RURAL WOMEN ONLINE WILL HELP REGIONAL VICTORIAN WOMEN BREAK THROUGH THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
A new program to empower rural women to learn digital skills has been launched by the Victorian Women’s Trust.
Rural Women Online will provide training, support and mentoring to help women living in regional and rural Victoria fast track their connection to the digital world.
Victorian Women’s Trust Executive Director, Mary Crooks said recent research shows rural women face significant barriers to online participation, including access, affordability and ability.
“Things like a lack of NBN connection in regional areas can prevent rural women from getting started on their digital journey, but fear and shame can perpetuate the problem as women are often judged harshly for their perceived lack of technical abilities,” Ms Crooks said.
“Our Rural Women Online project will help address ability-based barriers by providing opportunities for women in rural Victoria to build their digital skills in a safe, non-judgemental way.”
Rural Women Online consists of three streams, a set of how-to-guides and learning opportunities, a women staffed tech help desk and one-on-one mentoring.
The how-to guides, which can be found at ruralwomenonline.org.au, are a self-directed online crash course in tech knowledge, covering subjects from e-safety to how to use common software.
For rural women that require real time assistance, the Rural Women Online help desk will field email and phone enquiries once a week and provide advice that empowers, not condescends.
For 300 women, Rural Women Online will provide up to 30 hours of on-on-one advice and mentoring, with entry into the program considering a woman’s existing digital skills, hardship, remoteness and if they live in bushfire-affected areas.
“In addition, we will be taking Rural Women Online on the road with a series of 12 in-person Open Days across regional Victoria, four of which will be conducted in areas impacted by the 2020 bushfires.
“At these Open Days, women will have the opportunity to connect with other women, find assistance with tech questions, get online and try different computer equipment and software and apply for a mentorship.
“Today, nearly every aspect of our lives is integrated into the digital world. From simple everyday tasks like paying a bill, to accessing critical services like telehealth appointments, to connecting with family members, digital literacy is essential.
“This was never so clear as it was during the pandemic. While metropolitan areas adapted to the new normal with relative ease, in regional Victoria we saw instances of women sitting with their children in cars in fast-food parking lots just to access reliable internet service for home learning.
“Victorian regional women are strong, capable and resourceful. Our program will build on that by ensuring rural women have positive, empowering opportunities to add digital literacy to their skill set.”
Rural Women Online is a joint initiative of the Helen McPherson Smith Trust and the Bendigo Bank Community Enterprise Foundation, delivered by the Victorian Women’s Trust.
Mary Crooks is available for interview, along with a number of regionally-based project representatives.
Media contact: Alys Gagnon (Essential) 0438 379 977 email@example.com