Speakers Stress Digital Violence Must Be Addressed, Inclusion in Technology Strengthened, as Commission Continues Session on International Women’s Day
With the world celebrating International Women’s Day today, ministers and other high-level Government officials underscored the need to strengthen women and girls’ inclusion in innovation and technology, close the digital gender divide and address digital violence as the Commission on the Status of Women continued its sixty-seventh session.
The session, which runs from 6 to 17 March, is focused on the theme “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”. (For background, see Press Release WOM/2221.)
As the Commission continued its general discussion, speakers spotlighted their States’ strides and successes for women and girls, while others called for the stepped-up efforts, especially technology, digital accessibility and safety.
Manty Tarawalli, Minister for Gender and Children’s Affairs of Sierra Leone, shared that her country unanimously passed legislation in November 2022 which ensures at least 30 per cent representation of women in Government and decision-making positions within public and private organizations; equal pay for equal work; extended maternity leave; gender-responsive budgeting; and financial inclusion. More so, for the first time in that country’s history, women can now own and inherit land without any restriction, she announced.
In other firsts, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, recalled that his country in 1988 elected the first Muslim woman of any Muslim nation. It falls upon all women and men of the Muslim world to counter the violations of Islamic principles which diminish the role of women and to advance the cause of women’s empowerment, he emphasized, asserting that women’s rights are Islamic rights and that Islamic rights enshrine women’s rights. With equal access to and use of the Internet in the digital age being a critical enabler of inclusive sustainable development, he pointed out that the digital divide among and within countries continues to wide. One third of the global population is still offline, he added.
Nyeleti Brooke Mondlane, Minister for Gender, Child and Social Affairs of Mozambique, noted that her Government reached gender parity in 2022 — one of the few in the world to do so. However, innovation and technological changes are still great challenges for Mozambique and many other developing countries where accessibility is still limited. Digital inclusion can only be achieved by increasing investments in education, innovation and technical areas, she stressed, highlighting Maputo’s commitment to improving women’s access to science and technology.
Anette Trettebergstuen, Minister for Culture and Equality of Norway, cautioned that the world risks rolling back decades of progress if women continue to be left behind and continue to experience harassment, silencing and assaults, both online and offline. States must ensure that all girls and women can access digital technology and are taught the skills to use it. There must be more women across the board, not just because it is fair but because it is clever, she said, stressing that “keeping women out means missing out.”
Echoing this, Martin Moreti, Minister for Youth, Sport and Social Affairs of Kiribati, added that persistent gender gaps and women’s and girls’ underrepresentation in key areas must be addressed to fully harness technology’s potential to advance gender equality and their empowerment. In that regard, education and training programmes must notably be accessible and affordable for all. He then warned that online harassment, cyberbullying, stalking and other forms of online abuse could exacerbate gender gaps.
To reduce prejudices and address digital violence, Ayelén Mazzina, Minister for Women, Genders and Diversity of Argentina, speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, encouraged Governments to enact polices and legislation which reflect gender perspectives, diversity and intersectionality. They should also provide comprehensive sexual education, ensure sexual and reproductive rights, create fair and comprehensive care systems; and promote women’s participation and diversity in science and technology, she suggested.
Lisa Paus, Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth of Germany, urged Governments to increase the number of women working in digital professions; remove existing structural discrimination, including their marginalization by artificial intelligence learning systems and algorithms; and guarantee the right to data privacy for all. Girls should be able to develop an interest in technology as easily as boys from a young age and women should be able to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics as easily as men. She called on all to make this day the beginning of a new era — the era of digital feminism.
Also speaking today were ministers and senior officials of Rwanda, Denmark, Latvia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Gabon, Finland, Liberia, Italy, Armenia, Papua New Guinea, Kyrgyzstan, Cote d’Ivoire, Namibia, Peru, Gambia, Sweden, Niger, Guatemala, Kuwait, Zimbabwe, Bahamas, Indonesia, Botswana, Sudan, Qatar, Nicaragua, Suriname, Zambia and Venezuela, as well as an observer for the State of Palestine.
A youth delegate of Denmark also spoke.
The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 9 March, to continue its general discussion.
