The U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan just finished hosting "First Time Online for Women" week. Every day this week, we dedicated our Information Resource Center to hosting six sessions designed to teach women of all ages how to access and use the Internet. In a country where Internet penetration is hovering around one to two percent, and where many people have never used a computer, it was incredible to watch as women of all ages discovered the vast world available to them via the Internet.
Women who had never used a computer started with basic skills, such as how to use a mouse, and then moved onto Google searches, creating email accounts, and even setting up social media sites. The last half of each session gave time for the participants to surf the web and setup email. Many of the women were so excited that they came back the following day with their friends -- I even overheard one woman say to her friend, "[T]hese computers aren't as intimidating as I imagined."
The program was an overwhelming success and one of the highlights so far of the Embassy's Women's History Month programs. Although each session was set up for six participants each, by the second day every class was overfilled. Encouraged by the program's popularity, we plan to expand the program to our three American Corners and make the "First Time Online" classes a permanent part of the IRC's monthly programming.