Communities of Support: Arab Women Techies

Critics may frame the use of technology as a passive, millennial-driven activity, reduced to unimportant social media posts, but these reductive views are harmful because they overlook the power of contemporary technology. Technology offers the ability to empower individuals and connect communities who have common goals and experiences together. Today, people around the world have are recognizing the social power of media and technology. We have entered an age where technology is being used for social change. Social media has brought attention to issues such as #BlackLivesMatter, #JusticeforPalestine, and the Arab Spring, all showcasing the power of technology to create a forum for human rights. Individuals can start grass-roots movements on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram starting from the bottom. Users can implement change that moves from silenced communities to those in power. This is the reason why empowering individuals, and thus, Arab Women Techies, is so important for the future of digital technologies and online activism.

Before Arab Women Techies was created, a similar organization was implemented. In the Arab Techies gathering of 2008, those in technology industries could engage in education and conversations, supported through a common language, common concerns, and struggles—but, unsurprisingly, the gathering was disproportionately male. Officials from technology companies, like Facebook, have highlighted research findings that women participate in and take more risks when they have a community of support. According to the Arab Techies website, even skilled women tend to shy away from actively engaging in technological communities. It is important for Arab women to have a female community of support based in technology because it can allow them to feel more comfortable exploring their technological skills that they may otherwise not express. Arab Women Techies encourages women to transform from mere users of technology to innovators and leaders of technology. This is precisely why Arab Women Techies needs to be celebrated, giving a voice to silenced, marginalized individuals in retaliation to the disproportionately male Arab Techies event of 2008.

From artists to non-profit organization coordinators, “techies come from Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and Oman” to participate in the Zouk Mikael based conference. Within a male-dominated industry, women can feel isolated and discouraged. However, different perspectives are always important in these types of industries. The more perspectives there are, the more possibilities for solutions to social, political, and economic issues. Thus, a woman’s perspective and unique experiences can offer innovative ways of using technology as a source of social empowerment and change.

Articles: Giving Female Techies a Chance by Saad Al-Dosari, Arab Women Technologists Start Rewiring the World in Zouk Mikael by Smex , and Women Techies Gathering 2010

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