BlogHer Con Live Blogging: Women Across the World

BlogHer Original Post

Panelists: Georgia Popplewell (moderator), Juliana Rotich and Amira Al Hussaini and BlogHer Contributing Editor Snigdha Sen (I didn't see her included on the panel description but she is definitely behind the table....)

You can find the panel description on BlogHer: Women Across the World.

We'll be starting in just a few moments... I'll update as the panel progresses. Still setting up, Georgia welcoming people, from Trinidad, (Caribbean Free Radio) - in this panel we're going to look more at differences than similarities. In Trinidad 18-20% of people have internet internet access, in the US maybe about 70%

Georgia is speaking about women who were invited as panelists could not attend due to house arrest (see Elisa's post) and lack of a visa.

Introducing panelists. Snigdah - she was raised in India and was a journalist. She wasn't connected to the blogosphere, she thought journalists and bloggers were separate. She met Lisa Stone and everything changed. She blogs on Blogher starting with news, starting and then reflects on the more personal perspectives. In India there's about 4% internet access (country with a 1 billion people) - they start blogging due to some event, something happens so they blog it - they speak out. She isn't sure if people are blogging on their cell phones, but cell phone use is higher than internet use. They have the multi lingual problem, every state in India speaks a different language. She thinks technology hasn't caught up with language - internet = english, she thinks that will change. More blogs are coming in regional languages.

Juliana from Kenya lives currently in Chicago. She's going to talk about why Kenya is considered a success story - they have a higher literacy rate. Internet penetration is 3%. They've had democracy since 2000 and this has brought economic growth, increase GDP, online participation including women blogging - Kenyan blogs webring, African women's blog site (Note: this site has gotten huge traffic and has exceeded its bandwidth as of this writing, check again later if you cannot access it). One man started the Kenyan webring because he kept finding tourist blogs and that wasn't what he wanted, he wanted real info, not tigers. (Kenya Unlimited). She is speaking about another woman who is not here: Ory Okolloh, Eye on Kenyan Parliament, is keeping an eye on the Kenyan Parliament. Parliament is not always forthcoming in providing info about leaders, background education, etc.... They're using open source software.

A question from the audience (Was that Lisa Williams who asked?)- does traditional media pick up the Kenyan blogging work? Juliana says they have talked about it, they know it is there, but they don't see specific stories coming out of what is happening on the blogs. She thinks it would serve traditional media well to acknowledge this work.

Almira - Arabic translator, Silly Bahraini Girl - from Bahrain tiny island connected to Saudi by a causeway. She's a journalist and could not write what she wanted because of self-censorship. You have to be respectful and are brought up not to speak out against government or elders - 'you don't want to be put in jail or exiled'. She blogged anonymously, she presented one "face" in her work and another "face" on her blog. Eventually she wasn't anonymous. Now she doesn't feel the need to write in mainstream media any longer.

Middle East blogosphere--- she's been monitoring them closely over the last year, she's seeing the theme of oppression and censorship, blocking of blogs if government doesn't like what was written - bloggers arrested in Iran, Asia, Bahrain. Put in jail, bloggers create campaigns to free bloggers, they're released and life goes on because there is always a new story.

Question - was it a problem to be no longer anonymous? She says it isn't because she is still self-censoring. She tells about a blogger who was sued in court for calling a minister stupid, because of this she has to self-censor. It would do her no good to end up in jail.

Does it matter if she writes English or Arabic - she went to English school and she would rather reach people who read English. Also, if she wrote in Arabic she would have been more censored - so she censored herself or suffer more repercussions.

Snigdha - comes from a company that prides itself of freedom of speech but the government talked to google about blocking Indian institutions from google earth. Google earth agreed. A few years ago a blogger blogged about media - 'mainstream media was like a tabloid', a big newspaper threatened to sue him. He had to shut down the blog and wrote an apology - either delete it all or go to court. He shut it down because he didn't have the money to fight. (this is the same newspaper that pushed so hard for online media.) She thinks if that happened now, there would be more of an outcry.

question Amy Gahran - she read "We Are Iran" which is a collection of Iranian blog posts, this isn't a new phenomenon, a big part of the revolution was brought about by independent communication - the other ways of disseminating info have more power than traditional media.

Almira lives in Canada, she looked for a cell phone and couldn't find one as good as those available in Bahrain. She bought a condo and the seller asked her if she knew what a microwave was, they have technology and gadgets in Bahrain = what they don't have is access to info or freedom to transmit info, or freedom of choice or speech. They have to be afraid of what will happen to them or their families if they speak out.

Georgia talking about small countries, there are many ways to communicate but the problem comes in communicating with other countries.

Women and barriers to access.

Snigdha - found data broken down by gender. Women have less access to internet than men, in India (38% of those with access are women). Men speak and then women join. If there is a computer at home, it's likely the man is using it. She thinks the barrier is really that internet is unavailable, computers are expensive and women are busy trying to make themselves independent and educating themselves and their children - blogging is still a luxury. Rural women are taking to technology faster than rural men - if you want to bring about change in rural areas, then target women - they are more disciplined and want change to happen. They don't blow resources on liquor - there are banks who lend only to women. It's best to target women because women make sure things get done (I Love this lol). One branch did an experiment in a village - they opened cyber kiosks run by women and they are very disciplined, the women are up at 6:30 getting their businesses open. If they get an opportunity they work hard and make it happen. With more freedom and opportunities, there is not as much need for "government jobs" that used to be so coveted.

