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Social Media And Women Empowerment: A Brand New Facet

"We don't have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it"- Erik Qualman

Women's leadership in social networks can tear down old stereotypes and demographic categories, generating a real impact on media, advertisement and entertainment. Since the 1990s, India has had fast expansion in the ICT sector, which has expanded since 2000. According to a Google research released in June 2013, more than 60 million women in India use the Internet to manage their daily lives, out of a total of 150 million Internet users.

The development of social media technologies created various opportunities for the civic population to plead their opinions for the movements which needed much response that couldn't be bought out by the mainstream media. It serves a platform to share, raise the voice of women when their voices are restricted. Thousands of men have joined cyber-hands to help women, share their voices in each and every protest.

The subject for empowering women has to be put on light. Empowerment is necessary to make a bright future of the family, society and country, to make their own decisions for their personal dependent. This paper tends to draw out how social media can effectively broaden the scope for action on women's rights and gender equality. The sub-theme of this compilation is Social media and women.

Aims And Objectives Of Research:
A social network is a social structure that maps out the relationships between individuals.
  1. To understand how social media can be used wisely to empower women in a conservative cultured society like India.
  2. To enquire the pros and cons on women- social media participation.
  3. Review successful social media initiatives, analyse existing hurdles, and make ideas on how to use social media to successfully widen the scope of action on women's rights and gender equality.

These days, the world has become a global village, and social networking sites are bringing people closer together and helping them to interact and share their thoughts within the group, no matter where in the world they are," - N.S.Muthukumaran, Director.[1] Alternative media is becoming a platform for the empowerment of the society on a whole. Women have got in this way a new space to share their views. This virtual space is giving her power by segregating from the real space; where she has to face the real challenges in the form of eve-teasing, stalking, harassment etc.

Social Media Activism

The development of social media technologies created various opportunities for the civic population to plead their opinions. It also gave a big line of attack for the movements which needed much response that couldn't be bought out by the mainstream media. Cyber-activism is a growing field of scholarly research now-a-days.

Langman[2] argued that the people those who have acquaint computer knowledge use internet and initiate various activities like demonstrations, public protests etc. Social media technologies have been widely used to spread information in a short time. People indulge in social media to form a network in order to socialize themselves and stay connected with other people. The message once passed or posted (well in SNS[3] language) reaches many.

Social Media In Empowering Women

Social media acts as an alternative media, a platform to share, raise the voice of women when their voice is restricted. Thousands of men joined Cyber-hands to help women, share their voices in each and every protest. The subject of empowering women has to be put on light. Empowerment is necessary to make a bright future of the family, society and country, to make their own decisions for their personal dependent. When a person's voice is silenced, it can be amplified in any other way conceivable thanks to social media.

Impact Of Social Media On Indian Women

India has a population of 1.2 billion people, with women accounting for roughly half of the population. Thanks to the efforts of various reformers over the century, the status of women in our country has improved in terms of equal rights. Women have occupied important positions in India in the modern era, including President, Prime Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, top management roles, entrepreneurship, and so on. India, as a country, is making significant strides and cannot afford to overlook women's empowerment.

Today, technology directly impacts women's development and has enabled their voice to reach out and be viewed globally. According to a recent Goggle report, the Internet is empowering Indian women by providing them with easy access to information and allowing them to make more educated decisions in their daily lives. According to a survey named "Women and Web Study[4]" published in June 2013, out of India's 150 million Internet users, more than 60 million women utilise the Internet to manage their daily lives.

Success Of Social Media Protests

Traditional mass media use social media to get up-to-date information on protests, which they then transmit to a large audience through their own channels.Various researchers have different opinion regarding the role of social media in civic participation and social activism.

Cyber-activism movements started in mid 2000's, while social networking sites were getting popular among the Techno-savvies. Those movements include antiwar, anti-globalization, awareness movements etc. Internet also enabled various democratic groups and movements which included activists more than 1,00,000 in Brazil in 2003 and in Mumbai in 2004[5].

Benefits Of Social Media Activism

Traditional methods of training, recruitment, and organisation are more expensive than using social media[6]. People who are active online are more likely to participate in group activities such as starting an online group for a cause or sharing their voices, according to several research. It allows people to share them with their friends, learn how many others share their viewpoint, and coordinate activities and spread the news about protests and social issues.

For example, the 'Jaipur Rugs Foundation' promotes equality, justice, and peace by providing social-economic development opportunities for all women, empowering them to earn and raise their families. They offer a programme that assists women in areas like as entrepreneurship and skill development; the goal is to help women get educated and study beyond it so that they can compete with males.

