Written By Noura Eljerbi for our Expert Opinion series (find her bio below at the end of the article)
Social media started influencing Libyan women’s movement in the past few years, and has helped women grow and develop by giving them the courage to speak out and expose sex offenders and unfair treatment that they’ve faced at work or in their societies. Social media has become a haven for many women that enables them to directly deal with the ideology of women hatred and the phobia of hearing them speak out. Through social media outlets, women in Libya have started changing the situation bit by bit. This approach has become a valuable tool in the battle of gender equality.
Even though the society has come a long way, it still lacks a lot to reach the equality, and justice needed to achieve women rights. While men still hold the reins in Libya, women are left on mute.
Hashtags as a powerful weapon:
Practically, women’s voices were unheard and debates about feminism were almost invisible, before Twitter and Facebook became the most popular tools. The concept of feminism was not on the minds of the majority of women, regardless of the prevalent misconceptions about the concept. Social media platforms have contributed in reinforcing feminism and its concepts for many of this era’s young women. before this change, it was very difficult to encourage people to come out be part of the movement.
Since the eruption of social media platforms, feminism activists were given a powerful tool to fight for their rights. Nowadays, these women do not have geographical barriers or a long-distance burden keeping them from achieving the purpose of feminism, as social media has assisted activists from different cities to publicly communicate with each other and has become a facilitator in networking and communicating while making it easier to accomplish the tasks needed and giving them more opportunities to achieve what they’re fighting for.
Hashtags are becoming an unbelievably powerful tool in changing mindsets and pre-misconceptions, and has definitely made women’s voices heard.
The years 2018 and 2019 had the most advocacy campaigns on social media. Hashtag-based campaigns have become so viral, they can no longer be ignored.
Women have shown solidarity with many cases that have been put forward locally and also internationally. They have also expressed their support with many events that occurred in different cities in Libya. For instance, the hashtag #Twitter_girls_assembly where women tweeted their disapproval of the social rejection towards the women who gathered out for a cup of coffee. In the face of this rejection, women reunited to fight it with evidence and reasoning.
#Faraا_khader_right, another hashtag that showcased the cooperation of Libyan women in their absolute rejection of underage marriage.the hashtag included discussions, expressing of opinions, and the demand for the enactment of women protection laws. All of this was part of a campaign supporting one of the victims of child marriage.
Will social media truly change the world?
There are many doubters who do not believe in the power of social media, and think that hashtag campaigns will not create a tangible true change in the world in general and Libya in particular.
No one can deny the influence social media has in raising social awareness. But, there is still a lot to do, if we want social media to actually change the social situation in Libya.
Nonetheless, when it comes to women’s movement, social media has the ability and enough power to make women more confident in their capabilities in fighting discrimination based on gender. Social media cannot replace real-life gatherings and protests, but it can help people communicate and organize bigger demonstrations and give a voice to those who are not ready for effective engagement yet. It allows people the opportunity to exchange opinions regarding some issues and cases in society, regardless of their location and cultural background.
On the other hand, the freedom that social media provides has some negative aspects, as it is undeniable that social media is still used to prevent women from expressing their thoughts, through misuse of the internet, As well as the constant targeting and bullying towards them and their opinions.
Despite the threats that pose a continuous problem, social media is here to stay. It will continue to assist women in becoming more powerful, push their feminism-related activities forward, as this electronic space allows women the potential to unite and respond to hatred.
- 31 years old, journalist and program host on Salam TV Network
- Interior Design Degree from National Design Academy in 2008
- More than 5 years of experience in blogging and writing about social issues like gender equality