By Felly Oyuga
As African women, we need to realise that one of the best things to happen to us is social media. In the days of old, the African woman had a huge support network. She had access to information from the older women, she had the comradery of her age mates and she was also able to tell her story and share her wisdom with her younger sisters. The village was within reach and she was surrounded by a wealth of information which she had access to almost instantly. This of course changed with colonialism and ‘civilisation’. We grew apart from our sources of information, identity and our communities.
Yet, it still takes a village. Now we can rebuild our villages online. As a young mother having recently lost my own mother, I struggled with getting information on what was best for my baby. In 2001, there was no whatsapp or Facebook. Sharing information between my fellow young mums and myself was a little challenging. We lived and still live far from each other, meaning we could only meet occasionally. This meant that you would have to figure out issues on your own. Sometimes with disastrous results.
When I think of the different support groups women can form now at all stages of their lives on platforms like whatsapp, Facebook etc, I get very excited. Why? Because African women can now proceed into different areas of their lives armed with wisdom and information from their peers and even older women. The village is back! We can now tell our stories. Remember the internet does not forget. How wonderful to know our stories will never be forgotten.
When you look a little more closely you discover that social media can go beyond bringing the village back, it expands the village. You can now not only communicate with women from your locale, but also with African women all over the continent. What better way to network? In your own living room as you feed your baby and help your other child with homework? Imagine you are selling ‘Kangas’ from the Kenyan Coast and you have just connected with Thandi, a South African woman, who is going to the USA for the summer. Your product will travel to South Africa from East Africa and then cross to the USA and you do not have to leave your house.
In the village you learnt a lot. When you learn, teach! (Maya Angelou). As Africans, we taught and passed information through stories. Now you can tell your stories through blogs, vlogs and posts. Are you enriching your village? Are you telling your story? Are you teaching? There must be something you are passionate about. Talk about it, blog about it. Who knows? You may even earn an income through it. The village needs African women of means and influence!
I often worry about women voters, especially of the ones in my country. We seem to be very docile about our expectations. Or maybe we expect very little or we do not know what to expect. Whatever the case, social media is a godsend tool. Before we would worry about attending a political rally because of all the violence. Most times women are targeted during these violent episodes and often have the most to lose. We now live in a time when all our leaders have a social media account. We have seen what can happen when we put pressure using social media. A case in point being when a popular Congolese musician decided to practice his kicking skills on one of his female dancers just after he entered the country. Kenyan women took to social media seeking justice for the dancer. The musician’s concert was not only cancelled, but he was also deported too. Imagine if we got our village together and put pressure on our leaders?
Women thrive in communities. Let us rebuild our villages, let us thrive once again. The village is back!