While there are increasing resources being developed for parents to monitor children’s use of the internet and chat sites, very little information exists about the risks facing women who use the internet.
Online harassment (aka cyber stalking) and related threatening behaviours are violent acts that are increasing towards women who use the internet to access information or communicate online. Cyberstalking and related threatening behaviours are significantly affecting women’s every day lives. The stigma and shame women survivors face compound the isolation and perpetuation of violence against women.
Working in partnership with the Pacific Community Networks Association and Womenspace, and with support from the Women and Community Safety project, factors that lead to online abuse and safety risks for rural women will be further examined.
A toolkit and training package will be developed to assist staff and volunteers of public internet sites to gain a greater understanding of online safety concerns facing female users. The Online Safety for Women project will also advocate for appropriate responses by government to address violence against women on the internet.
The BC Rural Women’s Network expects this project will highlight the increasing risk of violence women face via the internet and help to decrease vulnerability of marginalized rural women. As the internet becomes more heavily relied upon as a means of communication and information sharing, it is essential that users be given information on ways to navigate safely.
The BC Rural Women’s Network was created in 2003 having evolved out of a research project conducted with women about experiences of living on low-income and accessing communication technology in rural and remote communities around British Columbia. The original research project found that women faced increased isolation and barriers accessing government services and information because programs and offices were being closed in many rural communities around British Columbia.
The BC Rural Women’s Network involves women living in rural and remote BC communities via mail, email, and word-of-mouth, to share successes, resources, ideas for improvement with the network coordinator, Nythalah Baker. In Canada there are a growing number of federally funded initiatives that have attempted to bring access to those without it, yet we know that women, and specifically rural women, have been left behind in Canada’s plan to increase access. The provincial government is also looking at ways to assist with improving access. Women’s voices, especially women who experience marginalisation, must be a part of this process and the BC Rural Women’s Network will work to facilitate that.
The Vernon Women’s Centre is committed to advancing women’s influence and improving the status of women though change. Since its inception, the BC Rural Women’s Network has worked with these goals in mind.