions that the new country still suffers from, by reaching international customers first-handedly-virtually. Women entrepreneurs from all parts of Kosovo bring their products to Innovation Center Kosovo, where a team takes pictures, add a markup service and handling cost, and post them on the e-shop. These women are also informed about the role of internet in their business and encouraged to showcase their creations on social media.
Our N’Yoga projects’ social media marketing activity is an example of using digital means to introducing local girls and women in a friendly and benevolent manner to the foreign concept of yoga in Kosovo. Since we appealed to their interests through our own Kosovar culture, they became even more curious about the concept of yoga in general, spiking a viral effect of further search online relating to the discipline. Now, these girls follow a great portion of the knowledge sources (pages, yoga leaders, eco-friendly websites) we follow and often they send us information they have found online to share on the N’Yoga page (https://www.facebook.com/nyogaprishtina). By having digital access, we have been able to reach to our community and share knowledge, unfamiliar to the majority of the people in the country, about alternative methods of living a better and healthier life such as yoga. With the hope that by utilizing the healing nature of yoga, its revitalizing and rejuvenating effects, our community will be able to overcome the inherited war trauma and contribute to a self-sustaining country.
Even as digital access becomes more graspable for females around the world, special focus needs to be directed to educating them on the benefits of various programs, the accumulated pool of knowledge on the internet, the value of effective social media marketing and e-commerce. By investing both in traditional literacy, as well as digital literacy, will women have a chance to learn how to make effective use of their digital access for political, societal, cultural and economical empowerment.
This articles was written for the Women Weave the Web Campaign on Digital Access