It’s now official, I tweet so much, I feel like I’m about to start talking in hashtags.
First of all, let me share with you a very concrete example on how to use social media to bring forward our collective voice and power. On Friday evening at midnight, two Lebanese activists, Khodor Salemeh and Ali Fakhry, were arrested for tagging a wall of Beirut, under the claim that they were “disrupting public order”, while they were only exercising their right to freedom of speech. As soon as the news came out, activists and civil society mobilized both offline and online: a sit in was organized in front of where the two men were being held while people were tweeting, using the same hashtags, creating graphics, creating Facebook pages, spreading news, information and messages of solidarity and support from all over the world, and by this, I really mean all over the world, as the Prime Minister of Lebanon received calls for the liberation of the men from Chile. Our tweets to Lebanese Prime Minister Nagib Mikati were so pressing and persistent, asking for news of Khodor and Ali and calling for their immediate release that Mikati kept tweeting “Patience, Patience, I’m working on it”. Yesterday in the Early evening, the two activists were released.
This example of using social media to attract the attention of public officials for a specific cause and to mobilize and inform people came right after the Women’s Learning Partnership session at the AWID Forum on using social media for women’s empowerment showcased the various ways in which one can use Twitter to link up with partners, be part of a global conversation with like minded people and organisations, advocate for women’s rights and gender equality and build a constituency.
Many participants shared their stories of social media use and all were relevant and inspiring, but one in particular resonated with me in a strong way: a young woman member of Parliament from Kyrgyzstan, in disagreement with the policy of closed doors that the session she was attending followed, starting tweeting about it, thus putting herself up for trouble, refusing to give her phone to the authorities who wanted to take it away from her. Her action caused a sudden surge in Twitter Utilization in her country, which had a low rate of tweeple, thus broadening the scope and possibilities of free speech.
While social media can’t achieve anything without on the ground mobilization there is no denying that it has helped creating virtual ties and solidarity networks that can be useful to attract and retain attention on an issue, then possibly translate into further on the ground action.
This third day has also been a very fulfilling day on a personal level, as I was on a panel at the Education Space on sharing of experiences on capacity building in economic rights, in which I learnt more about the SEWA Radio (http://www.radiosewa.org/) in India and about the power of popular education and of women’s sharing of experiences and stories as a way of learning.
Finally, I decided today to choose a session blindly, to go attend something that was not related to the Middle East, or women’s economic empowerment and rights or better yet, to the economic rights of women in the Middle East. My mind was drawn to the session on the power of pleasure, and indeed, it was a real pleasure: the room was packed with women discussing sex work, the intersections between sexual rights and reproductive health, and the taboos of society while sharing appreciation and joy at being able to hold these conversations in such a unique space. While we explored the definition of what constitutes a “good woman” according to patriarchal rules and values, I realized it was probably too late for me to qualify for the position of good woman.
Rather, I’de like to settle for the position of feminist. At least with Feminism My body and I exist in and within ourselve And are not controlled by anyone.