Empowering women in Ghana and Zimbabwe through Social Media

Young-Urban-WomenInterview with Abel Mavura, ICT, Advocacy and Campaigns Support for ActionAid Ghana

Young Urban Women (YUW) is a multi-country programme supported by Action Aid International and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation that is currently being implemented in seven poor urban and peri-urban areas across India, South Africa and Ghana. The overall programme goal is to empower 5,800 young urban women to gain economic independence, receive skills training and join debates about women and gender in global forums. This is achieved by providing safe spaces for young women to mobilize and build their movements.

As part of his role Abel develops training modules on campaigns development, computer literacy, internet use and social media for advocacy. Abel said “These skills of ICT and social media enable the young women to connect with the world and increase their capacity in media campaigns. Participants are able to express themselves through blogging, Facebooking, tweeting, writing their own articles and sharing online newsletters.”

As a result of this training the young women learn more about sexual and reproductive health and human rights through their interaction with other youths and people who have more information on these key areas. This is achieved through group discussions on WhatsApp and Facebook groups as well as joining wider global debates via Twitter and blogs.

Abel said “Young women can ask questions, share their experiences, success stories and various pertinent issues connected with their development. Besides asking questions young people can easily click links that are provided to access further information that is useful to them e.g. they can get information on menstrual hygiene through J-Initiative, Girls Globe and Let Girls Lead. They also read information on ending early child marriages on big organizations blogs like the Girls Not Brides which provides some very useful resources on their site.  With social media you can start some online coaching on how to advocate for something or campaign for something. I have created a WhatsApp group for my organization in Zimbabwe which is now being managed by the young women leaders. Every Saturday and Sunday from 8pm to 9pm we hold some official discussions on different topics. We rotate the hosts for these days and the presenter is asked to prepare for a certain topic. Before the day he/she does his research and gets prepared for a questions and answer segment 20 minutes before the end of his or her presentation. The presenter is requested to be on the platform at the right time and stick to the one hour that he/she is given to present when the chat starts everyone will be online listening or contributing to the topic .

The same idea was introduced in Ghana YUW project where Abel hosts some leadership sessions every Wednesday and Friday evening.when everyone is relaxed at home which gives young women confidence to contribute when they are in their comfortable places. These activities are also important platforms for building assertiveness and confidence skills.

I asked how participants in the programme access the internet and social media and Abel responded “Even in rural areas or poor communities some people are now accessing mobile phones among the young women that we work with. Not all of them have access to mobile phones, which is the main reason why there are women resources centers which are furnished with computers and internet to allow some of the young women to access internet and being able to connect on social media. In Zimbabwe on the project that I have been working with on social media campaigns MAYO most of the Team leaders among the selected 20 have mobile phones that goes on Whatspp and Facebook.

Most of the young women who have been trained on the use of social media for campaigns have created accounts on Facebook and Twitter. They have joined various international and local online campaigns in Ghana the Young Urban Women Members initiated a campaign on sexual and reproductive health and rights which was discussed on Twitter using the #SRHR4YUW hashtag. Issues to do with unpaid care work were also discussed with young women contributing and sharing their views.

For more information follow the Young Urban Women Twitter Account

Follow Abel on Twitter