PONToon Virtual Event: Exploring Women’s Empowerment and Economic Equality

Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset in use during PONToon project. Image credit, PONToon.

Paris Ali-Pilling reports on the upcoming PONToon project symposium, which will see Star and Crescent’s Editor-in-Chief, Sarah Cheverton, talk about S&C‘s Covid-19 Reporting Project.

On Tuesday 1st December, the University of Portsmouth will be hosting an online, international symposium to help women gain opportunities to break into the traditionally male-dominated technology sector.

This event is part of the PONToon project funded by the EU, and run by the University of Portsmouth, which uses 3D/virtual reality, games development, web/mobile apps, and social media to support, upskill and engage women to find employment opportunities.

The project is now nearing the end of a three-and-a-half-year schedule, working with women in the south of England and northern France. During this time, the PONToon team has been working to help train them in a variety of areas, including creative writing, basic IT skills, social media usage, filmmaking, and graphic design.

The PONToon team has worked with charities such as MIND and the British Red Cross as well as educational institutions, support and rehabilitation services, multicultural groups and creative enterprises. At the time of writing, they have delivered training to 1,462 women in France and the UK to support them into employment.

The Virtual Symposium aims to showcase the work of PONToon, and to highlight the opportunities and challenges facing women in the current landscape of the pandemic, and post Covid-19. The line-up includes talks, panel discussions, and practical workshops led by entrepreneurs, academics, activists and creatives.

Topics that will be covered on the day include:

  • Creative writing for wellbeing in the age of lockdown and home working;
  • How virtual reality (VR) can assist with confidence-building and jobseeking;
  • Digital tech enabling female community activism;
  • Women’s digital art in the new Covid-19 landscape and what that means for the future;
  • Tech training and entrepreneurship in the Global South;
  • Future scoping for the replicability of PONToon and related projects around the world.

PONToon Principal Investigator and keynote speaker at the symposium, Professor Joan Farrer, said, ‘Historically the technological sector has been seen as a male-dominated zone of employment. PONToon’s main goal is to create a digital toolkit that will help women to develop skills and be better prepared for employment.

‘We’re really excited to be hosting the symposium, which we hope will serve as a platform and showcase for PONToon as the project moves into its final stages.’

Star & Crescent’s co-founder and Editor-in-Chief, Sarah Cheverton, will be one of the speakers at the event. She will be sharing S&C‘s experiences of reporting on the impact of Covid-19 in the city, which focused on the experiences of marginalised groups in Portsmouth, including refugees and asylum seekers, migrants, people of colour, people with disabilities, women who are small business owners and the voluntary sector. The project was funded by the European Journalism Centre Emergency Covid-19 Support Fund, and the Public Interest News Foundation Emergency Fund for Covid-19.

Due to lockdown and Covid-19, the project was run entirely digitally, with S&C employing four local residents who had a direct relationship to the groups and organisations they were reporting on. Sarah will also be talking about the lack of representation – and/or negative representations – of marginalised groups in the mainstream media, and the challenges and opportunities currently facing small, independent publishers like S&C.

The event is free and you can book you space for it on Eventbrite. If you are unable to go virtually on the day, all footage will be available on the project’s website here.


Image credit, PONToon..

S&C is managed and operated by a small team who work on a voluntary and freelance basis to run our website, social media and engage with local residents and communities.

If you want to find out more about the challenges facing local independent news: visit the #SaveIndependentNews campaign website, get involved with S&C, donate, and help us spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.

And if you want to know more about us, click here.