Ensuring every girl has safe and meaningful access to digital technology and ICTs
UN Women joins young women and girls globally who are putting a spotlight on access and safety in the digital world. We are inspired by young activists such as 18-year-old Ana Vizitiv from the Republic of Moldova, whose work promotes gender equality in ICT and STEM, and by role model and entrepreneur 20-year-old Yordanos Genanaw from Ethiopia, who participated in the African Girls Can Code initiative and is now developing a website and coaching others. These young women are using their skills to inspire other girls to pursue coding and basic IT skills, regardless of gender biases.
Girls’ access to, and engagement in ICTs and STEM is more crucial now than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic and multiple crises in countries across the world have created repeated challenges to young women and girls to learn, earn and connect. Those situations have accentuated the importance of technology as a solution for young women and girls to access essential services and information, communicate in school, keep in touch with friends and relatives and as a key aspect of their autonomy and future prospects.
Major inequalities and rooted negative stereotypes in this area persist, however. Women and girls use the internet 12.5 per cent less than men and boys, with some 46 per cent of boys accessing the internet on their phones, compared to 27 per cent of girls. A study by UN Women and ITU shows that girls access digital technology at a later age than boys, and that their use of this technology is more often curtailed by their parents. In addition, young women and girls are disproportionately exposed to online and ICT-facilitated violence and harassment, which can negatively impact their physical, mental and emotional well-being, and influence how they access and use digital tools for the rest of their lives.
Every girl has a right to be connected and safe, and to play her part in shaping a more equal, green and tech-driven future. In support of this, the UN Secretary-General has called for a global digital compact for improved digital cooperation.
Digital tools must be both accessible and safe to use for every girl. This is a key priority of the Generation Equality Action Coalition for Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality. The Coalition is bringing together governments, tech companies, the UN System, civil society organizations and young people for a more equal and diverse digital transformation, including by preventing and eliminating online gender-based violence.
The leadership and participation of young women and girls are at the heart of all these efforts. On International Girls in ICT Day, let us work together to prioritize girls’ access to technology, and to ensure meaningful connectivity in a safe and empowering environment.
Originally published on UN Women