As I stood at the front of the room with ten young people peering over, I felt a slight anxiety in the pit of my stomach about having to discuss my past but, as I began to speak, this slowly dissipated. My confidence grew as I discussed how social media can be used to develop solidarity, connect with others and enhance your activism. Indeed it had provided me with a lifeboat to come to terms with my past.
I recently started volunteering for the Iranian Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) in the campaigns team to raise awareness and combat forced marriage, child marriage and other “honour” based oppression. I had met Sara the campaigns officer through twitter whilst I was tweeting on an ITV Exposure programme which reported incidences of imams in the UK agreeing to marry under age girls. During the programme, I had signposted people to IKWRO if they, or someone they knew, were at risk of a forced marriage.
In November, alongside Sara the campaigns officer, I delivered training on how social media can help develop your activism. This was part of a weekend organised by the youth charity, Forward, to build the capacity of young activists across Europe to combat oppression including forced marriage and FGM. Looking back it was a significant step in my own journey in using my complex and painful past for something positive and a setting an example for others to learn from.
The training focused on how social media can be used to educate, develop solidarity, connect with activists and survivors. It is an issue I am passionate about having met other activists through twitter and blogging and slowly accepting that my own past should be no source of shame.
I discussed how reading blogs by other women who were survivors of honour based oppression had aided my own ability to speak out. I have found it very empowering to come across role models which challenge my own perception of my troubled past.
In the training I noted how social media has raised my awareness about the relevance of feminism in understanding the patriarchal framework which legitimised my previous oppression. It also enabled me to make important contacts such as with blogs like The F-Word (through the editor) and Media Diversified (via the @writersofcolour twitter) enabling me to write on a range of issues. Twitter has made it a lot easier to contact people who previously seemed inaccessible.
I started writing on subjects such as feminist films like the Alice Walker biopic Beauty in Truth and developed my confidence gradually to write on issues close to my heart. This has included combatting violence against women and girls e.g. by the case of Banaz Mahmoud who was killed by her family in a so called “honour” crime and sexual abuse within Asian communities.
The young people were interested in using social media more effectively as part of their activism and I highlighted how this had worked for me. For example starting the #fuckhonour hashtag was very cathartic and also helped me develop solidarity with other women that were equally passionate about combatting honour based oppression.
As part of the feedback the young women said they felt inspired to start blogging and using the opportunity that social media provides. This was heartening as there are endless opportunities to learn and connect with others.
Through the training I hope that I was able to demonstrate the potential to the young women on how empowering social media can be for activists. Just like the women I had met online, I want to help pave the way for other people and enable them to have the confidence to speak out against oppression.
You can follow Huma on twitter @Huma101 and you can follow us @IKWRO and on Facebook