Young Feminist Wire: Young Feminist Activism Online
FRIDAY FILE: AWID's Young Feminist Activism Program recently launched the Young Feminist Wire an online community for and about young feminists around the globe.
By Kathambi Kinoti
The internet revolution has meant different things to different sectors of the world’s population, but it is obvious that young people most affect and are most affected by it. The internet is shaping knowledge generation, communication, activism and social life in ways that its creators probably never imagined.
The Young Feminist Wire is an online community for and about young feminist activism. According to Ghadeer Malek, Nadine Moawad and Sanushka Mudaliar from AWID’s Young Feminist Activism (YFA) Program , the idea for it was a long time in the making. The YFA team’s sustained interactions with young women around the world affirmed to them that young women’s rights activists wanted better mechanisms to connect with one another. “They were interested to know what other young women active on women’s rights were doing on a local, regional and international level, what issues were they working on and what strategies they were using” say Ghadeer Malek. “It was clear that young women felt isolated from their peers and felt that finding ways to connect with each other would enhance the effectiveness of their activism.”
It was not only young women who felt the need for a global online space for young feminist activism. “Older women’s rights activists and donors were asking about young women’s work and were wondering the same thing: who are the young women working on women’s rights issues and what are they doing?” says Nadine Moawad. “Of course, we knew that the young women were out there, but because of the many added challenges they face due to their age and the positions they hold within women’s movements, it is harder to see and identify them.”
So the AWID created a space that presents an opportunity for connections to take place and for the showcasing of the variety, diversity and wealth of young women’s work on gender justice. The Wire has an online directory of young women-led initiatives all over the world: from Canada- based Anti-Dote to Pakistan’s AWARE to the Asia Pacific Youth Network. It also profiles young women’s programmes as well as young women’s blogs, websites and other online portals. One initiative that is profiled on the Wire is Kolena Laila, (which translates as “We are all Laila”) which one day every year mobilizes young Arab feminist bloggers to speak out about the different oppressions they face in their lives. Ghadeer Malek, who profiled Kolena Laila, writes:
“ Kolena Laila is creating ripples in the Arab cyber-world. The mass gathering of women bloggers has drawn the attention of a spectrum of readers to their views on subjugation within Arab societies. Reactions have been mixed, with some denouncing their efforts as western and hypocritical. Others describe their efforts to translate Arabic posts into English and French as colonialist. The organizers refrain from apologetic discourses and reactions in response to these accusations.”
Connecting and informing
Young women are carving out spaces for themselves in cyberspace, and are not only speaking on topics perceived as young women’s issues, but also on issues affecting women rights activists everywhere. This is an area that the Wire expands. For example it carries a video interview of a young Honduran activist speaking about the human rights situation in her country.
The dearth of visible expressions of feminist work by young women has contributed to a widely touted false notion that feminism is dead. In “Taking on the Sexist Revival” an article on the Young Feminist Wire, Third Wave Feminist Natasha Walter says:
“People are constantly trying to put feminism down,” says Walter. “We’re always being told it’s dead and no one’s interested. And I think one of my aims as a writer is to say that it is still alive, and it is still needed.”
The Wire puts young women’s activism in context. The world has changed. Youngpeople are communicating on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social networking interfaces. These spaces are sites for expression and activism. In recognizing the democratization of information sharing , the Wire is an interactive space for young feminists. Nadine Moawad says: “What we needed was not just a website that presented information but something that was also dynamic and interactive enough to capitalize on the energy that young women have for online spaces and allowing users to share and generate their own information.” She says that they are looking to the community of Wire users provide information about what young women are working on and the issues that they focus on. “We don’t necessarily have all of this information,” she says. “But in building our contacts and reaching many young women through this online space we are hoping to build this information together with them and make this a resource not only for them but also for the wider women’s rights community in general; established women’s rights activists, donors, allies and others.”
Sanushka Mudaliar emphasizes the role that connection plays in feminist activism. “The most significant offering of the Wire is that it connects young feminists together virtually, thereby offering a space from which creative projects and collaborative initiatives can grow,” she says. “The connection also empowers young feminists in their local work by providing peer learning and capacity-building opportunities.” She adds that doing this virtually, through an online hub, opens up exciting and powerful opportunities, but recognizes that these opportunities are limited to those with an internet connection and that other methods are needed to overcome the digital divide.
The Wire is not intended only as a platform to showcase young feminist work but also to expose challenges and raise issues in the virtual public sphere. Mudaliar says: “For young feminists working inside women's movements and organizations, The Wire will allow for greater visibility, sustained activism through solidarity and support, and shared strategies and resources. Additionally, and by including information that is directed at women's movements and organizations, we hope that the Wire will contribute to promoting a culture of understanding and multi-generational activism.”
There are several avenues for this kind of information sharing. Young women working on various initiatives can share information on their projects and initiatives through filling in the “Submit an initiative” form on the Wire. These initiatives are then added to the Wire’s directories featuring young women-led projects and online initiatives as well as young women programs within established women’s rights organizations. The information presented on the Wire in four different categories: News from and about young women, Opportunities and calls for participation and Activist tools and resources allow users to easily share, comment, and disseminate it. Moreover, when young women register on the wire they can then post and share news of their own activism. Young women who register on the Wire also become part of the Wire Community facebook group where they can meet and build stronger connections with one another.
The Wire is also a space for intergenerational connection. According to Nadine Moawad, the YFA team hopes that the Wire will not only be a place for young women to network amongst each other but also one that allows them to connect with their older colleagues, and for those allies of young women to have a space to support young women’s activism. “One way we are working to create this is by using the young women registrations on the Wire to build the YFA’s own database through which we are able to share contacts with our older allies,” she says. “Furthermore, allies and supporters can also register on the Wire. This will offer them the opportunity to share and post resources, news about their own work with young women, and calls for participations that they think will be useful for young women. They can also participate in discussions on the Wire by commenting on the various articles and engaging in the issues raised by young women.”
The Wire’s primary target audience is young women working on women’s rights and gender equality all over the world. The Wire team does recognize, however, that scarce resources are available for activists in the Global South and therefore it will make an effort to include information that caters to its diverse audience.
The Wire team encourages women’s rights activists of all ages to register and become a part of building the information and knowledge on the Wire. They say that they are committed to covering analysis and issues related to multigenerational work. The Wire also appreciates the lingual diversity of its audience and runs in three languages; French, Spanish and English.
The Wire has received a positive bombardment of support since it was launched. According to Moawad, in the first week alone, there were 12,880 visits and 217 registrations of young feminists and their allies. She adds: “We've also received many comments, submissions, and words of encouragement and support from the global feminist community.”
Users share experiences on a wide range of topics. For instance, some write about their experiences in conferences and other social justice spaces. They have also received a number of submissions to add to their various directories of young women’s initiatives and programmes.
What next for the Wire?
The YFA team is working towards making the Wire a user-generated space whereby young women activists are regularly uploading their latest news, activities, upcoming events, and also exchanging strategies and resources. They also look forward to opening up their Facebook community group where users will have opportunities to interact closely with one another and start meeting everyone registered on the Wire. The Wire will continue profiling more young feminist initiatives from around the world. Finally, Malek says: “In the future, we also want to be hosting online activities that build capacities and allow for more interaction among members of the Wire community.”
1 Part of AWID’s Building Feminist Movements and Organizations Initiative