Using social media and new ways to monitor progress on women's economic empowerment

Photo: Jessica McConnell Burt/GWU

Social media presence continues to grow steadily across the globe. People of all ages are increasingly engaging and sharing more on these online networks. Social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and many others, can provide instant and continuous insight into public opinion and the state of global affairs. Many people have begun relying on these platforms as news sources. More organizations and companies are also recognizing the potential of social media and are trying to better harness its data and measure its impact.

Examples in distinct areas of the economy and societies show how social media has transformed monitoring and reporting mechanisms. In business, for instance, General Electric uses real-time social media mentions of electrical outages to provide repairs to its electric grid at a more efficient rate and even solving outages before they are officially reported by the public. During Haiti’s deadly cholera epidemic in 2010, HealthMap collected mentions of new cholera cases on Twitter, and using the geo-tagging feature, it compiled an instant map gauging the current outbreaks, weeks ahead of official reports.

  • How could social media enable regular people to participate in the collection of data and reporting of challenges and progress towards women’s economic empowerment?
  • What data could be more easily harvested through social media to gauge the current status of women’s economic empowerment?
  • How could real-time data on social media be further utilized to monitor progress towards women’s economic empowerment?
  • How can we ensure that data about women’s economic empowerment collected through social media is reliable, valid and accurate?  
  • Do you have examples of the use of social media as a tool to monitor progress towards women’s economic empowerment?
  • Shaheera Jalil Albasit

    Social media has been providing a multitude of avenues for free speech and expression of ideas to tackle urgent and pressing social issues. Social media has similarly become the platform for reporting and documentation of social cultures and incidents of violence and injustice. Web-based applications which have been integrated with social media public platforms like Facebook pages and campaigns which run via Youtube, Twitter and Instagram, have allowed citizens / netizens to file complaints with time stamps and location identifiers. So while this idea of employing social media to mobilize regular netizens for reporting on WEE is not new, there are still too many grounds to cover. Social media campaigns benefit in terms of their inherent outreach potential. For example, a recent campaign launched via Facebook in Pakistan called 'Talk, dammit' invited netizens to submit stories of child sexual abuse either anonymously or by choosing to mention their names. The campaign has facilitated awareness for child protection and has alerted parents, teachers and guardians to better care and inform their children regarding abuse. Another campaign called 'Safecity' from India helps identify hotspots across India. These are hotspots where gender-based harassment is common. Such interactive platforms engage netizens and develop a sense of ownership and commitment to become part of the process and share data from their end. Real-time and real-life experiences of women at the grass-roots and grass-tops are crucial to determining how far are our attempts of WEE reaching and what outcomes are being generated. To gather this data requires an outreach which can invite women at grassroots to share their experiences. To mobilize these women, we can first reach out to young women who already are vocal on the social media and active 'within' their communities to be able to gather responses on ground and document them online through the social media. I believe this two-tier process is what is most authentic and reliable and has a great confidence-building factor among local communities. Social media is limited in terms of the fact that its outreach cannot penetrate through local communities without the help and support of individuals who are present within these communities yet have access to the social media and are also motivated to utilize its efficiency to generate positive outcomes for their communities.

  • Shani Orgad

    Social media can provide important data related to women’s empowerment in the workplace, which employers might find difficult or even impossible to gather in other ways. A recent interesting example relates to sexual harassment in the British army. As reported in the Guardian, the in-house British army survey shows that reporting rates are extremely low. Only about 3% of those servicewomen who were “very upset” about an incident of sexual harassment made a formal written complaint. Yet social media platforms, such as the Everyday Sexism project which was launched in 2012 to catalogue experiences of gender inequality, reveal that sexual harassment in the military is far more widespread than the military’s reporting and monitoring tools suggest: on social media, women post about their experiences of ‘banal’ sexism, harassment and assault in the military.

    When asked by their employer, employees may be reluctant to report - even anonymously - on certain experiences and issues, such as discrimination or bullying, as well as ‘milder’ difficulties and obstacles such as managing long working hours with parenting. Social media platforms can offer anonymous, safe and supportive forums where employees are more likely to talk about these issues and break their silence about certain experiences in the workplace (though, of course, responses on social media can be unsupportive and disparaging). Employers can gain very useful insights into issues and aspects related to the experience of employees in their own and other industries, including women’s equality in the workplace, which they might otherwise be unable to access.                

    That said, whether and how to use social media data involves thorny aspects including privacy and surveillance. It is crucial also to remember that social media platforms are not ‘neutral’ spaces where power relations and biases are simply transcended or bypassed. Research consistently shows that factors such as age, education, lack of resources and media literacy constitute obstacles to access and participation. Thus, when harvesting data from social media to assess the status of women’s economic empowerment, it is important to always ask whom these data represent and speak for, and who and what may have been excluded from these data, and why.


  • Fasiha Farrukh

    - These days the social media has grown a lot. We can connect to the whole world within few seconds and we are sending our voice from one region to the another within no time. Same as, when we talk about the data collection, then we can see that it is easy to update any issue or news on social media forum and people get notified to it. When we want to create awareness, we upload that in the form of blog post or picture and make it public. this way, everyone gets to see that what is going on around them and how they feel about this certain event. They share their comments, which helps us in understanding about their thoughts. 

    For data collection, we can create the forms, discussion forums, online surveys, etc, which helps us to know that what are the current statistics around us and what general public thinks about it. 

    When everything is present online these days and every business is now present at social media, then women who are skilled and wants to work or boost their business, must take a look at social media for that, It costs nothing to have a page on Facebook and start telling the world that what are you doing. this way, you can reach to the greater audience and attract them to have your services or skills. 

    - On social media, there could be nothing more easier than reaching to women's economic empowerment  data through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Almost every business is now present on social media and reaching its clients. The owners are now focusing on presenting their businesses as the most professional ones and for that,they are ensuring about having social media profiles. 

    Moreover, the statistics could be found through company registration offices, which could inform us that how many businesses are currently registered and present online through websites or social media pages. The registered companies' data must be available online and there must be open access to it for everyone. That way, we can harvest feasibly that how many of them are run by women.


  • Francis Diaz

    How could social media enable regular people to participate in the collection of data and reporting of challenges and progress towards women’s economic empowerment?

    A really cool example of self-reporting to monitor progress and promote change, is the Ureport pilot program in Uganda. Ureport is a free SMS-based system that allows young Ugandans to speak out on what's happening in their communities across the country. Youth can send an SMS text message to report a systematic or social issue they observe, and it maps the responses in real time on this map:

    This is a much more cost effective and efficient way to monitor issues in a region and it gives the youth participants a sense of civic engagement and activism.

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