ANETTE TRETTEBERGSTUEN, Minister for Culture and Equality of Norway, pointing out that women’s inclusion in the work force is not only crucial for their economic independence but also necessary for a well-functioning economy, urged all to ensure that the digital divide does not leave women behind. The dire situation facing women living under authoritarian regimes is reinforced by the attacks on their rights and dignity online. If this harassment, silencing and assault against women online and offline goes on and if women continue to fall behind, the world risks rolling back decades of progress, she cautioned. Against this backdrop, States must ensure that all girls and women can access digital technology and are taught the skills to use it. There must be more female employees; more female entrepreneurs; and more female leaders in board rooms and executive groups in technology companies, not just because it is fair but because it is clever, she said, stressing that “keeping women out means missing out.” She then spotlighted the work of the Nordic countries [Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden] and the European Union on regulation to call on all States to stand united in ensuring safe, more inclusive digital societies.
JEANNETTE BAYISENGE, Minister for Gender and Family Promotion of Rwanda, said that in 2000, her country developed its first ever “ICT [information and communications technology] for Development Policy” with aspirations to build an inclusive digital economy. A regulatory framework and a robust digital infrastructure and mechanisms were then set up aimed at empowering women and youth in information and communications technology through capacity building. In addition, Rwanda has developed a WEM-TECH Strategy (Women Empowerment through ICT) to address the gender digital divide. Citing other initiatives, she said the INNOVATE4Women Hackathon promotes digital innovations through development of meaningful technology solutions for women. The WeCode, a coding professional programme trains girls and women capable of producing technological solutions. The Buy from Women Platform is a digital platform connecting smallholder farmers to the agricultural supply and value chain. In the health system, rapid short messaging service and drones have been proven to reduce maternal and infant mortality. Through different multi-stakeholder partnerships, such as the Generation Equality Forum, her Government works to ensure that related challenges are jointly and comprehensively addressed.
NYELETI BROOKE MONDLANE, Minister for Gender, Child and Social Affairs of Mozambique, associating herself with the African Group, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, shared that in April 2022, her country reached gender parity in its Government, one of the few in the world to do so. While innovation and technological changes are still great challenges in many developing countries, including hers where accessibility is still limited, her Government is committed to improving women’s access to science and technology. It is overcoming historical and sociocultural imbalances regarding education; increased access to financial digital transactions particularly for women and girls and people living in vulnerability in rural areas; and has implemented various legal instruments which have improved women’s productivity and income generation capacities. Mozambique has also increased the use of renewable energies — including electric power — for women and girls in rural areas. Digital inclusion can only be achieved by increasing investments in education, innovation and technical areas, she emphasized, pledging her country’s continued investment in the empowerment of women and girls.
MARIE BJERRE, Minister for Digital Governance and Gender Equality of Denmark, highlighted the consequences of illegal and unsafe abortions. Material maternal death, haemorrhage, infections, physical and mental health complications, social stigma, shame and financial burdens for women, their communities and their health systems are the consequence of illegal and unsafe abortions. Noting that millions of women face significant health complications or die every year as a result of those illegal procedures, she stressed: “No country or Government should restrict a woman’s bodily autonomy of her free choice.” More so, legal restrictions on abortion do not result in fewer abortions. Restricting abortions does not stop them, she pointed out. It just makes it less safe. Exactly 50 years ago, the Danish Parliament ensured by law the Danish women’s right to get an abortion. Since then, the number of abortions has not been on the rise, but on the contrary has fallen by almost 50 per cent. Unwanted pregnancies are prevented through access to modern contraceptives and comprehensive sexuality education. Governments owe it to all the women of the world to be able to shape their own life. Gender equality is not just words; it is life and death, she said.
SIGNE GERTZ, youth delegate from Denmark, said the youth’s fear of the environment online stops their participation as digital citizens. Young women experience grooming and online sexual crime, while girls are held back from developing digital literacy. Noting the opportunities presented by technology to connect and engage, she said it is a double-edged sword. When the rights of women and girls are not respected online, the underlying structural problems driving gender biases are amplified, their opportunities limited, and room for engagement inaccessible, becoming spaces for exploitation. “We will not accept that to be the truth for our generation!”
