Women in the Middle East and Social Media

Women in the Middle East and Social Media

In this Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 file photo, Iranian women use computers at an Internet cafe in central Tehran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Pakistani women in the Middle East using social media in a local internet cafe

Women in the Middle East are using social media like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram to gain rights to increase financial and political independence and make their voices heard.

A young Egyptian man grabs a woman crossing the street with her friends in Cairo.

A young Egyptian man grabs a woman crossing the street with her friends in Cairo. (NPR)

Social media is changing the ability for women to be herd in the Middle East. Countless women are verbally harassed,  groped or worse. Social pressure often means women are not allowed to talk about these instances. This culture of objectifying women was an accepted norm that no one tried to change until now.

Through social media the women who are victims have been given a voice. A popular website launched in 2011 called, “HarassMap”  is a place where women can anonymously report through mobil phones where harassments happen in real time. Watch this video of founder Rebecca Chiao to find out more about why and how HarassMap began. The person reporting the assault can give details of what happened as well as the exact location. An interactive, color coded map shows areas where high amounts of incidents take place, and color code by the type of assault reported.

HarassMap also offers a place for women who are the victims of sexual assault a place to come together and receive professional help, they also offer self defense lessons.  It is important for the women to know that their stories are important and that people want to listen. As well it matters to know that through HarassMap they can make a change. HarassMap is truly the perfect venue of social media for a  social change. HarassMap is allowing women to make their voices heard.

T4Turban Instagram

T4Turban Instagram

To become finically independent as a women living in the Middle East is very difficult. Social norms in some con tires prohibit women from leaving their homes unaccompanied by a male let alone getting a job independently.

Social Media is changing this, now women can created their very own business online and never have to leave their homes.  This explains why 10%  percent of Internet start up companies are run by women worldwide except in  Middle Eastern cities: there that percentage goes up to a staggering 35% (Amman).  Rand Al Bassam, saw $10,000 worth of email orders for her turbans in one month after she launched on Instagram. She’s since established an e-commerce platform for T4Turban (MacBride).

Zaytouneh Cooking Viedo

One women that lived in Jordan,  Fida Taher, launched her own cooking website called Zaytouneh. This is a cooking website where now over 600 recipes are featured it is a big success on YouTube. It is the same format as the video above just giving cooking instructions  while showing the ingredients and hands of the chef. This incredibly successful business could not have been started without social media.

Financial independence can be achievable for women in the Middle East though social media. Many women have turned to social outlets to promote their businesses. Social media is igniting the Arab communities and empowering women to become their own bosses and financial support.

Social media is also making it simple and powerful for women to gain more political freedom. Women in Saudi Arabia recently staged a protest to allow them to drive that they promoted though social media.

The recent protests participants were encouraged to post videos of themselves driving online. They were encouraged to hastage the events as they posted them online so the entire world could see their protest. As well there is a Facebook page, entitled “Support #Women2Drive” has over 18,768 likes (Support #Women2Drive).  It is on this page that support is gathered for protests just like the one that just happened.

Manal al Sharif behind the wheel

Manal al-Sharif behind the wheel

One political activist and one of the first women to get behind the wheel in 2011, Manal al-Sharif has  shown that even with social media it is still a struggle to achieve political change she has been quoted saying,”I measure the impact I make by how harsh the attacks are. The harsher the attacks, the better I am doing” (Johnson). She has used social media to help spread her mission to get women to drive. Here is a video depicting her methods of political activism in Saudi Arabia. Her video really shows how vital social media is to her movement.

Women  in the Middle East will continue to use social media to spread their protests and eventually to achieve their right of driving independently, and they will continue to stage protests and gather support through social media until they have their rights.

The social media revolution is happening all over the Middle East. Social medias has given a voice to the voiceless, an open economy to the otherwise isolated, and a place to gather, protest and collaborate.

Women in the Middle East are using social media to its fullest potential to increase their political and social freedom and to alter the society in which they live.

Works Cited

Amman. “Start-up Spring.” 13 July 2013. The Economist. Web. 12 Nov. 2013. <http://www.economist.com/news/business/21581737-clusters-internet-firms-are-popping-up-all-over-region-start-up-spring>.

Di Giovanni, Janine. “Riding Shotgun With The Woman Driving Change in Saudi Arabia.” Newsweek. Newsweek, 07 Nov. 2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2013. <http://www.newsweek.com/riding-shotgun-woman-driving-change-saudi-arabia-2770>.

Fadel, Leila. “Vigilantes Spray-Paint Sexual Harassers In Cairo.” NPR. Web. 03 Dec. 2013. <http://www.npr.org/2012/11/01/164099058/vigilantes-spray-paint-sexual-harassers-in-cairo>.

Johnson, Bridget. “Manal Al-Sharif.” About World News. Web. 03 Dec. 2013. <http://worldnews.about.com/od/saudiarabia/p/Manal-Al-Sharif.htm>.

“HarassMap | Ending the Social Acceptability of Sexual Harassment and Assault in Egypt.” HarassMap. Web. 12 Nov. 2013. <http://harassmap.org/en/>.

MacBride, Elizabeth. “Arab Spring 2.0: The Rise of Women Entrepreneurs.” CNBC. Web. 03 Dec. 2013. <http://www.cnbc.com/id/101179963>.

“Support #Women2Drive.” Facebook. Web. 12 Nov. 2013. <https://www.facebook.com/Women2Drive>.

“T4Turban | Your One Stop Shop for Turbans.” T4Turban | Your One Stop Shop for Turbans. Web. 03 Dec. 2013. <http://www.t4turban.com/>

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