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.