Social media for social change

In addition to March being National Women’s History Month in the United States, today, March 8, marks the 100th observance of International Women’s Day. The day was first observed in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, with rallies for women’s equality  in voting, holding public office, education and work. In some countries, it’s an official holiday, a day when men buy flowers for their wives, mothers, daughters and grandmothers. In other countries, it is still a day women use as a rallying point to bring attention to their cause(s). The organizers of International Women’s Day make it easy to follow the day’s events around the world using social media such as Twitter, Facebook, a YouTube channel, RSS feeds, Flickr and more.

InternationalWomen'sDay

International Women's Day 2010 events in Abyei, Sudan, included a rally and parade. Photo by Larisa Epatko for PBS NewsHour. http://www.flickr.com/photos/newshour/4445706977/

Not only are social media being used to simply document events, they’ve also proven to be vital to getting people involved in social movements. Consider microloans. Microloans are small amounts of money lent to help people (often women) establish their own means of income and economic independence. The loans are repaid as the women establish their businesses. The non-profit Kiva was one of the first person-to-person microlending services and is also one of the most respected. Since 2005, hundreds of thousands of individuals have loaned more than $111 million through Kiva. Incidentally, Kiva was extremely effective at using the power of social media to get initial lenders involved in their organization. You can read more about Kiva’s social media strategies in the book The Dragonfly Effect.

Earlier this year, Kiva launched FITE — Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship. FITE focuses specifically on microloans for women entrepreneurs. Here’s a video that sums up FITE’s mission:

I’ve never yet participated in microloans — sometimes I feel like I could use one myself! — but I think it’s a great concept. I like the idea of empowering women in developing nations for financial independence. Though women might not have official importance in some of these cultures, their impact to each society can be seen in the fact that empowering women often has a trickle-down effect that positively impacts whole families and villages. Not only does microlending impact individual women, but I think it can emphasize the importance of women in general in a society. You can read more about microloans and other microlending opportunities here.

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