Empowering Women in a Digitally Equipped, yet Challenging World: A Story of Engagement

World in her hands: Fuzia believes that supporting women in the digital field results in empowerment. Credit: Unsplash / Ben W.
  • by Fairuz Ahmed (new york)
  • Inter Press Service

Now in the age of the seamless digital connection, we're capable of building a community where a woman in a small hut with a simple, smartphone can engage with a tech geek in San Francisco and talk about how to bake a cake or how to code. With the intention of building a community where women develop and lift each other, learn from one another, and are proud of womanhood – a few passionate women launched Fuzia.

The founders, 19-year-old Riya Sinha and co-founder and director Shraddha Verma, 31 say while they could not reach every part of the world physically, they can digitally reach women across the globe. They wanted to make each woman feel special, empowered, and independent and celebrate who she is.

Fuzia is a happy place for women empowerment, says senior marketing manager Singhal. It's a place where 50 000 creative users of the site have committed themselves to lend a hand to other women.

"Harnessing the power of technology and digital progression, Fuzia is building up a global sisterhood and making it a platform where women are empowered, and gender gaps are eliminated," the 24-year-old Singhal says of the site. Singhal has worked for the organisation for five years and was one of its first team members. She now oversees the creative activities and campaigns.

"Fuzia has, indeed become a happy place. It makes me proud to see how the power of social media and the internet has impacted the lives of the users positively through Fuzia," she says in an exclusive interview with Inter Press Service (IPS). She adds that every day she receives countless messages and testimonials that reinforce how the internet and technology play a significant role in women empowerment.

However, the internet is not always a happy place for women – especially young women. The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) noted that digital spaces could be empowering places for opinion-formation, debate and mobilisation.

"However, cyberbullying restricts the opportunities offered by digitalisation. Young people, especially women are put off from taking part in political discussions or online debates. All of society is missing out when young women are not engaged because we are losing their potential to get involved in politics and become future leaders," Virginija Langbakk, EIGE's Director is quoted as saying.

Recent academic research showed that 37% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have been bullied online. Girls are more likely to be both the victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying and half of the LGBTQ+ experience online harassment.

Recently during a United Nations Women meet Cecilia Mwende Maundu, a broadcast journalist based in Kenya and a specialist in gender digital safety, affirmed women's rights to a part of social media and in the digital space. She decried cyberbullying or other methods which push women from this sphere. She suggested women enhance their security in the digital field by:

  • Creating a strong password;
  • Having different passwords for different accounts;
  • Download apps from authentic platforms and use two-factor authentication;
  • Log out of your accounts;
  • Don't use public WIFI for sharing sensitive information, like online bank details;
  • Use antivirus software and, if possible, use a virtual private network.

Fuzia tries to eliminate cyberbullying from its site. The platform is extremely cautious, and users need not fear having their information leaked or privacy hampered. Private information is not sold or shared with third parties. If a bully or offensive comment is detected, immediate action is taken. They are particularly concerned about this, as many users are preteens, teens, young adults, and so on. Fuzia prides itself in providing a secure, safe, and nurturing environment. Whenever a comment is posted, or a piece of writing is uploaded, it naturally goes through word screening, and certain derogatory words are detected and barred. The user is warned, and if the behaviour persists, the user is banned.

A safe environment like Fuzia Lounge (https://www.fuzia.com/) promotes empowerment. This is a virtual creative hub promoting a supportive and inclusive community where all members, male, female and third genders, are accepted and encouraged to express their beliefs in their inner powers, creativity, and potential. The community thrives on collaboration, sisterhood, support, and learning. It is central to the Fuzia philosophy which is based on providing women and others with a safe, bully-free, non-judgmental, and criticism-free virtual online space.

Creativity comes in many sizes and shapes. A person should have power to explore their creative niche, showcase their talents, learn from peers, and participate in engaging activities. The Fuzia Lounge is full of paintings, craft, poetry, blogs, calligraphy, photography, recipes, videos and so much more from all over the world which gives the user the feel of a close-knit global family. The members also engage through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Fuzia World, and through the use of podcasts on platforms like Spotify and Hub Hopper.

Digital technologies have advanced more rapidly than any innovation in our history, reaching around 50% of the developing world's population in only two decades and transforming societies. In 2016 the United Nations passed a nonbinding resolution making the disruption of internet access a violation of human rights. In a report published by the United Nations telecommunications agency, it has been mentioned that more than half of the world's population of nearly 8 billion will be using the Internet in 2018 and grow more in the following years. The latest figures also spotlight Africa, which shows the strongest rate of growth in internet access, from around two percent in 2005, to more than 24 percent of the African population in 2018 with 79.6 percent and 69.6 percent are an online presence in Europe and the Americas.

In 2020 it was reported that among Facebook users 54% are female, the rest 46% are male and or third gender. According to a Pew Research report, more US women than men are using Instagram, with 43% of the female respondents saying they used the social media platform. Only 31% of men admitted using it. Globally, this trend continues with 52% of females and 48% male using Instagram. In many advanced economies, nine-in-ten or more use the internet, led by South Korea (96%). Greece (66%). The most substantial increases in internet use since 2015 were in South Africa and Lebanon, which each experienced a 17-percentage point increase. The Philippines and Senegal have also seen significant improvements in internet penetration since 2015.

Today Fuzia's network reaches about 6 million people globally, with ten hundred thousand active contributors, from over 30 countries. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Morocco, US, Philippines, UK are among the countries with the most membership. More than 40 000 members are added each month to the platform growth of about 35% year-on-year. A global team of 30 people are working remotely. Over the last eight years, Fuzia has continuously worked on improving their product after listening to users and understanding their feedback and needs. They have a sophisticated IT team that works around the clock to present the best user experience. Some of the state-of-the-art software they utilize to promote customer-oriented and user-friendly interfaces are Slack, G Suite, Google Analytics, Asana, and more. These are used to build web management, coordination, and seamless information flow.

Facebook, Instagram, Uber, and Airbnb are all household-name examples of digital platforms and networks that facilitate connections and exchanges between people. In 2020, and some of the jobs created by these trends include those in the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Edge Computing, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, Cybersecurity, Blockchain, Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT).

The growth of job opportunities in the digital space is turning established business models on their heads, leading many traditional businesses to transition to or incorporate a platform-based model. This calls for reform and adaptability. An employee, especially for a woman, can work from home much more easily, manage her family, and because she is equipped technologically and has a platform at hand.

Fuzia built up their business model following these trends and are leveraging remote work as a way of empowering more women around the globe. Their commitment to the empowerment of women goes beyond just interacting with them on a platform. Fuzia's hands-on remote training includes courses on content service, blog writing, website content, video transcriptions, interview articles, video summary writing, subtitling services, copywriting, scriptwriting. Other courses include digital marketing, SEO, Google AdWords, SEM, ads management, and social media marketing promoting studies on SM Page management, pixel marketing, campaign management, executive branding, blog lounge management, community handling, and software development. They also ensure the creative side is covered by training on graphic designing, poster designs, banners, infographics, logo designs, book covers, website page designs, and others.

Fuzia founders believe that their platform can remove the gender gap in support of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. They say over 50,000 creative Fuzia users have committed to lend a hand to other women. With this global talent pool not only is there an opportunity for freedom and empowerment but a glimpse of a paradigm shift in which more women are involved in the digital space.

© Inter Press Service (2020) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service