EVIKA SILIŅA, Minister for Welfare for Latvia, speaking via a pre-recorded video statement and aligning herself with the European Union, urged all to create a world where women and girls can fully participate in and benefit from the digital economy. Education is key for building a safe and inclusive future for them, she stressed, spotlighting her Government’s efforts which included ensuring access to the internet, empowering girls to follow their interests and reducing gender-based stereotypes. To bridge the digital gender divide, Latvia has also prioritized the development of digital skills. Moreover, flexible working arrangements are vital for enabling women to achieve a better work-life balance, providing them with more opportunities to participate in the labour market. In that regard, the private sector can be a game changer in promoting more inclusive environments. Men and boys also have an essential responsibility to advance gender equality by being allies and supporting women’s active participation in ICT and science, technology, engineering and mathematics, she added. She then reaffirmed her Government’s support for Ukraine.
TARIQ AHMAD, Minister for State for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and United Nations, and Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict of the United Kingdom, said that his country, as it did one year ago today, condemns the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. Spotlighting the alarming increase in reports of all forms of gender-based violence perpetrated by Russian troops, he said his country will ensure that perpetrators of war crimes, including sexual violence, will be brought to justice. In November 2022, the United Kingdom welcomed Governments from around the world, as well as civil society leaders and survivors to the Preventing Sexual Violence Conflict Initiative Conference in London, where they were joined by the First Lady of Ukraine. Today, marking International Women’s Day, it has launched the first Preventing Sexual Violence international alliance alongside 12 other Member States. This initiative should maintain the momentum, focus and coordination on global action needed to rid the world of the most heinous crimes, he said, adding that its ambitious programme of work includes an online safety bill to protect people online, especially women and girls.
JAN TINETTI, Minister for Women, Education, Children and Poverty Reduction of New Zealand, speaking by a pre-recorded video statement and aligning herself with the Pacific Islands Forum, the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls and the LGBTI Core Group, pointed out that women, girls and gender diverse people still experience disproportionate harm and marginalization. This is especially felt by those who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination such as indigenous, disabled, LGBTQIA+, Asian and ethnic and religious minority women and girls. As such, global efforts to eliminate gender-based violence and discrimination must focus on the rising misogyny and misinformation being expressed online. For its part, her Government has been working to ensure collective action; enhanced human rights protection online; and refreshed its education curriculum to include skills challenging mis- and dis-information. To share the benefits of technology equitably, there must be seats at the table for women and girls in all their diversity and the appropriate tools and funding to access them. Ensuring that technology, innovation and the online world is built and rebuilt with women and girls at the centre will deliver a more equitable and gender equal future for all, she emphasized.
ERLYNE ANTONELLA NDEMBET DAMAS, Minister for Justice and Keeper of the Seals, in charge of Human Rights for Gabon, said her country's ambitious public policy programme called Gabon-Equality is based on 33 measures to reduce gender inequalities and combat against violence and discrimination against women. The reform of its legislation helped repeal all rules that fostered gender inequality and were obstacles to the social and professional development of women. The penal legislation now includes heavier penalties for perpetrators of violence, discrimination and harassment against women. Last year a law was adopted to establish proactive mechanisms to guarantee women's rights, as well as to counter violence and discrimination. Those are tangible measures that can be measured and assessed with precise indicators. Among those measures and mechanisms is awareness-raising for all actors of society on the new laws, training of law enforcement, legal training and guidance for women victims of violence. A Gabonese programme for digital entrepreneurs empowers women by helping them to set up online shops, boosting their economic power and business know-how, she said, adding that it has trained 200 women.
THOMAS BLOMQVIST, Minister for Nordic Cooperation and Equality of Finland, associating himself with the European Union, reiterated his solidarity with Ukraine and urged all to continue supporting women in difficult situations around the world. As a co-leader of the Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation, his country is committed to bridging the gender gap in digital access and competencies; investing in feminist technologies and innovation; building inclusive innovation ecosystems; and preventing and eliminating online and tech-facilitated gender-based violence and discrimination. International cooperation must be enhanced to counter the increasing sexual and gender-based violence, harassment and hate speech occurring both offline and online, he said, underscoring that these pose a real threat to democracy by weakening women and girls’ participation in society. There must be gender-transformative solutions that tackle underlining discriminatory norms, attitudes, behaviours and social systems while transforming the power dynamics and structures that maintain gender inequalities. Sexual and reproductive health and rights also demand attention, especially since bodily autonomy is crucial to societal participation and decision-making. As technology and innovations know no borders, all must come together globally to make them gender transformative, he stressed.
