2.3.4 Make the community center physically accessible to women and girls

Location is an important consideration when designing a community ICT center that integrates varying gender needs, and the social context must be measured carefully. Certain cultural beliefs may limit or prevent access to centers and issues such as personal safety and privacy must also be considered.

A community ICT center can be a standalone physical space or it can be integrated into other spaces that women and girls might frequent, such as schools, temples, mosques, pagodas or churches, health clinics, post offices, market centers and other government or ministry offices. The location of a community ICT center could prevent women from attending if it is near bars and nightclubs, or other places not considered suitable or safe for women. Other public places should also be actively considered -- always bearing in mind their accessibility to women within the cultural parameters of the society in which the center is being set up. It often takes a small group of women to break through initial barriers and, over time, to encourage others to join in.

Fact of Interest: Rural locations in post offices, Malaysia

The Rural Internet Centers (RICs) in Malaysia were set up by the Ministry of Energy, Communications and Multimedia (now Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture) in post office buildings. The post office is an ideal location, as it provides outreach to remote places, it is secure and it is a place frequently visited by the community as a one-stop center to pay utility bills and make many other transactions. Each RIC consists of between five and eight computers with Internet connectivity. The usage of computers for Internet browsing is free for the members; a minimal fee is charged for non-members.

Operating hours - Gaining an understanding of the time schedules, and the cultural and social context of the community, will help to establish a schedule that is gender-sensitive. In some cases, opening the center during women-only hours can also be an incentive to women’s participation. Operating hours need to consider when women and girls are more likely to access the center, and to make allowances for their time limitations. In many cultures, women have family and household obligations, leaving them with little spare time. The best course of action is to find out from a diverse sample of women when the ideal hours of use might be for different groups. Many of the examples that successfully engage women users allocate specific times for women-only sessions, or link the training directly to schools and colleges so that women have access during dedicated classroom time.