The Internet allows such foundations to reach out to people all around the world. Previously, such foundations were common, but the general public had little understanding of them. People from all around the world, both in monetary and non-monetary forms, are now supporting these causes.

The Social Media Revolution And Women's Empowerment

Activists all over the world have used platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to broadcast live events to a large online audience. Women's rights organisations have also jumped on board to take use of social media's unmatched political and awareness-raising potential. The rise of female bloggers has helped to attract a younger generation of activists, who are a major target audience for breaking down preconceptions and advancing gender equality.

The Wikigender online conversation and study identified three areas where social media has aided women's political activism:
  • Hashtag activism facilitating women's issues to the forefront of political agendas:
    Hashtag activism has helped to mobilize public attention on women's rights, increasing the visibility of issues that are under-reported in mainstream media. Example : The success of UN Women's high-profile #HeForShe campaign demonstrates the power of social media to reach new and wider audiences: the campaign reached over 1.2 billion people worldwide, highlighting the necessity to involve men and boys to attain gender equality.
  • Tackling violence against women through social media tools:
    Women's rights, legal processes, and welfare services have all benefited from the use of social media platforms, which have enabled them to share their stories of violence with other women. HarassMap, an online mapping service that allows victims to anonymously record incidences of sexual harassment directly from their mobile phone, was launched in Egypt in 2010. This crowdsourcing initiative organises all of the reports and is accompanied by initiatives to raise awareness about the scope of the problem in Egypt[7].
  • Public accountability towards gender equality:
    Women's grassroots organisations are increasingly using social media to demand for greater public responsibility in the area of gender equality. Following the gang rape of a young woman in Delhi in 2012, the #DelhiGangRape hashtag campaign raised attention to the extent of gender-based violence in India. The hashtag campaign aided public street mobilisation, which resulted in the Criminal Code being amended to include specific anti-rape measures (Sharma, 2014). Similarly, the rape and death of a young woman in Turkey sparked a worldwide outcry on Twitter with the hashtags #sendeanlat (speak your storey) and #ozceganaslan. Large-scale street protests sparked a debate among political and civil society leaders about the country's violence against women.

Women Protests Via Social Media

Women To Drive

On May 2011 Manal al-sharif posted an video on online showing herself driving. This could sound very normal thing for any other women in the western or in eastern countries. But, Manal was imprisoned as women of Iran are totally restricted from driving. A hashtag #Women2Drive Campaign in Facebook, Twitter and Youtube got viral which influenced Manal to video herself driving. That video was viewed more than 700,000 times before it was removed from Youtube.

My Stealthy Freedom

In 2014 an Iranian Journalist Masih Alinejad posted a picture in online which showed her in free hair, breeze ruffling her hair gently. The photo became viral in social media. It provoked an instant reaction among the women in her country. The reason was she was not wearing a hijab, a headscarf to cover the entire head and hair. She named the picture as My Stealthy Freedom, which turned out to be a Facebook page receiving 770,000 likes and majority of the likes were from Iran internet users. Somehow later Iran women started to upload their pictures in this page without wearing a hijab. Alinejad received a human rights award at the Geneva Summit. She commented on her action as It's not about a headscarf, Its' about human dignity.

Delhi Rape

Gang rape of a Delhi based Physiotherapy student in a private bus had gained a national and international condemn. There were lot of Public protest against the state and the central government who failed to provide adequate security for women. Just like any other rape case this would have been disappeared among the TRP importance of the media, but I wouldn't because of some serious, sensible Tweets and Facebook posts which constantly questioned the government. Protests happened both offline and online. Thousands of Facebook profile picture has been changed to a picture of Black dot. Ten thousand signed an online petition protesting the rape incident. Despite the death of the victim, there had been lots of changes in the state and Central regarding the protection of Women. Helpline for women protection, changes in law dealing sexual assault cases become the victory of the protests.

For its speed of distribution and reach, social media has become a powerful weapon for women's empowerment. It's also made it easier for women to encourage one another, which is the ideal #SheForShe motivator. Women may relate with people who share their personal experiences online by using the like button, which has served as a virtual embrace to each other.

