Bahraini Activist Esra’a Al Shafei on Using the Internet for Social Change

I came across this powerful conversation with Esra’a Al Shafei, a young activist, blogger, and entrepreneur from Bahrain. In 2017, she talked about her work in the Middle East fighting for democracy and the rights of oppressed minorities and LGBTQ individuals during a plenary session at the Digital Media and Learning conference. Such a powerful and eye-opening conversation.

People always think that things have to be built in Silicon Valley or in New York or in the west, and then you have to export it to the rest of the world because we don’t understand how to deal with those problems in an innovative way. But between you and me, we’re kicking ass. Sometimes, people have to look at the Middle East and Latin America and Eastern Europe to find information and innovation. When I think of innovation, I don’t think of the US anymore. I mean, there’s all these pretty flying things and the Teslas and stuff. But when you really talk about innovation on a deeper human level, it’s really the places where people have been undergoing human rights violations and building things against incredible odds under very oppressive repressive societies. And if we manage to do that, everybody else obviously can. Sometimes we’re shocked by the lack of innovation and civic technology when we see the US, because you’re all still talking about voting and manipulation and fake news, and that’s all old news for us.

Read the full transcript (in English and Spanish) here. You can also watch the livestream of the session below.



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