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OUR IDEA: Women's groups have much to gain by experimenting with online activities to support their efforts on behalf of young women and girls. However, these groups - and the young women who participate in these groups - are under-represented online. Our aim is to facilitate conversation and collaboration among these groups, while at the same time investigating the barriers faced by women, girls, and small nonprofits in accessing and utilizing new technology.

OUR PROJECT: Tech Up brought together representatives of women's organizations and the young women who participate in those groups to engage in an online discussion about the issues they care about. Participants were expected to devote an hour a week to online conversation as well as participate in face-to-face meetings. The project ran from November 1998 through June 2000.

PARTICIPANTS: Sixteen Women's Foundation grantees, representing the ethnic and regional diversity of California, participated in the Tech Up Project.

In addition, 13 young women were trained to be part of the project, including five girls from the Sierra Youth Center. Four young women leaders from The Women's Foundation's Sisterhood Fund also took part.

TECHNOLOGY: The project provided and maintained conferencing and listserv technology so that the groups could communicate, as well as Internet access for specific groups, if needed. The Women's Foundation generously donated three computers to groups who needed them as well as three email accounts.

Forty-three women used an email list to receive updates and alerts and twenty-four women participated in an on-going, in-depth discussion in an electronic conference.

TRAINING: We held four training sessions, training thirty-six women in basic Internet skills including how to use an email list, basic web browsing, and how to participate in an online conference. Trainings were held at the Computer Technologies Project in Berkeley, Roots and Wings in Winters, Sierra Youth Center in Santa Rosa, and Women's Economic Agenda Project in Oakland.

THE DISCUSSION: Forty-four topics appeared on the online discussion.
Topics include:
What makes a good role model?
Why women are taking over the Internet
Pornography and the Internet
Hate crimes: Where does the line get drawn?
Women, girls and drugs
Express yourself

The discussion has been wide-ranging and freewheeling, benefiting both participant organizations and individuals. The participant groups described their programs, activities and goals. Organizations benefited by sharing information about outreach (particularly recruiting women and girls to technology), online research, funding, and training. An ongoing look at mentoring programs surfaced parameters of what makes a successful relationship and program.

The conference became a place where people could test out their ideas and get feedback on personal, professional and policy issues. For example, one young woman needed resources to help assist a friend addicted to drugs, and the group provided needed phone numbers, as well as emotional support. A young woman, interested in feedback on the issue of whether developmentally disabled couples should have kids, received thoughtful answers, including the response of someone who has a developmentally disabled relative for whom she is the caretaker. A woman inundated with SPAM received a resource list on how to stop it. Other participants asked for feedback on policy issues including parental consent for contraceptives and California's Youth Crime Bill (Prop. 21).

Participants also spoke intimately, powerfully and confidentially about personal issues, particularly their families. These conversational strands emerged alongside discussion of media, policy and community and harked back to women's traditions of sharing female wisdom through gossip and conversation as well as the political organizing that eventually emerges from consciousness-raising groups.

FACE-TO-FACE STRATEGY SESSIONS: We held our first strategy session back in November 1998 to surface what issues were of greatest concern us. We continued to have face-to-face strategy sessions and through them zeroed in on the topics for this webzine.

The Tech Up Project ended June 30, 2000. For additional information regarding the Tech Up Project, email us at evy@well.com.

© 2000 by Individual Authors
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'Women & Girl's Tech Up: What It Is | Funding Organization: Pacific Bell | Co-Sponsor: The Women's Foundation | Co-Sponsor: Electronic Frontier Foundation | Participants | 'Zine Credits