This month marks the first anniversary of the Nari Jibon Blog and congratulations to them from Rising Voices. The Nari Jibon (Women’s Life) project of Dhaka, Bangladesh is one of the first recipients of the Rising Voices micro grant for citizen media outreach announced in July 2007.
Nari Jibon aims to provide alternative education and skill development programs to the poor and under-privileged women of Dhaka. They teach them Bangla, tailoring, English, computers, ICT and photography among other things. From its website:
Nari Jibon has established a blog in English, titled “Bangladesh from Our View” and Bangla “Amader Katha (Our Stories)” to increase students’ & staffs’ creativity on different areas. Nari Jibon’s blog efforts have resulted in a two year grant from Global/Rising Voices to improve students’ blogging skills, including interviews, photos, and video training.
The Nari Jibon bloggers have so far produced almost 300 posts (both in Bangla and English) in these blogs. In Rising Voices archives you can read features with photos, watch videos and listen to podcasts about the Nari Jibon citizen media outreach project to learn about its progress, its challenges and successes.
We have asked the people behind Nari Jibon, its educators and a participant how was their ride in the world of citizen media during the past one year.
Kazi Rafiqul Islam, Project Director, Nari Jibon
* What were the major challenges of the Nari Jibon Blog project you faced and how did you overcome them?
a. We started our blogging activities with limited resources: a few cameras, an old video camera and our computers did not have the required capacity to do blogging, video posting etc. well.
With the Rising Voices fund we could buy additional digital cameras, video camera and could upgrade our computers and that helped the bloggers and our trainers to continue editing, uploading/posting articles, photo and video etc.
b. One of our biggest challenges was to receive constant and reliable electricity amidst frequent load-shedding (power cuts).
We have bought a powerful UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) with the Rising Voices grant that helped a lot to continue our staff/students blogging activities and also continue their classes on time. We still could not solve the problem completely and we are seeking more funds to buy an additional UPS/IPS.
c. Our computer graphics teacher started the blogging activities and played the main role in setting up both the English and Bangla blog for NJ. But within a few months from the start of the program he left for personal reasons placing us in a difficult position to continue with our blogging activities.
We then asked our computer teacher Taslima Akter to take responsibilities to continue blogging. She had a little knowledge about citizen media tools so she had to work hard (read many journals, Books and practice on videos, photos) to get the things under her control. Later the Rising Voices citizen media guide also helped her a lot. I must say she played a prominent role in continuing and developing our blogging activities.
d. Many Bangladeshi women have limited education and don't have access to computers; especially they are weak in English language.
We have now three English and computer teachers including a visiting English teacher from USA who are trying their best to make the students conversant in English and make them computer literate so that they can give their best efforts in blogging. We also have staff development classes on English language and computers and they are gradually developing in those areas.
e. Some of our students’ guardians started to ask “what is the (monetary) benefit in writing in blog?” “Why they are giving extra time at Nari Jibon in blogging?” etc.
To solve the problem we arranged meetings with the students’ guardians every 3-4 months to describe our students’ blogging activities and highlight our best bloggers. We started awards for best blogs in English and Bangla and given free cyber café passes to our best bloggers that are encouraging others to write in blogs. We made students’ guardians understand that they are not wasting their times. They are increasing their skills through blogging that would help them to make them self-reliant in future.
f. Security was a very big issue as the neighborhood cybercafés are insecure for women. Female staff/students were feeling insecure going out side to interview, to collect information for the blogs.
To solve the problem we are providing a secure space to express their voices/experiences- activism through blogging. We have a equipped cyber café which is only for women where they can practice, brows safely for collecting information to write in the blogs and that are broadening their knowledge and developing skills. We also provide safe transportation and accompany female students during field trips.
* How do you feel about the success of Nari Jibon Blog?
I do not want to say that our blogging project/activities are completely successful but I must say that we are on the right track that might lead us to reach to goals and successes in future. We need to recruit more bloggers, increase community awareness to reach to the goals.
I would say through blogging, our women students have increased knowledge on different blogging software, camera operating, video making, writing skills in English and Bangla and also have increased their level of confidence to communicate with others and to work outside their homes. Now they can go outside to find job, take interview for blogging without fear. Now students’ have increased awareness on their lives, rights, and responsibilities, what to do, how to do and what not do, and how to make their voices heard. They have also learned more about other bloggers and people around the world. In turn, the over 23,000+ readers of our English blog have learned much about Bangladesh: cyclones, culture, songs, favorite places and foods, animals, and issues concerning young women as well as wives and mothers: education, security, violence against women, and prospects for change.
