The urgent need for female voices

In times of growing social and political polarisation, the world is in urgent need of courageous women who speak up. Because compassionate female voices are indispensable while advocating for human rights and global solidarity. Amani, our vlogger for Huna Libya, is one of those much needed voices.

While the bigger part of our world was getting ready for New Year’s celebrations, back in 2016, Amani was uploading her very first vlog to Youtube from her home. She humorously calls it a New Year’s resolution, but the 28-year old from Benghazi, Libya, has been on a mission since that evening. No conventional talks about make-up tools or fashion trends are shown, Amani’s vlogs are all about female engagement, freedom of expression and women’s rights.

One can imagine the bravery of the female activist, given the fact that the Libyan population isn’t used to women taking the stage and speaking up for themselves. This form of inequality doesn’t only apply to the North-African country as, according to the Index on Censorship, gender-based censorship is a global problem. Female voices that loudly challenge the status quo, experience significantly more verbal oppression than men, especially in the Middle-East and Africa.

‘Men can express themselves, while we are being told to be silent since we were born,’ Amani fiercely explains. Women represent roughly half of the world’s population, but too often decisions are made for women instead of by women, according to the Libyan blogger. ‘That is why I think it is so important for us to speak up. This isn’t a world of only men, they need to listen too.’ Her husband Siraj, unlike many Libyan men, has supported Amani in her quest to raise her voice. ‘I wouldn’t vlog if it wasn’t for Siraj,’ says Amani, who considers herself lucky to have a loving, and technically advanced husband who shoots, edits and manages the channel with her.

The fact that speaking up means she constantly needs to look over her shoulder doesn’t bother her. ‘I genuinely feel unsafe and the anger I have noticed, especially in the early days of my vlogging, frightens me, but I’m not planning to give in to the threats.’

Fortunately, Amani’s persistence pays off and the number of negative reactions has gradually decreased during her two years as a Youtuber. ‘These days I mainly receive positive feedback, for instance from my father. At first, he asked me to stop with my videos. Now he even shares suggestions for future videos.’ Such transitions from polarised discussions to constructive dialogues are exactly what Citizens’ Voice – one of RNW Media’s programmes – wishes to achieve.

Within this programme, Huna Libya is a safe online platform were restrictive social norms are challenged by engaged men and women like Amani, while young Libyans are given an opportunity to voice their thoughts and opinions. By openly discussing difficult and sometimes controversial topics through this project, Amani initiates dialogue and encourages other women to speak up. A clear example of her successful approach, is a video wherein she advises how women can choose the right partner. After publishing the vlog, both men and women constructively participated in an online debate.

Amani underlines the importance of such developments in the current times of division. ‘We are in great need of a world, wherein we collaborate, wherein men and women are represented equally and wherein both sexes complement one another.’