BILAWAL BHUTTO ZARDARI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, said his country elected the first Muslim woman of any Muslim nation in 1988. His mother, Benazir Bhutto, represented Pakistan at the Fourth Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. It falls upon all women and men of the Muslim world to counter the violations of Islamic principles that diminish the role of women in Muslim society and to advance the cause of women’s empowerment so boldly espoused by his mother and many other Muslim leaders, he said. The “Women in Islam” conference convened by Pakistan today is an effort in that direction. Women’s rights are Islamic rights and Islamic rights enshrine women’s rights, he underscored. In the digital age, equal access to and use of the Internet is a critical enabler of sustainable and inclusive development. However, the digital divide among and within countries continues to widen, with one third of the global population still offline, he said, calling on the international community to harness the potential of technology in advancing its shared goals.
LISA PAUS, Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth of Germany, aligning herself with the European Union, stressed the need to link digitalization to gender equality; identify interactions between them; and recognize potential that the world can unlock if it shapes digitalization in a gender-transformative way. Spotlighting her Government’s efforts as an example, she urged States to increase the number of women working in digital professions. They must also remove existing structural discrimination — be it their access to digital technologies, exposure to sexual and gender-based violence without protection or their marginalization by artificial intelligence learning systems and algorithms — and guarantee the right to data privacy for all. Women should be granted loans based on acts and not stereotypes; girls should be able to develop an interest in technology as easily as boys from a young age; and women should be able to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics as easily as men, she stressed, urging all to make this day the beginning of a new era — the era of digital feminism.
WILLIAMETTA E. SAYDEE-TARR, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Liberia, associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the African Group, reported that her country has set up a 24/7 call centre for the reporting of sexual and gender-based violence cases. With the upcoming 2023 General and Presidential Elections, there is a transitioning of the voter registration processes from manual registration to a digital registration system, ensuring that women and girls above 18 years of age are registered and within time to enable their full participation. The Government is also working with relevant stakeholders, including political parties, women’s groups, civil society organizations and community-based organizations to see more women on the ballot paper. Further, her Government is working with and engaging men and boys, as well as community leaders, to change bad social norms. The Government also plans to increase support to build the capacity of grass-roots leaders and organizations to change attitudes and behaviour towards women, their value, roles and responsibilities, as well as increase women’s protection against online violence usually meted against women candidates during elections through social media platforms, she said.
EUGENIA ROCCELLA, Minister for the Family, Birth Rate and Equal Opportunities of Italy, aligning herself with the European Union, stressed that promoting policies and measures to remove the digital gender divide enhances the potential of women. For this same reason, there must be intergenerational digital education to enable women of all ages to benefit from all opportunities. She then spotlighted Italy’s national efforts, which include investments to promote education paths in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; equal opportunities in business and the job market; a national gender certification system; and a code of ethics for companies, which focuses mainly on the re-employment of women following maternity leave to reduce resignations. She also emphasized the importance of supporting an adequate work-life balance, especially since women should be free to make a maternity choice without having to renounce their life and career aspirations. The adoption of smart and flexible work measures — jointly with ICT and without reducing duties and social protections — can create an enabling environment to empower women, she noted. She further pointed out that digital technologies are particularly precious instruments for women living in countries with limited spaces for civil rights to open the windows of freedom.
NAREK MKRTCHYAN, Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of Armenia, said gender equality remains one of his country’s main priorities, as reflected in its implementation of a gender policy and action plan. Programmes aimed at women's economic empowerment are implemented across all regions of the country through cooperation with women resource centres. Such centres aim to strengthen women’s capacities in rural areas through skills and knowledge training and other support programmes. Armenia, as one of the leaders of the Action Coalition for Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality of the Generation Equality Forum, has been working to underpin international efforts for bridging the gender digital divide. In 2022, women’s participation in the information and communications technology sector in the country continued to grow. His Government is also implementing programs to combat domestic violence, he said, pointing to support centre services and shelter services for victims of domestic violence. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs emphasizes that women should not only be beneficiaries of various support programmes, but use their knowledge and skills for the development of the country and their economic empowerment.
