Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Most news coverage in the Iraqi media is focused on men. Subjects that are of specific interest to women are barely given attention. Working together with the Iraqi organisation Bo Peshewa, Free Press Unlimited has set up the first online platform by and for women: Takalami, which means ‘share your view’. Here, the women of Iraq can find information that is relevant to them and talk about their problems and their rights.

Takalami offers a female perspective in a male-dominated society. The website offers ample opportunity for discussion, in the hope of creating favourable conditions for social change. Developments such as in in South Iraq, where eight families decided they wouldn’t arrange a child marriage for their daughters. What had brought them to this? A feature article published on Takalami about a young girl who had been married off. After deciding to divorce her husband, she had been prevented from seeing her children for many years. Her moving story sparked a public debate about the marrying off of young girls.

Articles about women’s issues

Bushra Al-Ameen, Director of Bo Peshewa, is proud of results like this: “Maybe we don’t always make a difference in the affairs of the entire nation, but we do make a difference in women’s lives. And that in itself is of invaluable importance.”

Women who visit Takalami find hundreds of articles about issues that affect them – from female refugees and domestic violence to women’s rights under the Iraqi constitution. But the platform also offers medical advice and does many girls a great service: in their often conservative home environment, they are hesitant to talk about health problems. In addition, the website offers a lot of room for positive articles and success stories that may serve as a source of inspiration for other women in Iraq.

Impressive visitor numbers

Everyone is free to write articles for Takalami, but not every Iraqi citizen feels comfortable doing so: people are afraid of the social repercussions if they come out in support of women’s rights. As a result, the platform is heavily dependent on the contributions of journalists who have already made a name for themselves. That is why working in partnership with Free Press Unlimited, Bo Peshewa has trained 32 citizen and professional journalists in the use of the Takalami platform. While the citizen journalists wrote about women’s issues during the course itself, unfortunately most of them stopped after rounding off the training: they continued to feel uneasy writing about these subjects. We are presently working on an alternative approach.

Takalami clearly satisfies a need in Iraq: a year after its launch in late 2016, the platform already had 4,400 accounts. And the readership for its online publications is a multiple of this number – some articles have even been viewed close to 350,000 times. Takalami has nearly 9,000 followers on Facebook, most of them women. And visitors from neighbouring countries have also found their way to the Iraqi website.