It Happened: Lusaka Meet Up!

Zambia 2013

By Corine Milano

July 27, 2013

Also published at World Pulse

The most amazing part of traveling to Zambia has been meeting the women who utilize World Pulse to connect and get their voices out into the world. It is a transformative experience to go from online relationships to offline relationships—to meet in person, to hug, to laugh, to cry, to express!

Yesterday marked the official World Pulse Lusaka Meet Up. A group of 20 World Pulse sisters gathered in the heart of Lusaka to connect in person and discuss how World Pulse can best support the women of Zambia in their efforts to transform their country.

We sat together in a circle in an open-air restaurant, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Zambia’s largest city. We had the place to ourselves, and the energy was electric. There was nervousness, there was excitement, there was passion, and there was a sense of solidarity amongst the women. We’re in this together, they said. We can do this.

I’ve attended a World Pulse meet up before, in Kenya, and it’s always an amazing experience to put faces to names. In Lusaka, we had journalists, university students, social workers, representatives of the Ministry of Education, in attendance—and so many more! The make up was a mix of women who have been on our site since the beginning in 2007 and those who just signed up a month or two ago. There were women there who write regularly, and those who sit behind the scenes, quietly reading the stories on VoicesRising and gaining strength from their global sisters.

I learned that there is a hesitancy to post in their journals, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a willingness to get involved. Each woman I met showed a dedication to lifting the voices of their Zambian sisters, and they eagerly strategized about how to encourage each other to post and get their voices out into the world. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more from the women of Zambia in the months to come!

We talked about life in Zambia, about the issues they face daily: HIV/AIDS, child marriage, sexual harassment, gender-based violence, poverty, government corruption. The list was endless, the ideas behind how to tackle them flowing.

We talked about World Pulse’s programming—about our community, our content, our training. Women asked questions and learned about how World Pulse can best support them. There was excitement about opportunities to be published, excitement about opportunities to connect, excitement about the potential for becoming World Pulse correspondents through our Voices of Our Future training program.

And of course, we talked about how World Pulse can best support Zambia’s women’s movement. We rattled off lists of ways World Pulse can be doing better: a mobile platform so that those who may not have a computer can easily access our site and be heard; on-the-ground offices run by regional ambassadors to facilitate women speaking for themselves; technology that allows those with disabilities to connect; crowd sourced translation so that even those who speak Tribal languages can participate; regular in-person meet ups like this one so that the women can support each other in generating story ideas.

World Pulse is eager to listen to these voices and is eager to make these requests reality. We are feverishly working from our home base in Portland, Oregon to improve our site and grow our strategies to best facilitate connection and action. Your voices guide us. It is your strength that encourages us every day.

I’d like to open this question of how we can best support you to all the women and men in our community. What can we be doing better? How can we reach those who may not have regular access to the Internet? What questions do you have about how World Pulse can best serve you? What ideas do you have for growing the community and involving more women?

Lastly, I want to encourage all my World Pulse sisters to organize meet ups in their countries. World Pulse staff may not be able to be in attendance, but there is power in gathering in person, there is momentum that happens when women come together to discuss the most pressing issues in their communities.

As my trip to Zambia winds down, I am holding these experiences close to my heart. I am strengthened by the power of the community here and grateful for the lasting connections and bonds I have made. Zambia, you are amazing!

Corine Milano is reporting from Zambia on a trip with the International Reporting Project (IRP).