facebook-twitter-app-icons-istock-600-275x171Social media is being turned to to help raise awareness and educate the public on a ‘violence free’ society.

The Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia (PPAZ) helped train twenty specially appointed local members of society how they can help spread knowledge to stop gender-based violence.

The key to the new project is training others so they will share what they know bout the most powerful human rights use of social media tools. The training of regional educators hopes ultimately to give Zambia’s youth their own power to become human rights advocates for women.

“It is envisaged that with such knowledge the peer educators will be able to reach out to a lot more people. This in turn will contribute immensely in awareness raising and education, In this age of technology, one cannot but emphasize the role that social media is playing…” said Henry Kaimba, Programs Director for PPAZ to WNN – Women News Network.

The twenty participants in the program were chosen from PPAZ – Planned Parenthood Association Zambia, Zambia’s YWCA and through a campaign to find online activists through a rural radio station in the Siavonga District 124 miles south of Zambia’s capital called Kariba FM.

The rural Siavonga District has been suffering under a rising crisis in cases of violence against women and girls. To help fight against the tide of violence, an online network called MenEngage is working to gather men together who are dedicated to activism to help. MenEngage Africa is doing this today.

Other organizations are also jumping in to help women and girls inside Zambia. Since 1972 PPAZ has been bringing health services to women and girls in the region. Today their services include helping women and girls get knowledge about family planning, voluntary counseling and testing for HIV/AIDS, treatment for sexually transmitted disease, antenatal and post-natal care in pregnancy, emergency contraceptives, lab tests and ultra-sound services, as well as screenings for cancer of the cervix which is a ‘too common’ condition for women in Zambia.

Now the use of social media for advocacy has been brought into PPAZ’s programs.

Social media helps to capture ordinary voices in communities, said training facilitator and Zambian journalist Brenda Nglazi Zulu.

“The mainstream media often ignores the voices of people on the ground,” outlines Zulu. “They would rather pursue elite persons leaving out the people that bear the brunt of poverty and gender based violence.”

As an expert in the use of ICT – Internet Communication Technologies, Zulu feels that Social media platforms provide local content and interpretation of issues that can bring engagement to important topics affecting women and girls.

“I now know how to search for and share information on violence against women on social media. My colleagues and I will use this knowledge to better our rid our society of incidences GBV [Gender Based Violence] and other social ills,” said program participant Nelson Banda.

The training included an introduction to online advocacy and social media, understanding the diverse array of social media platforms and using social media as an activism tool.

“There is a lot of information sharing via social media, but what needs to be explored is the proper use of such platforms in ending violence against women in particular and gender based violence in general. I now know how to share audio and videos pieces on Facebook and Twitter,’ said another participant of the PPAZ training.

Over the last decade legal advocates worldwide, including U.S. based Cornell University Law School, have worked to stop violence against girls in school.

“Sexual abuse of girls in schools has become very prevalent in Zambia, but the work that is being done to sensitize school children about abuse in general and sexual abuse in particular is bearing positive results in increasing reporting by victims for the law to take its course. However a lot of work still remains to protect would-be victims,” says Cornell Law School.

It is hoped that social media activism can now work to begin to ‘de-stigmatize’ women and girls who have suffered assault, abuse and other forms of violence.

Changing the tide can be accomplished, especially through online efforts, say local activists inside Zambia.

According to a 2012 report by Avon Foundation advancements in technology have helped to unify an increasingly global community of service providers, advocates, practitioners, teachers and survivors. Communicating through the internet and/or mobile phones through social media offers survivors direct and immediate access to emotional support by peers as well as an array of services, service providers and other resources.

Harnessing the ‘collective passion and dedication to the cause’ can open up unprecedented opportunities to share ideas and resources says anti-violence advocates. Twitter tweets as well as Facebook posts and many other social media platforms can resonate with individuals and ripple across communities.

The goal, advocates say, is for women and girls to live their lives free of violence.

“The use of social media as an advocacy tool should be promoted for the simple reason that it is effective,” adds ICT trainer and journalist Brenda Zulu.

Credit: Women’s Network.