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Our work with Women on this special International Women’s Day

March 8, 2012

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, happy International Women’s Day.

Today is a day to celebrate women and the amazing contribution we make to society. And there are many of them. Today’s Guardian website is sharing an inspirational list of the ‘Top 100 women’. Women who have led countries, broken through glass ceilings and even been in space”.

Among the ‘Top 100’ are 20 women activists and campaigners. They include Franny Armstrong, founder of the 10:10 campaign to reduce the developed world’s carbon emissions by 10 per cent in 2010, and Director of The Age of Stupid, a film which follows a man living alone in a devastated 2055, watching archive footage and asking “Why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?”. The 10:10 campaign has seen huge success, with thousands of businesses and institutions – including central government – pledging to cut their carbon emissions by 10 per cent. 10:10 is now active in more than 40 countries.

Also among them is civil servant Lisa Robinson who took a stand against 30 drunken male Cardiff City fans and a train driver in response to sexist abuse she was experiencing on a train. After failing to persuade the driver to stop the train and call the police twice, Lisa climbed on to the tracks and refused to move. She later told the BBC This is my community, this is my village. Women and families should be able to travel on the train in peace and quiet and go about their business without being bullied like that”. Women like Lisa are continuing to join the Hollaback campaign to end street harassment.

An inspirational campaigner from further afield is Kenyan born Professor Wangari Maathai. Wangari was Africa’s first female Nobel peace prize-winner and the first east African woman to hold a doctorate. She faced discrimination in the job market for being too ambitious for a woman. That ambition led her to start the Green Belt Movement in 1977, encouraging village women to plant trees to prevent deforestation and provide them with fuel. By March 2011 Kenyan women had planted 45 million trees. Wangari found herself jailed for calling a judge incompetent, and for protesting against President Daniel Arap Moi’s government. In 2002 she won a seat in parliament with 98% of the vote and founded the Mazingira Green Party of Kenya.


But what have these inspirational women to do with Digital Social Innovation?

Well, we’ve been working with Women’s Networking Hub in Birmingham as part of the Digital Activism project for a few months now. The Hub was founded and is coordinated by a very ambitious and inspirational local Birmingham woman – Shahida Choudhry – who wants to ensure that women in Birmingham and the West Midlands can come together and are empowered to take action of the issues that matter to them.

Within our work with the Women’s Networking Hub we have set ourselves a few aims:

  • create a dynamic website which brings women together, allowing them to campaign on issues that matter to them;
  • support women to run campaigns on issues that matter to them and to mobilise other women to join them;
  • use web tools to support women’s participation in campaigning; and
  • widen participation in the Hub, especially to underrepresented groups.

The Hub won a digital makeover from the Universities of Coventry and Nottingham, meaning the first aim is well underway, and the new website is due shortly. Shahida is keen for this to be a place where members can access campaigning resources, start and share their campaigns and invite others to join them, and build networks. Overall, Shahida sees the importance of an open and sage space where women from all backgrounds can come together, feel empowered and able to be themselves, and have a voice.

We’ll also soon be supporting some of the 1000 members to develop and deliver campaigns on the issues they feel strongly about.We recently asked members “what’s your problem?”, inviting them to submit their campaign ideas. And we had a great response; 18 women told us they had a problem with domestic violence, lads mags, sexual exploitation, inequalities in employment and opportunities, rape culture, and sexual stereotyping, amongst other issues.

We are now working with Shahida to support a few of the women to tackle these problems, and help them to look at how social media can help them do so. We hope to update you on the campaigns shortly.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 23, 2012 1:49 pm

    Hi Sophie
    Thank you for posting such inspiring stories on International Women’s Day. I am fortunate to know Shahida (who is ambitious and inspirational) and have heard her talking excitedly about the project you are supporting the Women’s Networking Hub with. I can’t wait to see the new website, and join in the campaigns which other women in the network have suggested.

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