(WNN) Mexico City, MEXICO, AMERICAS: Women bloggers make up the majority of bloggers found online today says Nielsen, the internet analytics giant. Today 6.7 million people who want to publish their opinions are reaching the public via the internet, many of them using blogging as a way to do this. Another 12 million bloggers write using social networks platforms. It is not a surprise that women who want to reach the public with their ideas care about human rights and social justice.
As a Yemeni freelance writer, journalist and blogger Afrah’s work hasn’t been ignored. On the contrary, her work has been featured as one of the “10 must-read blogs from the Middle East” by CNN.com. She recently spoke in Mexico City during the Female Bloggers Forum as part of DHFEST, Mexico City’s International Film Festival for Human Rights where WNN – Women News Network caught up with her and the other women bloggers who came to speak.
“It all started before the revolution. I was thinking that I would not report on politics,” outlined Afrah Nasser who’s work focuses on women’s rights, democracy and politics. Since May 2011 she has written in exile from her base in Sweden, a choice she did not want to make. As she began to expose corruption in the region, Naseer faced increased threats because of her writings and opinions.
“So I reported [on Yemen] only on cultural and social topics. But the thing is, the more you report about social problems the more you see that the political system has to change,” Nasser continued.
Social media in Yemen has brought with it a distinct rise in cyberactivism, even though the country has tried to block social media.
“Even in Yemen, where Internet penetration is a mere 10 percent, youth have clamored to join Facebook,” said current Freedom of Expression Officer atFreedom House Courtney Radsch in a May 2012 report sponsored by the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.
“Me and my generation realized that we really needed a drastic change, and we didn’t know how it would come to be, but suddenly the revolution started in Tunisia and we thought: ‘if they can do it, we can do it.,’” said Nasser, who started blogging from Yemen in 2010.
“The whole region got a wind of demanding democracy and social justice. I thought it was the perfect time to start a blog and write about the issues that I wanted to let the others know about,” she added.
As part of her blog, Nasser uploaded photos and posts about protests in Yemen as they happened in the capital city of Sana. She also shared her own opinion demanding political and corruption reform in her country.
Her efforts, along with others bloggers like her, encouraged more people to demand change for freedom, change and human rights in Yemen and beyond.
While Nasser received a high amount of initial local criticism because of her blog, including hate comments and threats made against her, she also received the attention of of the international news media, including CNN.
“Getting that recognition was honorable for all women in Yemen who were always treated as silent, submissive. That was a way to reassure that women are part of the society, part of the political process,” she said.
Four other smart and courageous women bloggers joined Nasser recently on stage in front of a large crowd, more than a 1,000 people on October 3, 2013 at the University of Claustro de Sor Juana. The star group of expert women bloggers included Heba Afify from Egypt; Judith Torrea Oiz from Spain living in Ciudad Juárez; Malaika Mahlatsi of South Africa; and Claudia Calvin Venerofrom Mexico.
To open discussions and exchange about the powerful tools of social media, tools that are especially useful for women who want to break the silence and repression facing them by encouraging change through open access to information in over 50 countries.
Blogging for Freedom of Expression
“[The] Internet has allowed for the empowerment of women,” outlined Mr. Frank La Rue at the opening of the event.
As the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression La Rue has traveled to over 25 separate countries. His reports on freedom of the internet are then delivered directly to the United Nations Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. Outlining freedom of expression and censorship of information where it exists today in global regions, La Rue also reports on the ability for bloggers to blog on conditions from their locations as they face dangers ‘on-the-ground’.
“I started being a journalist ten days before the protests started. At the time, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the use of social media, I liked my simple phone with no Facebook or anything, but then I went into the streets on January, 21st,. I had my notebook and pen to write notes as I usually do, but I noticed something historic was really happening and I couldn’t describe it on paper. So I got a little camera in one hand, my phone on the other, and I learned how to use Twitter. Since then I realized it has to be a tool for any journalist working in the area,” said Heba Afify who has now over six thousand followers on her Twitter account @HebaAfify.