2.2 Guiding principles for gender inclusive design

Two fundamental principles should guide the development of any community ICT center, in order to integrate the needs of women and girls: participatory community involvement and partnership development.

Principle I: Participatory community involvement

From the outset, actively engaging women and girls throughout the process of designing and establishing a community ICT center will ensure that its services, location and management reflect and respond to the needs of this constituency of users. Participatory involvement must provide a realistic and deliberate opportunity for women and girls to have their ideas considered equally for the design, implementation and operation of the center – and so promote a sense of ”ownership” or ”belonging.” Participatory methods may include individual or group interviews, focus groups, needs surveys, community outreach events, or broadcast communications (radio, posters, etc.). Ongoing dialogue with the community is essential to tailor the community ICT center to the needs of the community it serves.

Key community stakeholders should also be engaged to maximize community involvement. This would include teachers, school principals, faith leaders, business leaders, local government representatives and other local champions. The higher the level of engagement, the stronger the community ownership of the center will be. Additional stakeholders may include NGOs, farmers’ groups and industry.

Fact of Interest: a simple rural appraisal tool from India

In India, Change Initiatives put a Web-based information system to strategic use for the benefit of poor women of Baduria, a rural region in North-24 Parganas district in the Indian state of West Bengal. In 2002, concerned over the lack of penetration of ICTs among the rural poor, Change Initiatives found that absence of information and an information-sharing mechanism among poor women had thwarted their ability to fulfill basic needs, restricted their awareness and blocked their desire to break barriers that limit their participation in society.

The findings were the result of a survey among women’s NGOs and self help groups (SHGs) in rural regions of North-24 Parganas. For this project, dubbed “Nabanna,” Change Initiatives developed a novel participatory rural appraisal tool that allowed it to ask the candidates to maintain diaries on their lives. The diaries were an effective tool for needs assessment, in addition to being a vehicle for self-expression.

Staff, trainers and administers should come from the community. Being led by those who understand the community and the context (e.g. the community’s history, present needs, main activities, cultural context, etc.) will only improve impact and inclusion. In Cambodia, for instance, at the start of the iREACH project it was very difficult to attract women, let alone to encourage them to run in interim management committee elections. However, after having been involved with iREACH for some time, women became more comfortable with entering the committee elections, with a resulting strong competition for the female quota of seats.12

Principle II: Partnership development and building community linkages

The ”public face” of the community ICT center should be friendly to girls and women. The community ICT center should develop and maintain working relations with those agencies that work with and for women, and should provide a service to these agencies. The center’s administrators should be acquainted with how other institutions (e.g., schools, hospitals, health clinics) and organizations serving the community operate, so as to see how the ICT center can work in concert with these.

Building strong community linkages will increase the inclusiveness and outreach of the center. For example, if training is provided on basic computer skills and how to find a job, the center could then link with local employment organizations (both governmental and non-governmental) or the Chamber of Commerce.