Leymah Gbowee peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner 2011 spoke about the impact the war in Liberia had on her family in the opening moments of Pray the Devil Back to Hell. Gbowee founded the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement which brought together women from various religions in petition for change and to end the civil war. In this article, we highlight some shining examples of women using new media and digital technology to bring change in their communities.
This movement led to the end of the war and also the election of the first female president in Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia. Due to the lack of technology access for women in Africa, Gbowee had to connect with women and spread the word through radio and word of mouth. Her advice to us in the western world and those in the U.S. is to invest in places without technology.
Gbowee also stated that women who have access to technology and the internet should use it responsibly and set a good example for the younger generation. Positive influences could empower women in a different way.
Dana Radcliffe, lecturer at Cornell University believes that social media helps in politics as well, not only is it easier to get like-minded voters together, it also helps them to start an ongoing blog actively pursuing that agenda and sharing it with others. This can easily be applicable to any industry out there today, with new media, it is easy to connect with people and mobilize for your cause.
Women across the world are starting to use technology more in their day-to-day lives. There are many inspirational women who make use of new media channels and from which we can learn valuable lessons.
Fernada Viegas is a good example of a powerful woman using new media. She is a computational designer that focuses on social, collaborative and artistic aspects of information vizualisation and co-leader of Google’s “Big Picture” data visualization group in Cambridge, MA. She is also voted one of the most influential people in Brazil. Hok Kakada is from Cambodia and having to face many challenges being a girl in her country, she got a masters degree in Japan. She is currently creating a software program that will help hospitals store data more accurately and thus improving the treatment within the hospital.
Many other inspirational women include Linda Kamau from Kenya, one of the coders of the Ushahidi Initiative; Branda Burell the technical mind behind the Freedom Fone Project and directed the Kubatana Initiative in Zimbabwe; and Daniela Silva the founder of Sfera Brazil and Transparencia Hacker.
These are all women are using new media and technology to bring change within their countries and to empower other people around them. New media truly empowers women and give them a voice, enabling them to bring about change in developing countries and connect with people across the world. Technology is more accessible in emerging markets today, making it easier to utilize new media tools for the benefit of social good in a country.