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Bridging the Digital Divide, Advancing Gender Equity

Posted 07 March 2023 in EMpower News   |   Share


In many ways, women and girls have been left behind by the digital revolution. And the gender divide starts early. A recent study by UN Women and the International Telecommunication Union found 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. And this technology is not always a positive thing: the researchers found that young women and girls are disproportionately exposed to online 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. As a result, they are less likely to have access to or pursue careers in science and technology.

But where young women and girls are given opportunities and access to technology and digital education—and safeguarding measures put in place—they are often able to improve not only their lives, but their families, and to contribute to economic growth and lead innovation in their communities.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day recognises how the persistent digital gender gap widens economic and social inequities and holds women and girls back. At the same time, the day is an occasion to celebrate those who are leading work in equalising access to technology and ensuring that women and girls can develop their digital literacy and hone their skills in fields like IT. 

Several of our partners are pioneering initiatives to do this:

Through its “Girls Go Tech” programme, the Women’s Foundation in Hong Kong has enabled over 2,500 secondary-school girls from underprivileged backgrounds, in more than 50 schools across Hong Kong, to participate in coding workshops, certified IT courses, and career guidance sessions. The girls have also visited companies and met those working in the field. The Girls Go Tech programme has successfully motivated students to continue in the fields of science and technology, and now 40% of their graduates go for a STEM-related university degree.

Chicas en Tecnología motivates, trains, and accompanies the next generation of women leaders in technology in Argentina. With EMpower’s support, they are enabling marginalised young women from Buenos Aires, between the ages of 17 and 23, to acquire the programming and life skills they need to secure employment or pursue higher education in the IT sector. “At Chicas en Tecnología, we believe that it is essential to bring women closer to the world of technology from an early age,” said Executive Director Paula Coto.

In India, long-time EMpower partner Feminist Approach to Technology has skilled and supported young women from under-resourced communities. Taking a holistic approach, they offer technical and life skills-building workshops, training in digital and legal literacy, and safe, exploratory learning and working spaces. At their Tech Centre, teen girls get their first exposure to computers and cameras, and pick up tech skills—all the while learning about their rights and gender justice. At the Jugaad Lab, girls can use, dismantle, reassemble, and experiment with technological tools and products, kindling their curiosity.

These organisations, and so many others, are showing the potential and power of technology when placed in the hands of girls and young women.

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