Guest Post by Fabiola Addamo
Ebele Okobi opened up the Yahoo! Business & Human Rights Summit on Women and Social /Digital Media in Cairo with a powerful statement – “A determined woman is a force of nature”. Simple words (but so eloquently said) have the ability to touch people’s core feelings deeply; and yes, if you did not know, feelings do matter especially when you pair them with facts, that are lived realities for the global women I had the honor to meet in Cairo.
The summit displayed a carousel of progressive voices. Women from across the globe (Egypt, Middle East, North Africa, the U.S., Europe) gathered and spoke about human rights/social justice activism, blogging, journalism, entrepreneurship, safety online, and shared views on how to use technology and media platforms to support virtual communication without borders.
The speakers had different backgrounds and stories, but the audience could clearly map a common denominator, that is the questions raised out loud to make everyone think critically.
- What is a woman? What is your own definition?
- Should we move away from the false fear driven equation women=loss of honor in society?
- What about transforming fears into a renewed energy for women empowerment and adopting a changed perspective in everyday life?
- What about women who bring honor to society and win a Nobel peace prize?
- What about women who understand who they are and are driven by motivation and strong will?
The summit moved from panel to panel and I kept hearing the same message over and over, women need organizational structure. What triggers a paradigm shift in many women’s lives?
Here is my summary in 3 easy steps:
- Understanding who you are and what inspires you
- Aligning with other like- minded women
- Connecting without borders and standing for each other according to your own comfort level (front line or behind the scene)
There is no shame here in Cairo in expressing yourself: public female figures (and not) shared their dreams and spoke out loud their revolutionary minds. Can just having a voice beat fear? Yes. Fearful people usually hide behind other‘s widely accepted ideas. I listened to Manal Al-Sharif, a professional Saudi woman, who is leading the campaign to support women’s drivers and it just hit me, how is it possible that some women in 2012 have limited freedom of movement? I said to myself stop arguing with reality and accept it; it is what it is and only action can make a change. Manal acted and she was jailed for 9 days. She has my respect for acting upon her belief. Facebook campaigns, youtube videos, social and media platforms are the basis to support the global virtual alignment between women involved in social justice and human rights causes.
Internet is virtual power. Just look at the Egyptian revolution made on the internet by real like- minded people.
Women are power because we are a voice of society. The power of ideas and modern minds expands as long as we keep sharing lived realities. Experience sharing is powerful because it creates a sense of belonging in other women’s minds around the globe. Creating awareness and sharing stories is becoming a duty for all women without geographical borders.
I participated myself as speaker in the last panel “What’s next” and I conveyed 3 important messages:
– Who I am
– Why I was in Cairo
– What’s my dream
What’s really next? Next is to continue a respectful conversation with an audience made of men and women; next is creating new mentorship programs while growing existing ones (see Techwomen); next is breaking away from the concept of communication based on physical vicinity; next is spreading art among youth as powerful communication tool; next is Yahoo! leading discussions and creating action items from this Cairo summit.
Internet, women and curiosity are meant to be ingredients to an explosive but peaceful change in society!