By Florence Gichoya
Why do people write? Why do people blog? People write for different reasons, to some it is a form of therapy, others to inform and sensitize and others it’s a hobby. Not all writers blog and those who do definitely do it for personal reasons. In blogging there is freedom to express yourself as you feel like without particularly following any rules. The blogger creates his or her guidelines. Some bloggers write about serious matters like politics, business while others blog on personal matters for instance a cat, children and humour. And all this is okay as long as one gets to express themselves and their feelings.
I am an avid blogger and was honoured to be invited by Zambian bloggers Network for a strategy meeting. The network has 30 members who are mainly from Lusaka. It was founded by an ardent blogger, ICT journalist Brenda Zulu. Brenda hatched the idea 2 years ago when she visited Ghana and attended the Ghana bloggers meeting. She was impressed and decided to start a similar platform in Zambia. Getting the bloggers in Zambia was not a hard task, she relied on social networks like Facebook and twitter to get the bloggers and sell them the idea.
Most of the bloggers are journalists interested in new media, they blog about health, politics, gender, environment etc. There are also two photo bloggers and a cartoonist.
What I gathered from the meeting was that there is a gap in Zambia in areas of podcasting and video blogging.
The rate of blogging in Zambia has also been very low. And the main objective for the network is to strengthen the Zambian blogosphere. Brenda emphasises that as bloggers “we are stronger together”. There are many voices that are not heard in the mainstream media therefore the bloggers give those issue a voice.
During the strategy meeting members decided to create a blog ring and blog collectively on contentious issues for instance, gender based violence, homosexuality, abortion and early marriages. They also agreed to have more online interactions on blogs, dgroup and other social networks.
There are many challenges for Zambian bloggers thus the reason they don’t blog prolifically. Very expensive Internet access is one. It becomes difficult for bloggers to upload video blogs and podcasts. Also not many writers have access to internet. Many bloggers are also not conscious of the blogging guidelines, some are unaware they can be sued because of their content. This especially happens when bloggers write on high profile figures based on hearsay.
What’s the future?
The future projects that they came up with were: They plan to have more mentorship programs for the upcoming bloggers. Also training on new media is imperative for every blogger in order to ensure more readers access their articles. Impart skills on how to make money through blogging. Training on web page designing and create general awareness on blogging. Creation of more Zambian content and to set the agenda for Zambia on issues affecting the citizens e.g. water, road safety, HIV and AIDS and gender development.
As the meeting came to a close the members were all fired up to blog more. As bloggers we hope to create a strong citizen voice to highlight their plight.