Although some of our staffs have their own blogs but we are yet to arrange setting up students own blogs as some of our senior bloggers had to leave Nari Jibon as they had completed their courses. Some are busy with their job and some can not come due to their exams and they do not have computer of their own or internet connection in their residence. Still we are contacting them and assuring that they have free access to our computers and internet facilities as and when they can come to blog. We do hope that in near future some of our students will be able to set up their own blogs.
Taslima Akter Tama, ICT Educator
* Tell us about your experience in bringing the women of Nari Jibon into blogging.
For the last one year I am training the students on basic of blogging; from the technical part of blog publishing to maintenance, photo, video, developing their personal voices, methods of writings etc.
At the initial stage of our blogging activities we got very few students who were interested to write in blogs and also some others saw it as a burden. But as the time progressed we continued to encourage our students for writings in blog and we emphasized reading other blogs so that they can learn more about blogging, its necessity and importance. We also have made them understand that blogging increase their personal efficiency and develop them in various accepts of their lives; it can change their lives and develop themselves. Blogging can help them move up quickly and it is good for their career and also they can use their free time creatively.
To recruit more bloggers we gradually have incorporated blogging in every course curricula and accordingly we started to give them blog related homework/assignments. So students are submitting their writings as class assignments. After receiving Risings Voices mini grant, we arranged our first workshop on Blogging and invited a Bangladeshi professional blogger Razib Ahmed. Through this workshop our staffs and students have learned many things about blogging and also this workshop encouraged us to go forward with blogging.
We had our second blog workshop with Mr. Shawn Ahmed of the Uncultured project. We learned many new things like photo and video blogging. This workshop encouraged our students and staff about doing video and photo blogging. To get our students more involved in blogging we also started awards for best bloggers in English and Bangla that made the students interested to blog. We also got to know much about Flickr account, face book, photo blogging and benefit of blogging etc from Ms. Kira Karikar who is a Venezuelan journalist/blogger. Rising Voices citizen media guide played an important role in recruiting students’ bloggers, training on blogging etc.
* You have been instrumental in providing these students a powerful tool for self expression. How did you break their shyness and minimized their frustrations? Do they cherish this voice?
It is true that students were feeling shy to write and submit their writings on different topics. They were confused whether their writings are ok, what the readers will think or comment reading their writings etc. and for that reason we hardly get their writings. For example Mony didn’t want to sing in front of camera. She felt embarrassed but I encouraged her to sing. When she got good response from readers like David, Kathy and others she was very happy. That made her more confident to go forward that we have seen in her role in our pohela boishakh (Bangla New Year) program. In my “first day of spring” video Sherin Sultana and Mahfuza Parul hesitated to stand front of camera and then I insisted them to imitate journalists taking interview for TV news. Finally they did it and received good response from readers/viewers. Now they are not afraid of raising their voices that we have seen in the drama where they acted on Pohela Boishakh celebration program, which will be posted soon.
I am trying my best to express/share my thoughts, experience and knowledge with my students/ bloggers so that they can change their attitude, get rid from shyness and frustrations. I always listen to our students problems, thoughts etc. carefully and answer their all queries to improve their blogging skills. We assure that their mistakes in writings will be edited before posting. Seeing some of our students successfully writings in our blog site most of other students became interested to write in the blogs. Now they are confident in writing, taking interview, creating ideas for blog etc.
Mohtarimun Nahar [Bipa], Supervisor of English Section & Editing
* What did you learn from blogging?
Now I know what Blog is and how to post articles because I have my own blog. I also think I have improved my English and Computer skills from Blogging.
Whenever I go to anywhere I try to capture natural beauties on my camera. I want to share my thoughts and memories with the readers through Blog which I didn't do before.
Md. Golam Rabbany (Sujan), Research and Field operation Lead of Nari Jibon
* Do you think that bogs can be a powerful tool in raising concerns and awareness among Bangladeshis regarding the anomalies in the society you portray in your blog?
I think blogs can be a powerful tool in raising concerns and awareness among Bangladeshis regarding these issues. But it is also true that still now most of the educated people in Bangladesh are ignorant about blogs. Very few people get the scope to browse Web Pages because internet connection is not widely available in our country till now. But the internet usage is increasing day by day and we can hope that within a few years a large number of people will be introduced to blogs and blogging. And then blogs will be a powerful tool in our country.
Firoza Begum Poly – Student/Blogger
* Tell us about your happiest moments in blogging?
I went to the Ekushey Book Fair 2008 and submitted a post on the fair. There I met some writers. It was my happiest moment.
* Do you get comment from the readers about your writing?
Yes, I got encouragement and good comments from the readers.