Updated: Aug 9
Every year, International Women’s Day is celebrated to promote gender equality and recognise women’s contributions to our world. This year, UN Women has proclaimed IWD’s theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” to highlight how technology is helping achieve gender equity through women’s empowerment. To align with this year’s theme, Platforms for Dialogue reached out to some of our women team members to learn how they’ve adapted to digital technologies and empowered themselves with these tools.
Sobnom Mostarty, Platforms for Dialogue Regional Coordinator, leads by example. She has constantly shown interest and dedication to keeping up with new digital tools. When asked about her experience with technology, she replied that she started truly exploring the vast world of digital tools during Covid. Because of her curious nature, the process was smooth since she had expressed interest in tech even before.
It was not always like this for her. At the start of her career, she was too afraid to publicly express herself. She was fearful that people might mock her if she made a mistake or misspoke. Gradually, she overcame her insecurities and started to have more and more public exposure using digital communication channels. She is now confident about voicing her opinions using social media on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Recently, one of her colleagues shared a message related to her work on Facebook. Another colleague of hers left a personal comment that seemed a bit too flirtatious. Sobnom called out the individual and suggested that he should not share such a personal comment on a post like this. Later, he agreed with Sobnom and removed his comment.
Being a Regional Coordinator requires daily coordination and communication with partners, stakeholders, and beneficiaries. However, during the pandemic, it was not feasible for her to meet with everyone in person as she often did before. As part of the many solutions P4D staff adopted during that time, she started connecting with people online. She learned to use Zoom, Facebook chat groups, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, and many other communications tools. As she put it, “I never felt uneasy because of this. Rather I feel very confident now that I am as efficient as my colleagues using digital tools.”
Despite her successes, she faced many challenges as well. There are risks to using digital tools, especially for Bangladeshi women. The cultural context hasn’t been as liberal for women as in more westernised countries. Cyberbullying, blackmail, offensive language, and gender-based stigma still perpetuate on the internet causing many women with digital profiles to be more vulnerable compared to those who don’t. Sobnom was aware of the risks and took preventive measures before starting on her virtual journey. Even still, she too has had negative experiences online. One of her ex-colleagues threatened her on Facebook, so she unfriended him immediately. Later, she learned that his Facebook account had been hacked, and the hacker was the one responsible for the threat, not her colleague. Despite this and other unpleasant experiences in the virtual world, her drive to grow and curiosity to learn haven’t stopped her and have even motivated her to support others in their learning journey as well.
“that’s how learning about digital tools has helped me remain secure as a woman. I am always interested in learning new tools, especially digital ones. Whenever I see someone who needs my help to become more efficient using digital technologies, I jump right into supporting them. I feel the more I teach people about the tools I have learned, the more skilled I will be in using them as well. It’s an opportunity to exchange knowledge.”
She feels strongly about creating a personal brand online to feel more confident, so she has been taking courses, receiving mentorship from experts, and frequently practising new skills. Many tools like Chat GPT and learning platforms such as Google and LinkedIn have helped her progress. She said, “I have always honed my thirst for creating an identity on digital platforms and creating a personal brand. It will empower me in many ways. I have been taking many courses and using resources like ChatGPT, Google etc. whenever I must. I have a dream of helping myself and others on this journey. My interest in digital marketing and content creation has triggered me to learn more. That’s why I always save some time to learn about new things. However, things are not always easy. Sometimes, I feel I am not able to consistently keep up. Whenever I take a long break, I need to start things from scratch. I need to overcome this.”
Rehana Begum, another Regional Coordinator working with Platforms for Dialogue also expressed feeling empowered thanks to digital tools. It was very challenging for her to cope with the new technologies needed to continue working during the Covid pandemic. As mentioned earlier, being a Regional Coordinator requires a lot of networking. However, after some adjustment, she also adapted and began using online tools to stay connected. She said, “I couldn’t really use digital technology before joining P4D. During the Covid 19 period, however, I became much more efficient using digital tools while working on the project. We had to organise meetings, workshops, and seminars online. Moreover, we ran awareness campaigns digitally that achieved massive success."
In this era of globalisation, we have to keep learning new trends and technologies to be resourceful and achieve success. Understanding this, Rehana spends at least one hour every day learning new tools and technologies. She discovered that using digital communication channels made her tasks easier and more efficient. She has been supporting her colleagues and stakeholders to adapt to digital technologies as well. She said,
“we can work more efficiently with communication tools such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Zoom etc. We can save a lot of time and money because of these digital platforms. Today, I even discussed celebrating women’s day with one of our partner CSOs on a Zoom meeting.”
This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Platforms for Dialogue and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.