Social media isn’t an alternate reality, it’s an extension of reality. – Jaboukie Young-White

Hashtag activism has helped to propel women’s rights to the forefront of political agendas, bringing attention to issues often under-reported by mainstream media. From 2014 in Nigeria, with the #bringbackourgirls campaign, to 2017’s #metoo, social media has helped women to share experiences of sexual violence, harassment and more, and has kept international attention focused on events that have slipped off the news agenda. In general, the extent to which online engagement translates into policy change or practical action remains unclear.

However, in the Caribbean, some recent campaigns have moved beyond hashtags and have led to actual policy change and practical action.

Attillah Springer will tell us about her experiences with some of these campaigns, from SaySomething, a campaign with led to the resignation of the Mayor of Port of Spain, to the campaign to end child marriage, and the #leaveshealone Carnival campaign.

Women’s issues have not been the only ones that have benefited from the use of social media campaigns. Prior to broad deployment of the Internet, life, especially life as an LGBT individual, was mostly limited by geography. The Internet and the subsequent rise of social media have allowed LGBT people to bridge disparate geographies in ways that no previous technologies permitted. The Internet has also permitted LGBT people to safely and discreetly find partners and learn that they are not alone, regardless of where they live, from the comfort and security of their own home. In the Caribbean, social media and the Internet has allowed everyone to connect with the struggles of LGBTQI+ people as they fight for their human rights.

Jason Jones is one of those activists who is currently fighting for his human rights as a Gay man in the Courts of Trinidad and Tobago. He will discuss his use of the Internet to find support and supporters for his cause, as well as to assist in creating communities for young LGBTQI+ persons and their families.

None of these actions and policy changes would have occurred without the use of the Internet and social media. However, the Internet and social media, despite, or maybe because of the ease of access and the ability to tell one’s stories (often anonymously), can be difficult to use as a research tool. Questions of identity and veracity of information persist. How can we know our reach and our power?

Ian Royer, social media expert, will explain the uses and reach of social media in Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean, and how our use of social media differs from that in other cultures.

Dr. Sue Ann Barratt of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the UWI, will discuss how online spaces can be used to expand citizen participation, education, and empowerment.  This, of course, will be informed by a framework that takes gender justice as crucial to such participation, education, and empowerment

The discussion will be open and wide-ranging, with input from in-person and remote attendees. It will take the form of a Q and A /interview with the panelists. There will be no “presentations” as such.


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