Thursday, March 13, 2008

Driving For A Cause

The oppression of women in the Middle East is no secret. So when I stumbled across this BBC article about women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia who posted a video on YouTube to protest against the ban for women to drive cars, I found it to be a testament to the good that video can do.

Although Saudi women are allowed to drive in residential areas, they are not allowed to drive on main highways. The woman in this three minute video defied Saudi law and drove directly onto forbidden territory.

The video was posted to commemorate International Women's Day.

It might not be the most interesting video in the world (and unless you speak Arabic, you can't understand it) but it is a bold move by these women.

It's simple and short but here it is:

As she drove, the BBC reports she said:

Many women in this society are able to drive cars, and many of our male relatives don't mind us driving...I hope that by next year's International Woman's Day, this ban on us will be lifted.

The most recent example of citizen journalism's effect on society is the turmoil in Burma which came to a high point this past fall. The Wall Street Journal covered the peak in citizen journalists in this article. The surge in blogs, pictures and videos and text messages helped bring the civil unrest in Burma to the forefront and helped shed light on the power of citizen journalism.

People can visit Burma's YouTube channel, Burma Digest to view the efforts made by everyday people.

If people in Burma are able to utilize new media in this way, perhaps there is a chance for women in the Middle East to do so as well. In fact, the woman in the video, Wajeha Al Huwaider has had quite the experience challenging the Saudi government.

It's easy to get bogged down in the meaningless amount of videos out there, so I found it refreshing to see something so simple yet so daring posted online. A basic task such as driving on a highway is nothing people in the United States think about but yet this video is garnering coverage from all over.

It's a small but bold reminder on the power that new media is having in the world.

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