Today’s Top Four Reasons I Heart Zuckerberg

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Hearts and stars and good vibes to you, Mark Zuckerberg. Why? Facebook is influencing my life–and others–in an increasingly and positively transformative way. In the last three days the following Facebook-related magical moments shaped my relationships and my work in digital cross-cultural exchange.

A young Egyptian in the Soliya Connect Program shared with our group that people in Egypt believe that their revolution was successful because of Facebook, and therefore many joined Facebook in order to keep informed. The numbers certainly back this up. A bit of quick research into the number of Facebook subscriptions in Egypt shows the dramatic increase in registrations. Here is a quick glance at those stats:

Background: Internet penetration rate in Egypt in June 30th, 2011 (Source):

 Population (2011 estimate): 82,079,636                                                                                                                                                                    Internet users in December 2000: 450,000                                                                                                                                                          Internet users latest data (June, 2011): 20,136,000                                                                                                                                      Penetration (% population): 24.5%                                                                                                                                                                                Users in Africa at large: 16.9%

Registered Facebook accounts in Egypt by date:

  November 2010: 3,951,440 (Source)                                                                                                                                                                         January 2011: 5,079,367 (Source)                                                                                                                                                                                 June 2011: 7,295,240 (Source)                                                                                                                                                                                   October 23, 2011: 8,929,740 (Source)

I connected with many Egyptian activists and linked up with two on Skype to talk about our respective ongoing peacebuilding efforts and explored how we might collaborate and support each other in our work. It was a great thrill, honor, and inspiration to spend two hours chatting with two very bright, active, and courageous women committed to positive change-making in Egypt. Our conversations focused on education and educational efforts, what is working and what is S*&% (want to assess your new friend’s command of English slang? Simply introduce the topic of education and you will soon get a very clear sense of the number of four-letter-words at her disposal!). Both women offered to connect me with friends of theirs who are working in the NGO sector, in schools, or independently working to address various social needs across Egypt related to education. That is, addressing the major issues that are keeping kids out of school, causing them to drop, or preventing them from learning even if they are attending classes.

A young woman from Pakistan sent me a message and asked me about my work with AIWR, Soliya, and other education projects I’ve posted about on my profile and how any of those projects might be brought to her village in Pakistan. This was perhaps the most exciting and inspiring Facebook-related exchange I’ve had today. Out of the blue, a young Pakistani woman wrote to me and said, “I added your profile because it looks like you work for an NGO.” In response, I shared a bit about some of the projects I am working on (Soliya, AIWR, and Girls Can!). She wrote back immediately:

Thank’s for your nice reply .I am student of 3rd year of business studies in Pakistan .I don’t work with an n.g.o yet but i am really interested on such project’s .Moreover ,i want you to guide me on your project GIRLS CAN so that i can promote the girl’s of my community as i belong from a small town of Pakistan but which is full of such potential people that if given a chance can do alot .

and isn’t Alliance for International Women Rights having any English language classes for Pakistani girls? do u have any idea

Is anyone else blown away by this energy, drive, and eagerness to connect and make real change happen? I am buzzing with excitement. I heart you Mark Zuckerberg!!!

An old friend of mine–who I hadn’t heard from in some time–reconnected with me to share her interest in the peacebuilding projects I am engaged in and to share an update about her work in protecting girls from the modeling industry, which exploits them by commodifying, sexualizing, and putting them at risk. You can learn more about this by checking out the documentary Girl Model. She wrote to ask if I could put her into contact with anyone working in child protection or anti-human trafficking work. And I’m suspecting that any minute now I will get a message from someone, somewhere, who is doing such work.

How has Facebook changed your life and your work?

A few of my colleagues at Soliya and I will be talking about opportunities and obstacles for collaboration and positive change-making in post-Mubarak Egypt at the Global Washington Annual Conference. Good times!

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