One of the things that kept people going during the isolation of the COVID-19 lockdown was undoubtedly social media. Meeting in the virtual, intangible world, people found camaraderie, kinship and courage to tide over the fear, panic and isolation of the health emergency. Facebook groups hitherto, used for fun and networking assumed a new dimension. For many women, these groups helped allay such fears. . MetroPlus talks to founders and administrators of a few women-only groups.
Her Trivandrum, Anjali Manoj
“During the lockdown, I had people telling me how the platform helped them get through the day,” says Anjali Manoj who founded Her Trivandrum Page in 2018. A journalist and a professional storyteller, Anjali began the page after some unpleasant experiences on open social media platforms. “I got strange requests from people that made me uncomfortable. I thought it would be good if there was a platform where one could air their views without being judged. From queries like where to get a bikini wax to any issues facing a woman, the interaction could be non-judgmental.” Joining the page requires an introduction from a member.
Today there are 8,000 women in the group from across the world. Except religion and politics, all other topics are discussed freely. Anjali vets the views before posting them, she says. Her first post is at 6 am and the last at 11pm closes the conversation. At the end of the first year, when the page had 2000 members, nearly 400 members met in Thiruvananathpuram. Anjali, who conducts online high school grammar classes, also gives “ an example of the fun things in the group: recalling favourite childhood smells” and such.
Minu Marie Mathew
Girl Boss Going Places
Minu, an entrepreneur with two e-commerce businesses, set up a Facebook group during the lockdown specifically for women entrepreneursto keep in touch with them.
“Girl Boss Going Places is true to its namesake. It helps these entrepreneurs realise their business dreams through the power of community collaboration,” she says . The group is focused and maintains a weekly schedule for content - Mondays for motivational stories, Tuesdays for tips, Wednesdays for product promotion, Thursdays for trivia, Fridays for facts related to business and Sundays for gratitude. Saturdays are special days, meant for networking and Minu chairs a call at 5 pm every Saturday. Group members can meet each other and find inspiration, troubleshoot and discover opportunities for collaboration. The Group celebrates success and also curates quality content for business owners.
Every now and then, experts from different fields come live to advise these entrepreneurs and answer their questions on a variety of subjects related to business. “The lockdown has been harsh on most ventures, including mine which came to a complete halt. But with ‘Girl Boss Going Places’, we women entrepreneurs can find solutions to current business stagnation or use the time to build a strong foundation for the business to rebound and soar much higher once we return to normalcy. During the lockdown members were encouraged to pitch their business in short videos. These networking videos were unique and very helpful,” says Minu.
SWAN (Superb Women Agile Network)
“The lockdown has revived the group,” says Anjali Nair who founded SWAN in 2016 to offer a sisterhood to women from all fields. “The idea was to appreciate each other and our skills, because that motivates and brings out the best in a person.” Another reason was to help the homemaker-entrepreneur to find a support base. “It was formed to help women.”
An example of Anjali’s idea of support: a group of members met outside the virtual platform and surprised a senior member with a present on her birthday. “It made her day. It’s about caring and doing fun-filled activities. Our motto is to endorse each woman’s strengths,” says Anjali who would make videos of the members’ activities and post on the group to promote them. There were also fun virtual sessions like sing along, golgappa eating challenge and posting photos of Holi celebrations. During the lockdown, they held a cooking challenge that rejuvenated the 10,000 members of the group. SWAN is a closed network while its parallel Cochin Super Women is accessible to outsiders. “The uniqueness in Swanetwork is its contents which attracts people to involve in creative engagements,” says Anjali.
Women Empowerment and Entrepreneurship (WEE)
Anupama founded the group two years ago with the aim of encouraging women who wish to rejoin work after a career break. Anupama, who is into robotics training for children, launched the virtual platform to highlight the issues she faced when she restarted her career. Called WEE the group has become more energetic during the lockdown. It has 500 members from across India. In 2018 she held a ‘Jobs For Her’ programme, by Carisma ( a women empowerment initiative of her company Young Genius) in Thiruvananthapuram through which she placed 200 women in companies across Kerala. This helped her become a point of contact for women wanting to work from home. Last year, Carisma’s WEE held a conclave at Bhub in Mar Ivanious College in Thiruvananthapuram. “The group is active. Members post enquiries about their business and communicate issues they face. The lockdown has been a special time for everyone to reconnect more vigorously than before,” she says adding that they held webinars and training sessions for Post-Covid 19 activities related to their fields.
The Cochin Circle
Roopa George says she had almost 10 active WhatsApp groups with members following different interests but the lockdown was a situation common to all. “It was a time when we needed support and so I brought all those groups under one umbrella. We are 700 women from across the world who want to be connected to Kerala, India and with each other. The only answer to social distancing is virtual connectivity,” says Roopa who posts motivational quotes to start the day and steers conversations, discussions and debates.
“We set up new goals of self evaluation.” According to her, the lockdown has shown people that investment in relationships pays rather than material investments and hence connecting this way is fruitful. “My main aim is to promote other women,” she says and connects people to help retail their products, offers counselling and mental health programmes. Craft, recycling, fashion and inspirational stories are some of the other topics she encourages. However, most importantly, the group is driven by social service. “Action and execution,” says Roopa is vital and the group organised computers and TV sets for underprivledged children who needed these for online classes.