Question from Kimberly ... she's talking about women's world conference with the United Nations in 2010, sophiawwc. "I we want to use all forms of media and communication what advice would you give - how do we reach rural women? How do we build the bridge to have a conversation with these women?

Juliana says to reach out to the women use the online African women's blog aggregator. send them cell phones, they can use cell phones - wired lines aren't accessible, cells are.

Liz Henry says you can find women bloggers everywhere, and global voices should join the conversation.

Almira - Do not go to mainstream media - or to the government. Don't allow the traditional media or organizations to choose the people you talk to or to choose the people who speak at your event. Any time you get officials involved - due to their ego, vanity, need to get their photo on the paper - it becomes less applicable to real women. A man with a turban gets to decide if you can get divorced or not, or whether you lose your children to a gambling husband.

Snigdha - If you want to involve women in India, the first barrier is language - state to state language - find a point person who knows language who can move between English and all dialects. Hindi is not enough. Reach out to the women, the women in villages, find people who are already working with them and know the language - solar groups would be good, they know how villages work. They have networks who work with villages. She is not sure she can say go to the blogs. She isn't confident that the women blogging are the women the people at sofiaww want to reach - they may be "more privileged" (my phrase) than the rural women.

Kim mentioned website sophia circles.

Jen Lemen is talking about going to Capetown, they talked to every waitress, maid, housekeeper - she heard political refugees from all over Africa who had well formed, articulate opinions about what's happened in their country - she told them about blogging and they were on fire about this because they've felt left out of the global conversation. She came home thinking we should have BlogHer Africa and go over and help them blog. She emailed women in the US and we're too busy right now and she feels like the African women may feel like she's forgotten them. She cares about this and wants to do something... learning about political refugees in the US (Jen talks about - or has an african refugee website, I will find that link later). She wants to be a part of the solution - she needs direction - this is where she at and doesn't know what to do.

Juliana - when people talk about Africa they talk about poverty but Africa would like to say there is a lot of growth and a lot of expertise in Africa - (linux chicks africa )- (Jen asks how do we connect the linux chicks with the women she saw in Africa?) - African solutions for African problems - Ted Talks - TRADE with Africans - partner and work with Africans ,support their ideas - trade, trade, trade - money and capital in the hands of women has a transformative power.

Victoria - now public works with Global voices - 'Would you feel more comfortable posting something on her site, with a more journalistic feel than "just blogging on your own"?

Almira is not a coward but she still has to be careful - If she says a negative thing, then she must say a positive, then decide if she can say something else negative and then counter with a compliment - is she safe to pull another stunt or does she have to be quiet?

Victoria again - She wants to increase women contributors on her site, the best are women from the middle east with real names - what can she do or what questions can she ask to get more contributors?

Almira - The authorities and censors don't understand English - the danger is really in writing in Arabic. She hasn't heard of any middle eastern female bloggers who have been arrested yet.

Beth Kanter - great advice about going to blogging networks and engaging in conversation. She's going to Cambodia to meet people who she's been talking to for the last 3 years online. Her kids are Cambodian so she's an honorary Cambodian. She wants to know everything about Cambodia, she wants info, she wants to learn so she can teach her kids. Building this relationship, they've invited her to come for a visit, they're discussing her trip and they say that they want to learn from her now. She's working on the polite cultural things now, she's sure she is going to do something inappropriate but they'll forgive her. They started with a core group in their country who are really into this (3 women, 2 men) then they've taught people. (Train the masses by using a training the trainer program). How can she take the women aside and spend time with them alone, how can she do that - will they be hesitant because the men are "in charge".

Snigdha isn't sure, she doesn't know much about Cambodia, but thinks she should just ask. Because they are women they will connect - they just need to gauge what Beth wants or need and get comfortable, but they will connect. If you really want to connect, read world blogs and LEAVE comments. It's important to have that conversation. If the government knows that people are watching, the press is watching, they'll be less likely to take negative action - so read these blogs, make it known that you read them (by commenting and blogging about them) . She shares a story: A women protected her husband who she thought was a "whistle blower" by blogging - opening up and getting noticed, getting media attention - this kept the government away because everyone knew about him. Everyone knows they are worried about the government taking action against him. (this is a very good point, snighda)

A question from someone else - "International news website" The Wip- all writers are women, she did the work - she created the platform and opened it up for the women to submit their work. She gave them the tools and let the women write what they wanted. What about safety... some of the Zimbabwe bloggers blog anonymously, what else can she do to keep them safe?

EFF (Liz Henry says)

Amy G again -There are interesting trends emerging. Barriers of access for global connection access, language, literacy - interesting that cell phones are ahead - the internet might not be the way to go. What if, instead of podcasting and feeds to phones, you had the equivalent - make a recording on a cell, send a text message that tells people there is something to listen to and then people can call in and get the story. (great idea)

Snigdha says yes, not just audio video is good too because you can visualize and not have to know the language. Ask those women to write about rural women.... snigdha focuses on urban people because those are the people she knows, but suggests you find more people who know rural people.

Christine Santiago? From google when I go tot he office on Monday - when I tell them what I learned, what do you want me to tell them.... ?(great question)

Juliana - Your tools are great but get these tools to more people. Bloggers conference for women, outreach program funding....

Snigdha and Almira - don't fall to pressure from government.... help with filtering, stop blocking websites for any reason - more language assistance, global language tools.

Juliana suggests a SMS twitter type tool for election monitoring.

Snigdha says text messaging is good.


still missing a few edits, I'll come back to it