Social media a key factor as women take to the streets around the world

As I’ve said elsewhere BBC Newsnight’s Paul Mason‘s blog post: Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere is worth reading for an understanding of some of the common threads that link protests and demonstrations in Tunisia, Egypt, Greece, France, Ireland and Britain.

In point 5 Paul Mason observes:

Women very numerous as the backbone of movements. After twenty years of modernised labour markets and higher-education access the “archetypal” protest leader, organiser, facilitator, spokesperson now is an educated young woman.

Another common thread among the protesters is that they are “graduates with no future”

…with access to social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and eg Yfrog so they can express themselves in a variety of situations ranging from parliamentary democracy to tyranny.

Women make up a large proportion of bloggers in Arab countries – this 2007 article describes how women in Egypt embraced blogging because it offers “a place to express themselves, often anonymously, in a way that would not be possible in other public forums”.

In countries like Saudi Arabia, which has the biggest blogging community in the Gulf, these two factors can also be seen at work:

Women are vocal in an online campaign calling for political reform and taking part in protests – the Toronto Sun reports that about 40 women staged a demonstration in the capital Riyadh on 5 February, demanding the release of prisoners held without a trial as part of the kingdom’s efforts to fight al Qaeda.

The Saudi campaign was launched on Facebook on 29 January calling for a constitutional monarchy, an end to corruption, an even distribution of wealth, and a serious solution for unemployment.

One group member Safaa Jaber posted on the group’s wall:

Before it is too late, I call the government, and the king, to reform the country and heed our requests…if they wish to continue ruling this country.
I call on our people to take on the responsibility of demanding their legitimate rights for complete reform of our country before the situation evolves into something undesirable.

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