AYELÉN MAZZINA, Minister for Women, Genders and Diversity of Argentina, speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, noted her Government’s commitment to reducing inequalities and ensuring comprehensive sex education based on diversity. To reduce prejudices by having more women, girls and LGBTI people learning, growing, working and accessing technologies and science, the digital divide must be closed, she said, pointing to its related impacts on health and employment. Digital violence — which is always intimately linked to symbolic and media violence — must also be addressed, especially considering the worrying increase in harassment and attempts to silence women and LGBTI individuals participating in politics. Against this backdrop, Governments must undertake public policies and legislation that reflect gender perspectives, diversity and intersectionality; provide comprehensive sexual education; ensure sexual and reproductive rights; create fair and comprehensive care systems; and promote women’s participation and diversity in science and technology, while strengthening both the State and activism.
JASON PETER, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Religion of Papua New Guinea, said his country’s fourth Medium Term Development Plan 2023 to 2027 prioritizes 12 strategic areas for its sustainable development. Also set in place was the Digital Transformation Policy in August 2020, the Digital Government Act 2022 and the 2023 to 2027 Digital Government Plan. These strategic frameworks seek to completely digitize and automate all Government systems and processes, while extending access of telecommunication coverage to reach 90 per cent of the population, including women and girls, who remain largely in rural areas. Gender equality and empowerment remain a core pillar and priority under the Constitution, laws, policies and strategic plans and under the country’s international obligations, particularly the Beijing Platform for Action and core human rights treaties. He underlined his Government’s commitment to ensure that the information and communications technology environment is conducive for women and girls and that they have sufficient opportunity to use their talents to harness the benefits that flow from ICT and the digital sector, such as quality education, affordable and accessible healthcare services and financial inclusion.
Ms. POLOTOVA (Kyrgyzstan) said her Government is in the process of digitalizing its economy, Government services, educational system and social sector. It is firmly committed to developing a green and digital economy and dedicated to removing the obstacles that create a digital divide. Committed to promoting gender equality, it further has plans in its National Development Strategy 2040. Best practices in digital technology should be promoted to improve women’s position in the field and ensure they have greater access to labour markets, along with creative solutions for women with disabilities. This will create equal opportunities. It is important to develop the digital capabilities and skills of women in mountainous regions. The Government is determined to work with the international community so no one is left behind, she said.
NASSÉNÉBA TOURE, Minister for Women, Family and Children of Côte d'Ivoire, said that in March 2019 her country ratified the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime and established in 2011 a platform to combat cybercrime. These tools foster the development of technological innovation for the benefit of women in a safe cyberspace and supports the deployment of its National Digital Development Strategy. With $3.2 billion dollars in funding, its goal is to make Côte d'Ivoire a hub for technological innovation in Africa. In that regard, 7,000 kilometres of fibre optic cable have been installed, allowing 3,000 cyber centres to be built for the benefit of those urban and rural communities. Thus, this will increase women internet users to 46 per cent. In addition, as part of its economic and social transformation and State modernization and through massive investments, the country uses e-administration, e-banking, e-trade, e-education and e-health as part of its national development plan. With the support of the United Nations, the project, "Right to Inclusive Education" the illiteracy rate has gone from 51 per cent to 40 per cent among women, while employment among young women in digital careers has increased owing to digital labs throughout the country, she said.
DOREEN SIOKA, Minister for Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare of Namibia, said her country continued to promote gender equality, empowerment of women and girls, marginalized communities and persons with disabilities through enabling access to ICT. Noting that Namibia has established various legal frameworks aimed at addressing gender-based violence and violence against children through the use of such technology, she said women and girls still face gender stereotypes and technology-facilitated violence. She went on to say that more can be done to engage women in various levels of decision-making, including in the ICT field from the beginning of related projects to their monitoring and evaluation. Highlighting a steady increase in women’s representation and access to ICT at regional and constituency level in all 14 political regions of the country, she called for strengthening measures to address cyberbullying.
