Girl Geek Camp Lebanon: Turning Women into Geekettes, one Tweet at a time
13 faces eagerly looking at you from behind their computers, all composed and serious. Welcome to the Nasawiya second Girl Geek Camp organised in the lovely Auberge Beity of Kfardebian, Lebanon from the 4th to the 8thof September.
Over 5 days, about thirteen teenage girls between the age of 15 and 18 will be trained to become proper geekettes (there’s much hope they’ll actually become feminist Geekettes, but let’s not shove anything down people’s throats).
The Geek Camp is part of the global campaign Take Back the Tech, a campaign that aims at encouraging women to reclaim technology to serve their struggle and to act against Violence Against Women while giving tools to learn online safety.
The training covers quite a broad range of technical fields, such as web development, introduction to blogging, video edition, introduction to photography, illustration and social media and networks. Issues are not left behind either, with sessions on sexual harassment, with an introduction to the initiative « adventures of Salwa », women’s rights, migrants rights and digital activism.
I had the extreme privilege to give two trainings to the participants and to follow some of the other sessions that were given by trainers such as Maya Zankoul and Abir Ghattas, where I’m pretty sure I learnt as much as they did.
I’ve often heard older people complain that it’s difficult getting through « the youth », that they don’t really care much about anything except having fun. Sitting in that room, talking about women’s rights with these bright, articulate young women, such statements couldn’t have seemed farther from the truth. It’s a matter or perception and of self-fulfilling prophecies: if you take people seriously, chances are, they will rise up to the challenge and really get into the sessions, which was what happened with the Geekettes during the trainings. Taking part in the discussions while live tweeting, we covered heavy topics such as sectarianism, women’s rights in Lebanon, Human Rights law and the principles underlying this whole body of rules, but also, we talked about their perceptions and understanding about Human Rights violations, about their opinions with regards to the reasons behind such violations. The young women had a very clear and very accurate vision of the items hindering the full enjoyment of their Human Rights, and mentionned religion, traditional practices and beliefs, the sectarian system, prejudices against women’s abilities and the media as the main causes of discrimination against women. The role the media played was heavily discussed, with ideas exchanged around the impact ads and magazines had on women’s body image, about the extreme emphasis and pressure put on women to reflect society’s idea of beauty. Participants vowed to keep their eyes and ears opened and to report any oppressing billboard or article in their newly-opened blog, to talk about it to their friends and to tweet about it. A good indicator that they are slowly on their way to Geek Land is that social media was the first thing they mentioned when I ask ed them what could they do to fight for their rights and pressure society and the government to respect and implement such rights:« But social media is not enough, said Marianne, one of the participants, at some stage there will need to be on the ground mobilisation and demonstrations to demand our rights ». Well, I don’t think anyone could have said it better.
The Geek Camp was a good kick in the prejudice ant hill: not only are the geekettes interested, motivated and hard working, but they epitomize the awareness of young women in Lebanon and in the region about the different kinds of oppression they have to face and how to go on about resisting it. All of this, if you can believe it, without the necessity of an imperialist lesson and intervention.
Many young women are joining our feminist collective, Nasawiya, to carry on with their journey of freedom.
As for me, I can’t wait for the next Geek Camp!
To Follow the Geek Camp: