Iraq: Mediating Gender in the Digital Age
Like many women hungry for better representation in the Middle East, 22-year-old Dina Najem is finding her voice through social media tools, which she is actively using to promote women rights in Iraq’s largely patriarchal and tribal society. She tweets, blogs, and updates her Facebook on a daily basis to challenge long-established norms and laws that discriminate against women, whether in specific matters such as employment or in other societal issues. Dina started her campaign last year after attending two IREX-organized workshops on social media and strategic planning skills.
“I have helped women use new media tools for freedom of speech and to protect women’s rights here in Iraq,” Dina said. “I also help them develop their skills to find a job.”
Dina’s activities, however, go far beyond merely posting opinions in cyber space. Like a real journalist, she reports from the field. She trains other women, and uses her language skills to inform the outside world by publishing her posts in French and English, as well as in Arabic. “I am also a trainer, teaching women [Microsoft] Office programs, how to use blogs and new media and how to write resumes and develop interview skills,” Despite constant discouraging threats, she proactively continues her campaign.
“This blog covers the demonstrations for reform in Iraq,” she said referring to the Iraqi Streets 4 Change blog that she co-manages with her colleague Haydar Hamzoz, another IREX trainee. “When I go to Tahreer Square (where protests are centered) in Baghdad, I tweet from my phone what happens in the Tahreer Square, or translate what happened from my home.”
Change will not come easily or quickly. But attempts by people like Dina are offering hope that women in this corner of the world could ultimately enjoy their universal and inalienable rights.
Dina Najem blog: The hope