On Friday January 13th, Villages in Action partnered with UN Foundations GirlUp campaign in a first ever Twitter party from a village. About 10 girls from Kikuube village exchanged questions and answers from a global village of participants. This was a great way to kickoff this year’s VIA conference that concentrated on the role of technology and business in the village.
There’s something beautiful about awakening the imagination of someone who never thought that they would ever have an opportunity to interact with an international audience. The girls started out shy and not really sure what was going to happen. I made sure to spend about one hour prior to the Twitter chat and having a conversation with them to put them at ease. Communication to young girls at village level in this community can be a challenge to the untrained.
From a cultural stand point, girls (and youth generally) are taught to respect their elders. In particular, it is customary to treat visitors with the utmost of respect. Even though I am a member of this community, I am not a full-time resident. So in a sense I am both a visitor and an elder to them. So trying to talk to them casually all of a sudden can be rather abrupt and disconcerting for them.
This is not to say that they don’t have anything to say, they do, and plenty. They are as creative, smart, curious, and aware as their Western counterparts. What they are not, is connected to the wide world beyond their schools and this village. Information, arrives in the form of scribbles on a black board in a crowded classroom, written by under-trained and under-paid teacher.
So the brief exposure to a world full of people and information was very refreshing. After an hour spent warming them up to the idea (and getting their heads around a global Twitter audience), the girls were eager to ask their questions and answer those that were sent in from the GirlUp team in DC. From a connectivity angle, the conversation was slightly plagued by a slow EDGE connection. But there in lies another rub, this village that has not running water, or an electrical grid has the ability to be connected to the global village. What was lacking before now, was the knowledge, technical know-how and a helping hand.
The beauty of this short exercise in communication was to illustrate that even the people of this remote village, worry about the same things their counterparts across the world do. In some instances, the questions show-cased concerns some of us have never had to contend with. 16-year old Sarah was curious if “other girls lacked scholastic materials” as she did. But Jane, brought it home to the most basic of customs and cultural practice, “do you respect your parents like we do?”
These were just some of the highlights from the very brief, but successful conversation. We look forward to igniting a much more fruitful engagement next year. For now, here’s a quick look at some of the social stats the conversation was able to strike up.
- Generated 676 tweets
- Total reach of the conversation was over 1.5 million people
- Total impression was nearly 4.5 million
- Impressions Contributed by 231 Twitterers
- Ivanka Trump joined the conversation and sent out a few tweets to her 1.3 million followers
- Only 1 laptop was used in Kikuube, the rest of the conversation was conducted over various smartphone platforms