Maria Kolesnikova is a citizen journalist in Kyrgyzstan and a volunteer with WLP Kyrgyzstan/Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan. She joined women from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan at the WLP Central Asia Regional Training of Trainers Institute on Women’s Leadership and Political Participation in Shymkent, Kazakhstan this April as a participant and to present on her own experiences utilizing social media for change as a citizen journalist. Maria shares her reflections from the training below.
On February 19, 2013, as Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP) Program Associate and the International Women’s Democracy Network Coordinator, I spoke on the panel, “Women, Tech, and Democracy: The Next Frontier,” as part of Social Media Week in Washington, DC, at the National Democratic Institute (NDI). I presented on WLP’s successful technology programs, WLP Partner advocacy campaigns that are bolstered by social media, the International Women’s Democracy Network, and WLP’s forthcoming Online Learning Portal, which will serve as a vehicle to build constituent’s capacities by hosting eCourses and webinars.
This year’s 56th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was convened to address the global issues of “Rural Women’s Empowerment, Poverty Reduction and Rural Development”. This would have been pretty much “business as usual” if it were not for the fact that, since last year’s 55th CSW, the world is rapidly changing, most notably in the Middle East and North Africa, where it seemed, just a few months back, that the well-established post-independence autocracies would remain in power forever! Indeed, the world has changed since the last CSW. However, the hope that was felt during the 55th CSW, what with the mobilization and courage of young and not so young women and men, who took to the streets in many an Arab capital, gave rise to serious concerns about the winds of change inevitably coming to the region. A year later, change has indeed come, but with a turn that is thus far hostile to women. One after the other, elections have brought in conservative regimes, and political Islam now has the upper hand in most countries in the MENA region.
I recently had the opportunity to participate in and facilitate a Regional Institute for Training of Women Trainers in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Advocacy in Rabat, Morocco and was amazed with the youth’s passion and creative use of technology. This training was designed to build the capacity of ADFM to use social media and other technologies to strengthen and support their campaigns, and to incorporate using technology for political participation in their trainings at the grassroots level. The Institute focused on advocacy— and its outcomes were extraordinary! The twenty youth participants were clearly motivated to learn and use a variety of social media tools, such as blogs, to effectively make their campaigns more visible online, in order to gain support and further raise awareness. During this training there were four topics on which advocacy campaigns were created. The creativity of each campaign’s team was on display in their self-designed videos, blogs, websites, and slogans. The campaigns included Combatting Violence Against Women, Family and Children’s Rights, Women and Political Participation, and Stopping Sex Trafficking. Each group used social media to connect with other organizations and activists to share news, ideas, strategies, and to start new dialogues.
I guess it is no surprise that Dilma Rousseff won Sunday’s presidential run-off election in Brazil. I was very happy when I found out about this, especially because she won with 56% of the vote to rival Jose Serra’s 44%.
I was invited to participate in the Second Youth Tech Festival in Amman, Jordan that took place on August 7th – 8th, 2010. It was quite an interesting experience to meet with young people my age who are really enthusiastic, energetic and who demonstrate a great interest in effecting social change.