NANCY ROSALINA TOLENTINO GAMARRA, Minister for Women and Vulnerable Populations of Peru, noting that only 63 per cent of women globally have access to the Internet, spotlighted her Government’s efforts to facilitate access by providing free Wi-Fi, expanding access to devices and implementing broadband projects in nine regions. In ensuring an environment of equality free of discrimination, it has also formed a committee for women, with the aim of designing and proposing mechanisms to promote women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Moreover, the Government has developed a science and technology guide for women; offered capacity-building training programmes for them; and enacted campaigns to recognize their creativity, innovation and scientific as well as technological contributions. However, the risks of technological transformation — notably harassment, bullying and human trafficking — must be assessed and addressed, she underscored, offering Peru’s national experience in that regard as an example. She then reaffirmed her commitment to closing gender gaps by eradicating all forms of violence and prioritizing digital education for girls and women.
FATOU KINTEH, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Welfare of Gambia, associating herself with the African Group, said her Ministry, along with the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and the Ministry of Information, is aiming to achieve an all-inclusive digital nation and strengthening women’s capabilities in information and communications technology and innovation. As well, the ICT4D Master Plan has a dedicated strategy on youth and women development through ICT, developing new products, services, processes and improving the existing gender gaps. Additionally, the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology has promoted the advancement of girls in tertiary and higher education, especially in the STEM subjects by developing relevant policy frameworks and programmes, she said, detailing several initiatives. Allocating 60 per cent of its awarded scholarships to students pursuing careers in science, technology and innovation, she said that young women and girls are given priority. In addition, the Government is enhancing micro- and small-scale enterprises through the Women Enterprise Fund and its digital financial app. The loan continues to provide access to low interest credit to women entrepreneurs.
PAULINA BRANDBERG, Minister for Gender Equality of Sweden, aligning herself with the European Union, pledged her Government’s continued support for Ukraine and expressed its commitment to hold the Russian Federation fully responsible. In noting that the Internet and technology are still thought of as a man’s world, she urged the Commission to ensure that technology will equally serve and benefit women and men as well as girls and boys, in all their diversity. As stopping gender-based violence should be a priority, all must protect and support the victims of men’s violence, honour-related violence, oppression, prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes, she continued, stressing that: “We can never accept that anyone is denied their rights to decide over their own lives and their bodies. The blame must always be put where it belongs — on the perpetrators.” For their part, boys and young men have a responsibility to combat all forms of gender-based violence. She called on the international community to intensify its efforts in that regard by standing up for the full enjoyment of human rights; promoting access to safe and legal abortions, contraceptives and comprehensive sexuality education; and undertaking a gender-transformative approach to innovation, technology and digital education.
AMINATA ZOURKALEINI, Minister for Women’s Promotion and Child’s Protection of Niger, associating herself with the African Group, said her thoughts go out to women and children displaced due to the insecurity in the Sahel region, which includes her country. Niger is implementing the Beijing Platform for Action. As well, in 2022, the Government adopted the Economic and Social Development Plan which is a mechanism for governance that is gender sensitive and allows the more specific needs of women and girls in all development sectors, including the digital sector, to be addressed. The National Strategy for Financial Inclusion has helped to facilitated access to diverse financial products and services for women. To combat gender-based violence, four multipurpose centres for the holistic care of victims have been established. Programmes and projects have allowed progress in the reduction of the child mortality rate from 73.3 to 53.6 between 2012 and 2021. The increased use of health centres by women and teenage girls allowing a reduction in maternal mortality from 652 to 520 deaths per 100,000 live births, she said, adding the Government’s other measures.
AMAL HAMAD, Minister for Women's Affairs of the State of Palestine, reiterating her Government’s commitment to human rights, spotlighted the suffering of its people. Among other things, the occupying force has set fire on civilian homes; terrorized and terrified innocent families; demolished Palestinian structures; constructed illegal settlements; hijacked its history while stealing its land and geographic; incarcerated almost 20 Palestinians on a daily basis; and denied prisoners health care. As a result of the blockade, the State of Palestine relied on entrepreneurship in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Noting that the Government is working on enacting legislation to establish innovation and excellence centres, she highlighted several of its initiatives on entrepreneurship which included a new ministry and global programmes. Through projects addressing young girls’ and women’s access and safety, it has encouraged them to participate in the labour market and engage in the cyber world. As a result, women’s participation has increased from 60 to 90 per cent, with women making up 28 per cent of the ICT sector.
