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HomeSpecial Report2023 IWD: Using digital technology to advance, develop women, girl-child

2023 IWD: Using digital technology to advance, develop women, girl-child

By Palma Ileye

To commemorate this year International Women Day, the world all around, the United Nations, UN, and Nigeria, has harped on the need for digital technology inclusion to aid advancement and development of women, girl-child and marginalized.

This is very crucial because of the rate at which technology is conquering the world with a large percentage women in it.

According to the Nigerian Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, bringing women and marginalized groups into technology will result in more creative solutions and has greater potential for innovations that meet women’s needs and promote gender equality.

The inclusion of women in digital technologies will mean well for the country and world at large, as their lack of inclusion, by contrast, comes with massive costs.

According to the UN Women 2022 Women’s Snap Short Report, women’s exclusion from the digital world has reduced $1 trillion from the gross domestic product of low- and middle-income countries in the last decade; loss that will grow to $1.5 trillion by 2025 without action. Reversing this trend according to the report will require tackling the problem of online violence, which 38 per cent of women had personally experienced.

A gender-responsive approach to innovation, technology and digital education can increase the awareness of women and girls regarding their rights and civic engagement. Advancements in digital technology offer immense opportunities to address development and humanitarian challenges, and to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Unfortunately, the opportunities of the digital revolution also present a risk of perpetuating existing patterns of gender inequality. Growing inequalities are becoming increasingly evident in the context of digital skills and access to technologies, with women being left behind as the result of this digital gender divide. The need for inclusive and transformative technology and digital education is therefore crucial for a sustainable future.

For the total development of women in the globe, on the 8th of March, annually, the International Women’s Day was set aside by the United Nations, UN, to celebrate the historical, cultural, and political achievements of women by organizations at all levels.

It also supports taking action against gender inequality around the world, as well as appreciating the efforts of women in the socio-economic development of the society. It is also a Day Organizations big and small comes together to show women just how valuable they are in today’s society.

In Nigeria, IWD calls for sober reflections and renewed commitment to take appropriate steps in providing relevant strategies to address areas of challenges and consolidate on the gains that will sustain the existing intellectual, political and socio-economic exploits of Nigerian women and girls.
And from the current crisis, women are confident that they will rise again stronger in unity; irrespective of tribe, creed and status, with technology as a unifying factor, Tallen stated.

At the commemorative Press briefing to usher in the activities of the 2023 edition of International Women’s Day, IWD, 2023 held at the premises of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs in Abuja, she revealed that the theme for the 2023 IWD: “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, aligns with the upcoming 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, CSW-67’s priority theme.

She therefore, called for gender-responsive approach to innovation, technology and digital education that can increase the awareness of women and girls regarding their rights and civic engagement to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 Agenda.

The Women Minister expressed unhappiness that despite many achievements, women and girls also remain under-represented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, STEM, fields which she saw as male-dominated. With only 35 per cent and just 3 per cent women and girls studying information and communication technology, requires a paradigm shift in educational reforms and a long-term commitment to remove barriers.

This she said directly reflects the discrimination faced by women and girls around the world.

Seeking strategies to tackle these discrimination, Tallen called on ICT based partners from Government and the Private sector to support the Ministry in developing a definitive agenda for progress towards women and girl’s full and equal participation and representation in STEM.

Adding that this will require bold, coordinated, multi-stakeholder action saying, “Together we can attain a future where scientific progress is gender-equal at its core, serving all, for the benefit of all and drawing on the talents of all.”

In the same vein concerning the areas of health for female folks, International Development Organisation, Sightsavers, has advocated access to health for all also noting that it was also celebrating the pioneering women who were fighting to make this happen, in commemoration of the 2023 International Women’s Day.

In a press release issued by Sightsavers, Communication Associate, Joy Tarbo, stated that why it was fighting for access to health care for all, millions of women across the world were unable to access the healthcare they need and participate fully in society saying that it has also called for all health services to be inclusive and accessible for women and girls, including those with disabilities

Director of Programme Operations at Sightsavers, Dr Joy Shu’aibu who oversees programmes to confront the barriers that stop women with disabilities getting access to the health, education, and employment opportunities they need which includes leading the charge to making sexual and reproductive health services accessible, an area where people with disabilities face harsh discrimination, said, “it is a fact globally that women in comparison to men, face barriers in terms of economy, in terms of health, in terms of access to education, and sources of livelihood. But we also note that women with disabilities will face much more barriers, because they’re the ones who are unlikely to get a good education, and because they cannot get a good education, they set out economically disadvantaged”.

Shu’aibu added that “because we have noted that is a priority, the things that Sightsavers is doing, especially under the Inclusive Futures programme, is first and foremost trying to mobilise women with disabilities so that they can have a voice and fight for themselves”

Country Director, Sightsavers Nigeria, Dr Sunday Isiyaku said: “Without action, women will continue to go blind in greater numbers than men and continue to have their contribution to education and employment curtailed.”

Sightsavers noted that there were many ways in which women were excluded from healthcare stating that, women with disabilities were three times more likely not to access the healthcare they need, compared to men without disabilities.

“Women are more likely to be blind or have visual impairment than men and have poorer access to eye care services. For example, women are up to four times as likely to develop advanced trachoma than men and are nearly twice as likely to be blinded by this excruciating disease,” the international development organisation noted.

Furthermore, Sightsavers added that women and girls with disabilities experience a higher risk of violence and abuse and continue to be neglected in sexual and reproductive health policies and programmes.

“Sightsavers works with partners in Nigeria to dismantle the barriers that prevent women and girls from accessing adequate health care and to promote the right to health for every individual, whilst challenging negative stereotypes.
We also campaign so women and girls can exercise their right to get an education and employment,” it explained.

Also, the UNFPA Country Representative, Uller Mueller said that women and girls, in all their diversities, have the fundamental right to live free from violence and to have agency over their bodies and lives, both offline and in virtual spaces.

Mueller stated that the digital divide was often portrayed as a matter of women’s and girls’ reluctance towards tech saying, “That is not the case. The exclusion of women and girls in technology is perpetuated through violence and discrimination. And it is shrinking their futures and deepening gender, economic and social inequalities.”

Adding that the cumulative impacts of this exclusion were enormous as an estimated 2.7 billion people were not connected to the Internet, and the majority of them were women and girls.

“Globally, 62 per cent of men use the Internet compared to 57 per cent of women.
Women and girls are shapers of an equal future. The more they are included in the creation of technology, the less vulnerable they will be and the more all of society will benefit. Whether the intention behind new technologies is good or bad, when poorly designed tech meets gender inequality, harm can follow. This can take the form of image-based abuse, sextortion, harassment, hate speech, cyberbullying and doxing.

“Data tells us that 97% of girls 11-16 years in Nigeria have experienced unwanted sexual approaches in chat rooms, social networking sites or emails.
89% of this group have been sent sexual images or content, 57% of women have had their videos or images online abused or misused.

“The pre-existing gender inequalities in Nigeria render online abuse particularly pervasive for women and girls who experience these incidents at much higher rates than their male counterparts, making the problem of technology-facilitated gender-based violence acutely gendered. Diverse perspectives are paramount to ensure the safety, usability and inclusivity of tools and products.

The UN Rep, added that the UNFPA was developing safety and ethics guidelines for practitioners designing technology for gender-based violence prevention and response. “And crucially, we are engaging technology companies to involve women in design processes from the outset.”

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