Young creatives
Without a doubt, the surge of the internet has created many waves in the way that people live their everyday lives. From ride-sharing apps to Instagram stories to trendy Tiktok dances, it seems like social media has overwhelmed every aspect of modern life, working particularly hard to keep people connected through an unprecedented time of social distancing. However, it is not just the mundane that has changed with the dawn of the online age; young creatives have used the internet to completely reimagine modern activism.

The Age of Digital Activism

Digital activism, defined as the use of digital tools (i.e. the internet, mobile phones, social media, etc.) for bringing about social and/or political change, is hardly a new phenomenon. As of 2018, the Pew Research Center found that around half of all Americans had engaged in some form of political or social activism via social media over the past year. They also found the majority of Americans believed that social media was a good tool for bringing important global issues to the attention of lawmakers. It is more than likely that these statistics have grown over the past several years, particularly in the culmination of movements such as the March for our Lives, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. It does not take very long to come up with countless examples of online activism.

More recently, however, a new trend has grown popular among young creatives on Instagram: zines. Zines are self-published, non-commercial print works that are typically produced and distributed in small batches by artists looking to share their work. While they have been a part of youth pop culture for many years now, a group of young women have taken it into their own hands to shift that paradigm.

The Birth of More Color Media

In early June of 2020, Aissata Sall, a recent high school graduate, single-handedly launched her independent publication, More Color Media. From the very beginning, Sall wanted this project to be different from what had been done already; she wanted to tell the stories that were not already being told. Within just 10 short weeks, the small project gained nearly 5,000 followers across multiple platforms and exploded into a team of nearly 100 creatives, all using their talents from photography to poetry to bring global issues of poverty, education and inequality to light in a new, innovative way.

“We have team members from Estonia, France, North Africa — everywhere!” Sall said in an interview with The Borgen Project on August 14th of 2020. “It’s just been amazing to see how many people we’ve reached and how many people have reached out to us to tell us how happy they are with the space and the platform we’ve created. That’s the biggest accomplishment in our eyes.”

This new platform has created a unique way for young creatives to share information, with eye-catching graphics and stunning photography all utilized to draw attention to global issues from Venezuela to Lebanon to Serbia. Many of these posts include thorough factsheets and sources, allowing viewers to digest news from around the world and quickly find resources to help. By just sharing informational posts, fund pages and petitions to lawmakers regarding specific issues, More Color Media has reportedly reached over 30,000 individual audience members across all of their platforms.

“We want to provide more platforms for us to be able to support people in our communities and in the global community,” explained Diana Sinclair, the co-Editor-in-Chief of More Color Media. “We’ve already been using our platform to highlight individual funds to help reach people’s needs. We’ve also talked a lot about opening up other platforms like a podcast to help give a greater voice to the communities we want to support.”

A New Generation of Activists

While they continue to grow, More Color Media may very well represent the future of digital activism, serving to show that there is no limit on who can make a difference. According to RESET, an organization working to help advance the next generation into the digital age, one of the biggest benefits of digital activism is the ability to connect with a large community and globalize a campaign’s goals. More Color Media is doing just that. More Color Media’s first print issue is fast approaching, with a release date tentatively in late September, and both Sall and Sinclair are waiting eagerly with bated breath.

To learn more about More Color Media, visit their website, www.morecolormedia.com, or check them out on Instagram at @MoreColorMedia.

– Angie Bittar
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Honor KillingsThe concept appears as a relic from a distant, barbarous past: “honor killings” of young women. In contemporary Russia’s Northern Caucasus, however, honor-based violence remains a persistent scourge. Honor killings are premeditated murders of young women by close male relatives, committed under the guise of restoring or preserving a family’s “honor.” Honor crimes occur when a woman is perceived to have overstepped established sexual and gender-based boundaries.

 An Underreported Injustice

Incited by rumors, slander and outright falsehoods, honor-based attacks victimize women for trivial, seemingly inconsequential acts. These acts could include a skirt hemmed above the knees, a wayward glance, or an air of obstinance. These murders are generally planned by more than one family member, and carried out in many different forms such as including stonings, forced suicides and acid burnings.

A 2018 report by the human rights lawyer Yulia Antonova found that from 2012 to 2017, there were at least 36 reported honor killings in the Northern Caucasus. That number only includes, however, documented and cross-referenced honor killings. The majority of the killings go unreported, un-investigated, or are dismissed by the authorities. Therefore, there is a lack of accurate data on this type of violence in not only the Northern Caucasus, but the entire world. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 5,000 women are murdered every year by relatives in the name of protecting family “honor.”

 The Intersections between Violence, Gender Inequality and Family Ties

Honor-based violence is a tool to perpetuate gender inequality and a manifestation of female sexuality being coerced and curtailed through brutality. These killings are not spurred by tradition, custom, or sharia law, but rather are motivated by the ambitions of the individual or group. According to Svetlana Anokhina, a journalist and human rights activist in the Northern Caucasus, men hide behind skewed notions of honor to justify cold-blooded murder. These killings are meant to convey the control men wield over women, determining life or death through extra-judicial, subjective reasoning.

The state implicitly condones honor-violence by failing to adequately prosecute cases involving honor killings. These killings are rarely reported, and even the exceptions hold no guarantee that the cases will be investigated and sent to trial. Indeed, another 2018 report found that over a period from 2008 to 2017, only 14 cases involving honor killings went to court. Defendants are often protected by the courts, who justify honor killings by arguing that the accused was acting under a state of emotional duress.

In addition to the state, family members also will frequently protect the murderer, unwilling or unable to give their relative over to the authorities. The family may also rally behind the murderer, believing the honor killing has enhanced their social status in the community.

Thus, the victims of honor killings oftentimes do not get justice or retribution, and the cycle of violence is allowed to continue.

Making a Change

Over the last decade non-governmental organizations, such as the Honour Based Violence Awareness Network (HBVA), have sought to coordinate international groups working to end the scourge of honor-based violence. HBVA is a digital resource center promoting awareness of honor killings through research and documentation, enabling experts to better understand the extent of the issue. In part due to HBVA’s research, the international estimate of 5,000 honor killings per year is now thought to be grossly short of reality. HBVA has also created an international network of experts, activists and NGOs intent on using a collaborative approach to educate the public about and support the victims of honor killings. The training HBVA provides has improved responses to instances of honor violence in migrant communities in Europe and North America.

Honor killings continue to be an underreported and misunderstood phenomenon in many corners of the world. Victims of honor killings are subject to arbitrary fits of violence, intended to perpetuate gender inequality. This form of violence is vastly underreported, with many killings either ignored or lightly prosecuted by authority figures. There are, however, reasons to be optimistic that honor killings in the Northern Caucasus and other parts of the world are becoming less socially acceptable. Non-governmental organizations seeking to end honor killings are working across international borders to pool resources and data, giving hope that this form of violence will one day be better understood, more thoroughly documented and less frequent.

Angus Gracey

Photo: Flickr