Ms Patricia Lusweti (Head of Support Services and Admin, ITU) said their mission is to connect the world. ICTs are the centre of our livelihoods these days. Mobile communications have spread across the world and have evolved most rapidly in the world. ITU is trying to bridge the digital divide through several initiatives. The Girls in ICT Day is celebrated on the 4th Thursday of April every year for women and girls to get an insight into the sector and career. With a membership of 193 countries and over 80 private partnerships, Lusweti said their partners will extend it to more women and girls. The next one will happen in Ethiopia.
There is also the EQUALS global partnership started in 2016 to foster collaboration among women and STEM education. The corresponding research group is also finding solutions to bridge gender inequality. A major challenge is not having accurate and country-specific data in many countries of the world.
Ms Princess Micheline Makou Djouma (President/Chief Executive/Officer OCAPROCE Internationale, Statut Consultatif auprès de l’ECOSOC des Nations Unies) spoke about the necessity to help women become independent through ICT-facilitated education. She noted that the issue had been worked on since the 2000s at ECOSOC, given women’s important role in the social fabric and economy. She mentioned the importance of women’s empowerment which can only be reached through education. However, limitations of access to education and reasons for abandoning schools must also be taken into consideration in the elaboration of these programmes.
Djouma explained that the OCAPROCE project tries to create mentorships for the development of the economy and social engineering through digital tools in order to empower the most vulnerable populations. They operate through traditional training methods which will enable people who did not finish school to complete their education and benefit from tailored training which is adapted to the different populations, needs and local realities. She invited donors to contribute to the project and announced that the organisation is building its first pilot centre in Cameroon.
The e-commerce week concluded recently and with many similar discussions about how ICT can empower women. With e-commerce, the opportunities are boundless. Ms Scarlett Fondeur Gil (Economic Affairs Officer, ICT Policy Section Science, Technology and Logistics – UNCTAD) introduced the ongoing initiative, e-Trade for Women Network that brings together technical assistance and boost e-commerce trade to empower women. It aims to enable strong access to policymaking dialogue, identify women leaders and support the next generation of women entrepreneurs. ET Network also plans to organise face to face meetings for e-commerce women leaders in developing countries and build a strong peer-to-peer network.
Prof. François Schmitt (Senior Representative of OMAEP, Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the United Nations) stated the importance of fighting discrimination by empowering women and ensuring their equal education and equal opportunity in information and technology. Schmitt also argued that discrimination against indigenous women in Canada, the US was rife. Even in a country like Canada, a number of women are forcefully sterilised and hence the documentation of such instances is essential. GA resolution 780/181 noted that there are still errors in Third Convention. However, Schmitt believes that what is needed is a plan of action to make sure the existing standards of the Third Convention are indeed followed more than just iterated. Implementation costs money and hence he thinks there should be a trust fund to facilitate these standards and advance the decade long battle against women's discrimination.
Along with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) the gender gap is aimed to be fulfilled by 2030 and with the collaborative work of all sectors in the multistakeholder model, this goal will hopefully be achieved.
By Mili Semlani, with assistance from Cedric Amon