ANA LETICIA AGUILAR THEISSEN, Presidential Secretary for Women’s Affairs of Guatemala, said that women in her country face a more encouraging environment regarding equality than 20 years ago. However, those opportunities have not reached all aspects of women or all equally. Her country is a multi-ethnic, pluricultural and multilingual country, where women, who constitute 51.5 per cent of population, are among the most vulnerable, and thus directly affected by structural problems that permeate their access to science, technology and livelihoods in general. The National Secretariat of Science and Technology established a strategy for the inclusion of women and indigenous peoples in science, technology and innovation, aiming to promote interinstitutional efforts; recognize ancestral knowledge that contributes to the development of Guatemala; promote greater participation of women in science; and encourage science and technology from a very early age. Reducing the technology divide has a direct correlation with the empowerment and the economic, physical and political autonomy of girls and women, as well as with the development of the country's economy and competitiveness.
MAI AL-BAGHLI, Minister for Social Affairs and Community Development and Minister of State for Women and Children's Affairs of Kuwait, urged all to work at the national, regional and international levels to guarantee the preservation of achievements for women while strengthening them. In that regard, Kuwait has pursued efforts to empower women and promote civic, economic and political rights as well as gender equality. Its Constitution notably embodies this empowerment and recognizes the role of women in development as well as the elimination of discrimination against women. Kuwait has also had women leaders who played an important role in the progress, development and preservation of peace; enacted several national laws to strengthen the role and empowerment of women; joined the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 1994; and has recently established the Ministry for Women and Children Affairs which reflects its political interest in strengthening its women and their rights. She then further spotlighted the achievements and contributions of Kuwait’s women to insist on their empowerment and their important role as a partner in the development of technological advances and innovations.
SITHEMBISO G.G. NYONI, Minister for Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development for Zimbabwe, said the Government is working towards bridging gender gaps in line with the Commission’s priority theme. The country’s National Development Strategy 1 places a priority on innovation and implementing ICT systems in both public and private sectors. The Government aims to increase the internet coverage rate from 59.1 per cent in 2020 to 75.4 per cent by 2025. The mobile penetration rate is expected to increase from the current 94.2 per cent to 100 per cent by 2025. In 2021, the Government began setting up Community Information Centres to expand technology to hard-to-reach communities. There are now more than 200 operational centres around the country offering training and free access to the communities. Forty more are expected to be commissioned in 2023. To enhance technology in education, Zimbabwe is providing schools with power supplies, solar panels, computing devices and internet connectivity targeting 2,700 schools. So far, 1,100 schools have benefitted from the project.
MANTY TARAWALLI, Minister for Gender and Children’s Affairs of Sierra Leone, announced that in November 2022, the Parliament unanimously passed into law the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act. The new legislation ensures least 30 per cent representation of women in Parliament and local councils; at least 30 per cent representation of women in the Cabinet, diplomatic missions, commissions, parastatals etc); at least 30 per cent representation of women in decision making positions in public and private organisation; equal pay for work with equal skills and competence; paid maternity leave extended from 12 to 14 weeks; financial inclusion for women and access to finance; the mainstreaming of gender in all sectoral policies, laws, strategies and action plans; promotion of gender responsive budgeting; and the establishment of Gender Units within all Ministries, Departments and Agencies. As a result, women, for the first time in the history of Sierra Leone, can now own and inherit land without any restriction. He also announced that women and girls pursuing STEM are now given scholarships and the Free Quality Education Policy backed by the Radical Inclusion Policy, has facilitated an unprecedented increase and retention of girls’ enrolment from various backgrounds.
