While coronavirus has made us more distant from our social circles than ever, one Canberra network is ensuring the capital's women are staying connected.
What began as an Instagram page in 2018, the CBR Gals Network has grown into a not for profit organisation that focuses on enabling Canberra women through events.
Until a few months ago these events included monthly happy hours and picnics but social distancing restrictions have since put a spanner in the works. The network has since switched to online events that not only help its members stay connected, but also promotes women-run businesses.
"There's been a great deal of commentary, I think over a billion words written on how women have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19," founder Rae Knopik says.
"So we knew that we needed to be there for this community through some sort of event but at the same time, Zoom exhaustion is real and our board knew that if we were to do an online event, it would need to be mindful."
Saturday saw the first online event - a virtual happy hour - where participants not only got to catch up with other members but were hand-delivered goody bags before the event filled with items from some of Canberra's women-fun businesses. It included everything from food and drink to ceramic art and homemade laundry powder.
"The reality is that while we can't wait as an organisation for the days of in-person events again, we've found that our virtual events are here to stay because they do allow for quite a bit more inclusivity," Knopik says.
The CBR Gals' next two initiatives include its second event for May, a virtual pilates class hosted by Canberra pilates instructor Elizabeth Brimage. While it is a free event, there is the option for participants to make a donation which will go towards a domestic violence crisis service.
The second initiative is the creation of an online directory for all of Canberra's women-run businesses. The self-nominated directory aims to both to help individuals find and support female business owners and allow businesses to foster a stronger community.
"There is very little data to show how women's micro-businesses are being affected by COVID-19 because a lot of the support that we have coming to support disruptions don't apply to micro-businesses so there are women who are falling through the cracks," Knopik says.
"Our solution to this is that we're building a directory with every woman-run business in Canberra. A cool fallout from that is that it will also show us for the first time how many women-run businesses Canberra has, which in my personal opinion is one of the factors that makes our ACT economic landscape so unique."
For more information on the CBR Gals Network's events of directory go to cbrgals.com.