Written by Namasiku Muyoba, Shupiwe Tepula and Melody Masuku (RWA Zambia)
The RWA social media training workshop took place on the 8th June, 2019 in Lusaka Zambia. 15 young RWA members were in attendance from Chongwe, Mumbwa, Lusaka and the Copperbelt. The social media training is an important step in building the capacity of young activists to a) document what is happening inside their associations and movements; b) to make struggles visible of rural women that would otherwise go unnoticed by mainstream media; c) to document the herstories of rural women. The main objectives of the training was to:
- develop capacities and competencies of RWA members to make the struggles and concerns visible
- build a series of strategies that link media and activism in Zambia RWA chapter
- develop a country specific social media strategy
Young rural women issues invisible in mainstream media
The workshop started off with group discussions of the key challenges of young women in Zambia. The young women shared that they experience many challenges in Zambia including; teenage pregnancies, early childhood marriages, gender-based violence, sexual violence etc. The young women also highlighted that these issues apart from speaking out against early childhood marriages by the first lady, remain invisible in mainstream media. The young women highlighted that social media can provide a platform for them to share their issues and concerns.
Social media usage among young rural women
All of the young women shared that they use different social media platforms. All of them used Facebookk and What’sApp with a handful that uses Instagram and Twitter. The young women indicated that other than posting and sharing pictures, they used social media for online shopping, music, movies, prayer groups and other entertainment purposes. One of the women shared that she uses social media as a platform to collaborate or partner with organisations that work in agriculture in Zambia. Most of the young women followed popular trends and a few follow popular hashtags in Zambia. One of the women shared about a recent hashtag on Twitter that was related to a corrupt government official and said that she mainly follow the discussion and do not comment or share it because she is afraid of being watched. This is due to social media censorship in the country.
The young women who are at university highlighted that there were several hashtags on Twitter that they follow as part of the student community. For example, #Justice4Vespers was a national social media campaign of a fourth year student from University of Zambia (UNZA) who died after the demonstration at UNZA that led to the police teargasing the student dormitories. Another popular hashtag in the student community that was trending at the time is #OPENCBU which was started by students as a plight to government to keep the Copperbelt University open. While the student community was active on Twitter and followed popular hashtags, those young women from outside of Lusaka was not aware of these hashtags. The young women highlighted that they were not aware of these hashtags because they are not Twitter and always have data or access to WiFi.
How are young women portrayed on social media
The young women also discussed how they are portrayed in social media and how they portray themselves on social media. The women indicated that they portray themselves in different ways. Some said that they would take a picture of themselves in a chitenge in the areas where they stay to see what response they get from friends. These pictures were seen as portraying the real situation of where they stay. Others commented that there are young women who portray themselves as ‘slay queens’ who post pictures of places and things that they do not own. For these ‘slay queens’ it is all about the image. The young women also made examples of young women like Maria Chilomzi who is among one of the youngest female farmers in Zambia. She uses social media to share the training for other young people who are not able to attend her training sessions. Another example is of Lulu Hangaala who is a social media influencer and a UNAIDS goodwill ambassador.
RWA Zambia media interventions
Grace Tepula shared that to get access media coverage for the RWA Zambia can be challenging at times. She indicated that only if the Ministry of Agriculture is attending their events there will be media. She shared the following sentiment:
We often do not invite them because inviting them is not for free and we often do not have resources to invite. When you call them to have to pay for their transport and lunch. When we have resources we invite them. They will normally come when there is government officials that are there, but if there is no government officials they do not come.
She shared that they use Facebook to post their activities. The page was created by three young women who attended the RWA social media training in 2018. The pages is used to showcase the activities of RWA Zambia and share solidarity with other sisters in the RWA.
Namasiku Muyoba, Shupiwe Tepula and Melody Masuku were the facilitators of the workshop. They attended the 2018 RWA young women’s social media training workshop in Johannesburg and employed some of the methodologies that they learned from the workshop in the Lusaka social media training session