The use of social media tools such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and mobile technology has become increasingly popular in activism and advocacy work worldwide in recent years. In Lebanon, a group called Social Media Exchange conducts training for NGOs, civil society organisations, and activists on how they can utilise social media to promote their work and reach a wider audience. They produced a very interesting video about activists in Lebanon experimenting with social media, shedding light on various blogs, Facebook initiatives, and websites used for social, socio-economic, and political activism in the country.
During the 2006 war between Hizbullah and Israel, young people like social and environmental activist Zena El-Khalil, who is interviewed in the video, used blogs to tell her side of the story and how she felt during that period. She was among a group of bloggers, some of whom had never blogged before, but felt the passion to let out their thoughts and feelings, and have their voices heard through online interactive forums. On her blog Beirut Update, and in her last post which dates back to November 2006, she wrote:
the war ended. maya's condition grew worse. she passed away and i have been left with a stain on my heart. what now? i have been living the past few weeks in total darkness, not know what lies ahead. not knowing if things could get any worse.. if i was going to lose anyone else… and today it almost happened in Palestine. i almost lost two more friends.
Another group featured in the video was “Nahwa Al Muwatiniya” or Towards Citizenship, which is group formed by young people with the goal of monitoring parliamentary actions and legislations. Their impressive initiative “Naam Lil Hiwar” or Yes for Dialogue brings young people together in town hall-like settings to discuss issues that matter to them in Lebanon. The topics vary between social and political; issues like sex education in schools, protecting the environment, and reforming the economy, were among the those discussed. The group announces their events on their Facebook page and uses mass-mailing for invitations. On their website, they explain the purpose of their initiative:
The absence of real dialogue in the Lebanese society- and among youth specifically- is a major obstacle standing in the way of true democracy. Lack of communication and often leads way to more severe socio-political problems. Dialogue is therefore an essential feature of multicultural societies without which true partnership cannot be established. Naam lil Hiwar has successfully created an open space for dialogue by holding Hiwar sessions in Beirut for over two years. Open spaces for dialogue in different regions of Lebanon – where youth can discuss a kaleidoscope of political, social, and cultural issues – is needed as a communication channel. By creating sustainable Hiwar groups in different communities, Naam is taking the culture of dialogue to the streets where it belongs, with the aim of transmitting it to the political arena.
Al Majmoua is a micro-finance group that helps entrepreneurs around Lebanon connect to sources of funding from around the world. They are partnering with Kiva global network, an organisation based in the U.S that allows funders to lend money to entrepreneurs worldwide. They use their website to connect with these entrepreneurs and to also help them connect to lenders.
The recent years have witnessed a significant rise in internet penetration, particularly among young people in Lebanon. The service is being enhanced and the bandwidth expanded, and more and more organisations are realising the importance of social media and information and telecommunication technologies in their work. As all of this is happening, we continue to see more blogs, tweets, and videos coming out of Lebanon advocating for cultural, social, and political causes.