In 2020, the COVID-19 global pandemic prompted a rapid shift in the way we interact with friends, family and colleagues. Despite physical distancing restrictions and state laws governing our movement, we began to let more people into our homes than ever before. A strange blend of work and home life was created as household pets snuck into corporate meetings and parents were tasked with teaching mathematics and literacy to their children between work commitments.

At WHGNE we noted that many in our community have embraced this transition and the way it quickly dissolved many barriers faced by rural women in accessing programs, resources and services. It’s within this context that the Women Gathering model has been reinvigorated, using online platforms to bring women together and grow new connections, without the need to travel great distances to the closest regional centre.

The Women Gathering model was developed by WHGNE in 2008, providing a space for women affected by the Millennium Drought to share their experiences, grow stronger and develop friendships with other women to support them through the healing process. Women Gathering Online was preceded by two successful iterations of the model – Women Gathering in Dry Times (2008) and Women Gathering After Fires (2011).

This iteration, Women Gathering Online, involved the creation of a toolkit and a training module which equip women with the skills to establish and grow a strong network of women to regularly meet using online platforms. Group leaders were upskilled to be able to reach women from across the region and engage with them through regular interactions in online structured support groups around a shared interest or theme.