On Saturday, the first event I went to was ‘Caught in the Net’. It was a sort of informal discussion with five women who work within the STEM industry (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). As a hopeful future female scientist, I was very keen to see this event. We had a variety of women on the panel from Heather Williams, the founder of Science Gurrl to Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a space scientist. Lots of them had worked as teachers at some point in their lives. It was a really inspirational event. I’ve never really been able to hear lots of different women tell me about the many different exciting aspects to careers in science and completely disregarding the stereotype that women don’t ‘do’ science. One of the speakers, who had been switching from different science degrees and being an actress, made it clear that you can keep doing something creative (like drama, which I really love) as well as science, which got me really excited (she managed to do 19 productions while she was studying her natural sciences degree!) All of the women also pointed out that science is also a creative subject. Science is about creating things, substances and ideas. It was great to be surrounded by a group of women who all had the same passion for the subject. We discussed how we needed to make my generation and younger generations of girls even more enthusiastic about science. They all agreed that schools needed to give girls a better idea of the large variety of jobs available with a scientific degree, and that the curriculum should be more exiting and engaging for all young people and make it easier for them to relate to the subject. Science relates a lot to us, even though sometimes that is not made very clear to us while we’re learning it. The fact that Maggie Aderin-Pocock has dyslexia, something I also have, and is still an incredibly successful and brilliant space scientist and astronomer with a degree from Imperial, made me even more confident that I would be able to do any science degree I wanted.
The talk was really great and I loved hearing from all the women. It proved that science can be a fascinating subject to study, and that we need more women and young girls to realise this.
What is rape? Sexual harm, nothing big? No it’s a serious matter, people are getting raped left right and centre and no one is doing much about it. Today I went to a discussion called Rape and its where these women told us about their stories and in most of them, as soon as they got raped they didn’t go to the police. This shows that they might have been scared of the consequence and didn’t want to go to court and see the person that raped them. One of the women that was speaking said something that really made me think “is it rape if it’s from your boyfriend?” Rape is rape no matter who done it. Rape is something that happens all the time and this needs to stop. Girls need to find the confidence to go to the police if they have been raped because living knowing what has happened to you can make things worse. I think there should be help lines or workshops about rape and how dangerous it is and to give people information that if they do get raped they should instantly go to the police, rape is a big problem and it needs to stop.
I went to see Ruby Wax’s one-woman rambling ponder on life and all its difficulties with very little prior knowledge of her aside from that she had suffered from mental illness in her life and she was open and funny about it in her shows. She was immediately an endearing presence, without trying too hard to please the audience, as if she knew instinctively how to satisfy an audience without even having to try.
On Saturday 9th March, as one of the Wowsers (young ambassadors for the WOW festival) I attended a talk on women in the media which focused on how newspapers, television and other forms of media have seriously negative impacts on women and society. The speakers included a journalist, a correspondent for ITV London Tonight, a BBC newsreader and the women’s editor for the Guardian. I found the comments about women in the media very engaging, particularly Ronke Phillips, the correspondent for ITV London Tonight who had some interesting thoughts on women’s position in the media. She commented on how it is seen as acceptable for an older man to be partnered with a younger women as a TV presenter on a news channel, however if it were to be the other way around, it would often be seen as humiliating for the women. The audience was encouraged to consider why this arguably boring stereotype of women in the media being reduced to nothing but the ‘sum of their parts’ or in other words their figures and their imperfections, still exists and what can be done to stop it. With only 22% of women in politics, it’s astounding to think that they deal with a significant amount of daily criticism targeted at their age, the recent weight lost or gained or even their hair colour. After listening to the panel on women in the media as well as several other talks about feminism in the Middle-East and pornography, they left me inspired and enthusiastic to promote women’s equality even further. Gender equality is still a problem in every country in the world and without it being taken seriously (and this does not mean humorlessly!), it’s very hard for female equality to improve and for women to be looked at as more than their parts, but as who they are. Therefore everyone come to the festival!
In the small West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, south west of Ramallah, housewife Manal Tamimi photographs soldiers using her mobile phone as she dodges teargas canisters – before tweeting them to the world. At the other side of the village baker Umm Samer sits in her kitchen baking her lovely pastries and posts pictures of her produce on Facebook to sell them and make a living.
Palestinian women have taken social media by storm: using it for advocacy, women’s rights, marketing their products, or as a tool to voice opinions, which would otherwise be veiled by social, cultural and traditional restraints.
BBC Media Action
Recognising the role social media is playing in Palestine, BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development charity, has put great emphasis on integrating social media into its project in the Palestinian Territories.
Our participatory audience-driven debate programmes provide ordinary Palestinian people, (particularly disenfranchised youth), with multimedia platforms (radio, television and online) where they can debate the political and social issues with key decision-makers and hold them to account.
Currently BBC Media Action in the Palestinian Territories is producing two debate shows Hur Al Kalam (‘Free Speech’), and Aswat Min Filisteen (‘Voices from Palestine’). They bring the Palestinian audience together with politicians, leaders, and decision makers to hold them to account in an open debate on issues that affect the peoples’ lives.
One aspect of the project is to introduce social media to the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation. The BBC Media Action social media team is working hand in hand with PBC’s social media team to develop the station’s Facebook page, and is creating social media guidelines for the station, as well as using social media for production.
BBC Media Action has engaged women via social media tools and research for the programmes. Our research officer Al’a Radi told me how they make the debate programmes relevant to women, “When choosing the topics we want to use in the shows,” she said, “we ensure that Palestine TV, along with our research team, conducts research about the chosen topics with relevant women’s organisations and experts.”
Our Project Manager Raed Sadeq, says Palestine TV already covers topics that interest women; what BBC Media Action wants is to involve women in all aspects of the production process, “We have the flexibility in our programmes to cover women’s issues,” she says, “but we go further, by having women politicians and experts as part of the panel and present in the audience, whatever topic or issue we raise.”
More women on Facebook
One of our objectives in the social media team is to engage more women in the debates and issues raised on the Palestine TV Facebook pages. Prior to BBC Media Action’s involvement in Palestine TV’s social media, the majority of the followers on Palestine TV’s web pages and Facebook pages, were men. However we have noticed an increase in the number of women engaging on the page – especially when our programmes raised issues of interest to women such as marriage in Palestine and the health sector. Our next show will be dedicated to Palestinian women in celebration of International Women’s Day.
In the past year Palestinian women have become a recognisable presence on Twitter – focusing on political activism and advocacy. Activists – the majority of them women – have created networks inside and outside Palestine to support each other and have created social media campaigns to tie in with actions on the ground.
When it comes to ascertaining accurate numbers of Twitter users, things get complicated. Palestinians are scattered inside and outside Palestine and most of the computerised analytical tools categorise users according to their IP address. The numbers we have only cover the West Bank and Gaza so Palestinian women living in refugee camps in Lebanon or Palestinians living in Haifa or Nazareth are categorised as Lebanese or Israeli.
With that in mind BBC Media Action conducted primary quantitative research, analysing social media usage in the West Bank and Gaza.
|Social Media Tool||WB +Gaza||Male||Female|
For more information on BBC Media Action: bbcmediaaction.org
Ashira Ramadan – social media specialist with BBC Media Action
Ashira Ramadan is a social media specialist with BBC Media Action living in Jerusalem Palestine. Ashira received her post graduate degree in broadcast journalism from University of the Arts London. Ashira spoke at Women of the World Festival 2013 as part of WOW Bites – a series of bite sized talks.