Sunday, April 3, 2011

Advancing the rights of women and children through cyberactivism

Social media has once again proven itself to be a very powerful advocacy tool.

Early this week, I was surprised to learn that I am face to face with the creator of the Para Kay Jan-Jan Page who did a great job on getting people from all sectors to stand up against the deplorable incident involving six-year old Jan-Jan at Willing Willie.

As I quoted Atty. Te in my previous post, that was not the first time a Pinoy variety show has humiliated - if not exploited - children as well as women and disabled persons. There was once a variety show that made a freak show out of virtually-challenged pair Mahal and Mura. Eventually, the show incorporated "gyrating women" in revealing outfits and crying participants with their "sob stories" to its formula. Now, don't get me wrong. It's great that such show gave entertainment to Filipino masses; however, it's another thing to entertain people at the expense of others.

Hopefully, with greater awareness, more people will come to their senses. The Willing Willie incident should not die down with the movement it fostered instead, it should revolutionize the way producers conceptualize entertainment for the "masses" and the way advertisers and people patronize shows.

It is great to note that recent developments include not just the timely statements of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) but also that of Jollibee, a Filipino-owned fastfood chain known for giving family friendly customer experience, pulling out its ads from the show. Moreover, even the UNICEF takes a stand by releasing its statement, The Protection of Children on Reality TV Shows.

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The Internet has been a very effective medium for giving voice to ordinary citizens. Over the past few years, it has served as a venue to circulate exposés, raise awareness and win support for various causes as well as organize relief operations and fundraisers.

Wikipedia gives a brief and simple definition of Cyberactivism or Internet Activism:

...(also known as online organizing, electronic advocacy, cyberactivism, E-campaigning, and E-activism) is the use of electronic communication technologies such as e-mail, the World Wide Web, and podcasts for various forms of activism to enable faster communications by citizen movements and the delivery of local information to a large audience. Internet technologies are used for cause-related fundraising, community building, lobbying, and organizing.

Critiques of cyberactivism say that the movement has "disproportionate representation" because of the global digital divide. Aside from this, author and lawyer Cass Sunstein state that -- political discussions lead to "cyberbalkanization"—discussions that lead to fragmentation and polarization rather than consensus, because the same medium that lets people access a large number of news sources also lets them pinpoint the ones they agree with and ignore the rest. (Wikipedia)

I agree to some extent. Nonetheless, I am aware that we cannot attain perfection as even traditional media is prone to misunderstanding. Aside from this, we have yet to find a way to reach the most marginalized communities in our country.

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Recent cyberadvocacies

Para Kay Jan-Jan Page creator Froilan Grate recounts how the number of likers grew by over 2,000 in a matter of two days. Together with his followers, he complements cyber activism with actual solutions that include filing legal complaints and moving government agencies and non-government organizations (NGOs) to act.

His story actually reminds me of Justice for Hubert Webb Group creator Adrian Cuenca and his co-administrators and active members who include women's rights advocate and artist Nikki Luna (also my new idol). By spreading the facts regarding the trial of the Vizconde Massacre Case, we become closer to attaining true justice for the Vizconde women.

Of course, I also remember Janette Toral whose Filipina Writing Project about four years ago inspired the creation of Life in High Heels (and its name variations over the period) as a means to put together scattered thoughts on women's issues and share them to curious readers all over the world.