Technology has brought women together. Not just at the workplace but in the heart of social media. Support groups on the internet are spawning a new life in ideas, efforts and community building. Neha Kare, founder of Mumbai Moms runs a group on Facebook for mothers to interact. With over 70000 women, she says her community is where women come to discuss positive ideas and collaborate to help. There are thousands of such groups, big and small interacting and connecting women. Could such communities be the answer to getting more women online? These are often groups that are moderated and closed giving women the freedom of conversation in a secure space.
The statistics must change. The government is pitching for getting nearly 60 million women online in India. Currently only a third of India’s total internet users are women. Ankhi Das, Head of Public Policy for Facebook in South Asia says there is a lot of work to be done. “There is clearly a whole lot of work we need to do in terms of bringing change, more economic participation and make sure we have our prominence under it.”
The rise of startups has shown that women are harnessing the digital opportunity for economic empowerment, an aspect Das insists must not be ignored. “There is clearly a whole lot of work we need to do in terms of bringing change, more economic participation and make sure we have our prominence under it.”
Some of the groups online have unique solutions. Adhunika Prakash runs Breastfeeding Support for Indian Moms where the discussions are about lactation, whether or not to breast feed for a long period, the stereotypes about doing so in public. Since the subject is personal, the conversations are real and therefore divergent views may emerge. Prakash calls this is a positive because it adds vibrant conversations to the group. “We saw that a lot of women were very passionate about breastfeeding and then we came across women who were putting down women who were not. That time we realised that we are not going to take sides and we are just going to put out information and educate women about breastfeeding.”
Common passions is another reason for communities to grow such as the one by Sumita Pai from Chennai who runs Kai Thari. It’s a content driven space dedicated to handloom sarees. Pai got motivated by the 100SareePact that took the social media by storm last year where women were encouraged to wear more sarees and post their pictures.
Part of her passion is also to get the community to give back. Her team and she worked together to distribute sarees to sanitation female workers in Chennai. “We just wanted to give it as a token of thanks and so we called out to women through our group to donate sarees so we can gather as many as possible to donate to these women. And we were surprised to receive sarees from across the country and outside like US.”
“We went around on the streets and gave away 130 sarees to these workers and they were so happy to receive them. It just gave us a little bit more motivation to keep on doing our work and also help few social causes on the way.”
These are some interesting groups who are using Facebook to connect and collaborate for common passions and causes.