Women's limited access to new technologies: Fully taking advantage of social media for political advocacy is restricted for many women by illiteracy, language barriers and the digital divide in infrastructure between rural and urban areas. These factors affect in particular rural and indigenous women's online advocacy and opportunities to connect with other activists.
  • Limited networking with institutional actors:
    Women's online activism can be hampered by a lack of cross-institutional networking opportunities, such as with decision makers and public figures, as well as a dissociation from local women's groups.
  • Information overload and scaling up:
    A slew of modest internet campaigns focused on specific topics can easily become overwhelming, leading to activism weariness. This has an impact on a campaign's capacity to scale globally and attract new audiences.
  • Censorship and harassment:
    Governments have also been known to ban female-authored blogs and webpages. Female activists have been sexually harassed in online discussions, and websites that provide information on sexual health and reproductive rights have been pulled offline. Women's online voices are further silenced by negative gender stereotypes and lower representation of women in both traditional and new media organisations.
However, as we all know, women's voices have been silenced on social media as a result of online abuse. Women in positions of power and female journalists are particularly vulnerable to these attacks. Studies have consistently revealed that the danger and attacks directed against women online differ significantly from those directed at men.

While both men and women face physical threats, those directed against women are sexual in nature and intended to exert dominance, silence, and intimidation. When they realise that abusive remarks acquire a lot of likes, social media has been used to disseminate misogyny and has inspired some sexists to come out of the woodwork.

Furthermore, the word slacktivism has been applied to digital activism because like and sharing online makes individuals feel good, even if the online campaign has no real political or social impact. We must exercise caution in order to avoid slipping into this trap. As encouraging as this sounds, social media and online activism may also trap women in a realm of social media where awareness campaigns begin and end.

Furthermore, without integrating women and young girls in leadership positions through policy-changing training or learning how to actively influence decision-making mechanisms, the difficulties associated with women empowerment would persist.

� Another point to consider is the divide that Social Media creates between rural and urban women. Since illiteracy, language barriers, and the digital divide in infrastructure between rural and urban areas prevent many women from taking advantage of Social Media, its tools, and political advocacy online, many women are restricted from using Social Media, its tools, and political advocacy online.

Their struggle is therefore many times invisible, and empowerment campaigns favours those of high-end reaching large audiences.

The reality that women in rural areas have limited access to new technologies, language barriers and lack of education are huge problems in itself and poses challenges for furthering women empowerment and the move towards gender equality.

A focus on following areas can enhance for betterment of women:
  • Enhance women to use information technology for communication and the media more effectively: Equal access to and use of new technologies is crucial for maximising the advocacy role of social media. Women's social media use could be improved by training gender advocates on strategic means of organising an online campaign (e.g., hashtag use, measuring impact, identifying target audiences, and generating compelling messaging).
  • Improve women's capacity to participate in decision-making and leadership: Increasing female leadership in media organisations and decision-making processes can help internet advocacy efforts focused on women's rights succeed. Strategic partners can help close the policy loop and influence decision-making and public awareness on major women's rights problems.
  • Incorporate a diverse group of people, including grassroots women's organisations, traditional media, and men: To strengthen advocacy efforts, social media campaigns must build on and collaborate with local women's groups. Campaigns can be scaled up by combining social media and traditional media. Furthermore, including males and other non-traditional partners can help campaigns gain traction both locally and worldwide by reinforcing messaging and attracting more attention.

'If there is one single woman suffering abuse you have to be their voice'

Human right is not thinking about the majority. Each and every issues took place for a long time while it needed some strong minds to make them successful. There are plenty of women out here with ailment from family, society fighting for life, rights and living. Each and every women doesn't always get solutions easily. At least social media could put some light on their problems which can lead to the solutions.

The combination of the internet and social media has spawned a new type of media in India, which has grown substantially over the last decade. There are currently websites dedicated to women's empowerment, with topics ranging from health to knowledge to lifestyle to education. With the power of social media, finding information about women's empowerment has never been easier. When an incident occurs, social media becomes a more rapid medium that allows people from all over the world to join and express their concern and sorrow. Governments all across the world were forced to respond in response to similar occurrences, which were universally denounced.

Only the emergence of the Internet and Social Media allowed for such awareness and outpouring. Women are learning more about their rights and powers, which every woman in a society has on an equal footing with males in every way. All of these wonderful changes are currently being triggered, and they will only accelerate with time, thanks to the Internet and Social Media!

  1. Online Research, The Nielsen Company.
  2. In the year 2005
  3. Social networking sites
  4. Report by Google.
  5. Langman 2005.
  6. Papic & Noonan, 2011.
  7. Young, 2014

    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Fathima Ibrahim
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