Nari Jibon had the only woman-only cyber cafe in Dhaka with multiple computers, access to internet, printer, cameras (digital and video). The cafe provided a safe space where girls and women could learn how to really use english and develop real skills in computers, graphics, internet. I tried to structure the cyber cafe staff, fees, and use to move toward sustainability and income generation for Nari Jibon, but some staff undermined these efforts in the cyber cafe, other classes, and Nari Jibon operations. Further, NGO registration faced many obstacles such as expensive bribes to ease the registration process. Sadly, I had to to stop sending funds in the beginning of 2009 and health issues have precluded return visits to Bangladesh. When the staff could not find other donors or sponsors for the well-equipped computer lab/facilities, Nari Jibon moved to a residence, and closed its doors/classes in summer 2009.
I took this picture in summer 2008 in the cyber cafe...Kira Kariakin and I worked with the students to actually blog and take pictures (some teachers had made excuses for why the students weren't so eager to blog, but we found much interest in blogging). Many students set up their own blogs in english and bangla and continued that fall with visits/video from David Sasaki (then coordinator of Rising Voices) and his translation of Laura Vidal's article. You can read my 2008 post about the bloggers. Some of our students had the computer and photo skills to gain jobs registering-photographing for Bangladesh's id cards among other jobs. You can read more success stories-herstories on www.narijibon.blogspot.com or herstory on www.narijibon.com
Alas with our departures , loss of enouragement-support (except for visit from Rezwan Islam) and the search for donors in spring 2009, the women stopped using the internet, blogging, and facebook use. I continue to wonder how the students are doing these days. I've seen facebook use by only two of our formers students and no blogging. I want to also acknowledge the hard work by our computer teacher, Taslima, who moved on to computer programming jobs.
What do young women need to have access to and use computers, social media? Have mobiles replaced using computers? How and where do girls and young women gain real computer skills (not just a 'certficate' in Bangladesh and can use safe and secure cyber cafes?
I hope that such facilities have continued to evolve and emerge in Bangladesh and elsewhere. For example, please see the good works and blogging projects of Rising Voices!