Two years ago, social media proved the full extent of its power to the world. Across the Middle East, millions took to the streets in protests enabled by social networks that authoritarian rulers could neither control nor contain. These movements espoused democratic governance over tyrannical regimes in the belief that all citizens deserve a voice. And yet, almost a year into the Arab Spring, four women recognized that one such voice was being lost.
The “Uprising of Women in the Arab World” launched as a Facebook page in October of 2011 as an answer to the unheard injustices experienced by innumerable female protesters. In Egypt, demonstrations became dangerous for women as they were first harassed and attacked in Tahrir Square only to be later subjected to invasive “virginity tests” at the hands of the Egyptian military. Yalda Younes, a founder of the group, recognized that where social media was being used as a tool of mass mobilization, it could similarly be used as a means to raise awareness.
To commemorate the one year anniversary of the page, the group commenced a photo campaign in which participants posed alongside signs that began with the phrase, “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because…” The move lead to a drastic increase in the page’s membership as women from around the globe appeared lamenting the treatment of rape victims, expectant mothers and chronicling the everyday oppression of women in Arab societies. Many of these photos ignited instant controversy in a region where obedience is more valued than women’s rights.
For disempowered women around the globe, success is not bought with the downfall of dictators. A push for democratic values may be at the core of the Arab uprisings, but these values cannot hope to be present in societies riven with gender bias. When a twenty-three-year-old woman is brutally gang-raped after taking public transportation, when a twelve-year old girl is shot for seeking an education or when a sixteen-year-old female is court-ordered to marry her rapist, democratic values do not exist.
In the age of social media, citizens around the globe are more connected than ever before. Individual struggles are now witnessed worldwide and anyone can participate in a moment of civil disobedience through the mere click of a mouse. As revolutions in Libya and Tunisia have already shown, the voice of many become an unstoppable force when united. For silenced women around the world, the “Uprising of Women in the Arab World” seeks to be just that force.
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