Social media is an indispensable tool in advocacy and awareness. Think about it. Where last did you hear about a special cause or harrowing story? Most likely it was on Twitter or Facebook. Unlock. Click. Scroll. With a click of a button people can instantly tap into campaigns and become aware of events in countries they have never visited.
Here are some of the stories that spurred mass mobilisation and activism on social media in 2017.
Sexual harassment in Silicon Valley
Cheryl Yeoh, founding CEO of the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre, shared her story of sexual harassment in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley has long been painted as, well – the land of free thinkers. A place so forward thinking that sexual harassment could not possibly breed. Yeoh’s story shared on social media emboldened women around the world to share their story of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The #WhereisMyName campaign shone the spotlight on the culture and rights of women in Afghanistan. Afghan women are viewed as the lesser sex and are not mentioned by name in public. They have no basic identities but are called “Aunty”, “mother of children”, “my household’ and even “my weak one”. Campaign supporter, Bahar Sohaili said it ‘is just a spark – the posing of a question mostly to Afghan women about why their identity is denied’. Social media users rallied behind the campaign to amplify the voices of Aghan women and encourage debate on gender equality in Afghanistan.
Alyssa Milano encouraged women to use the hashtag to share their stories of sexual abuse on Twitter following the revelation of sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein. The hashtag spread like wildfire highlighting stories from around the globe. The #MeToo campaign was launched ten years ago by Tarana Burke. Burke started the grassroots movement to provide “empowerment through empathy” to survivors of abuse and rape who did not have access to support structures and facilities. Although it was not intended to be a viral campaign or hashtag, millions of women have used the hashtag to share their stories and offer support.
On social media battle lines are drawn, picket lines are on. Campaigns and voices are instantly amplified globally. It is a network to share, unite, heal, trigger and demand action. Social media is one of the most powerful tools of mobilisation and activism in our generation.