OBEDIAH H. WILCHCOMBE, Minister for Social Services and Urban Development of the Bahamas, noted that the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Assembly are both women, 5 out of the 22 members of the Cabinet are women and the majority of Permanent Secretaries are women. As well, the first-ever Bahamian Rhodes Scholar is a woman. However, the COVID‑19 pandemic produced a crisis in education where, during the lockdowns, thousands of electronic devices were distributed to students for virtual classroom access. Yet, many students could not or did not successfully log on. The Ministry of Education has introduced a programme to evaluate learning loss per child. Further, a new curriculum has been launched including a new computer studies curriculum students in grades 7 through 9 are introduced to coding and the development of software. A new primary level mathematics curriculum has received its first update since 2010. Along with developments in the primary science curriculum, these innovations are based on gender equality and equal access to learning for all, he said, adding: “One positive outcome from the pandemic was that it was our first serious national attempt to put technology at the heart of learning.”
I GUSTI AYU BINTANG DARMAWATI, Minister for Women Empowerment and Child Protection of Indonesia, said education and digital literacy for women will ensure a better future for upcoming generations. Her Government wants to set a global standard for women’s empowerment and gender equality in the digital age. The digital gap must be closed with coordinated action to ensure women have full access to education and can actively engage in the evolving digital age. Because it is necessary to create a safe digital space for women and girls, Indonesia adopted the law on criminalization of sexual violence to strengthen the protection of women and children from sexual violence, including in the digital space, and help them to defend themselves. She also stressed that inclusive policies need to be developed to encourage women’s participation in technology development. Despite the growing numbers of women involved in STEM sectors, gender stereotypes persistently create become non-visible barriers for women.
TUMISO MACDONALD RAKGARE, Minister for Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture of Botswana, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Southern African Development Community, said women constitute more than 53 per cent of social media users in his country. Mobile service providers in Botswana have developed products that benefit women, including those in entrepreneurship, such as Flexi Plans, Electronic Wallet (E-Wallet), Talkmore and the Tshepiso (Pledge) programme. Despite such strides, however, the country still faces challenges in closing its digital gender gap, due to limited access to digital infrastructure, high cost of accessing digital technology, limited digital literacy and social and cultural barriers. Pledging to continue making improvements, he also noted the importance of ending cybercrime, pointing out that the Government established a dedicated committee to that end and has been working closely with the private sector and the police service’s own Cyber Crime Unit.
MARTIN MORETI, Minister for Youth, Sport and Social Affairs of Kiribati, said innovation and technology have the potential to transform lives, work and learning, while advancing gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. Fully harnessing technology’s potential to that end requires addressing persistent gender gaps where women and girls are underrepresented, such as in STEM, digital literacy, skills development and access to ICT infrastructure. It is imperative that education and training programs are accessible and affordable for all. Moreover, online harassment, cyberbullying, stalking and other forms of online abuse may also exacerbate gender gaps, he warned, outlining Kiribati’s progress in the digital arena. For example, it is working to set up and standardize systems to address gender-based violence and conducted a feasibility study on women’s economic empowerment. The Kiribati Vision Plan has helped improve people’s lives, including by introducing free education and expanding the country’s social protection policies, he said, drawing attention to the impact of such changes on women and families.
AHMED ADAM BAKHIET, Minister for Social Development of Sudan, noting his country’s efforts to empower women and guarantee their access to digital technologies, said it has adopted several policies to build a knowledge and innovation-based society. It aims to guarantee gender equality and undertake efforts to combat illiteracy and mitigate the effects of climate change. Two new universities and specialized higher education institutions on science and technology, which recently opened, are attracting an increasing number of women. Moreover, Sudanese women are holding higher-ranking positions in national institutions. Starting this year, Sudan appointed a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Chair for Women in the field of science and technology. The communications sector has been growing constantly over the past few years, with digital coverage reaching 80 per cent in densely populated areas. Sudan is striving to bolster public and private sector partnerships and work with civil society organizations in the country to engage in a digital transformation, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and bolster women’s participation.
MARIAM AL-MISNAD, Minister for Social Development and Family of Qatar, in a pre-recorded video message, associated herself with the Group of 77 and China. Noting that her country created a knowledge-based economy to reduce the digital divide and establish infrastructure for women, she said the economy is based on competitiveness in the area of innovation. Special importance is placed on education, with the aim of carrying out digital transformation and digitalization. This knowledge-based economy also promotes remote work; ensures justice and economic integration; and protects the right of men and women. Noting that Qatar was able to mobilize its material and human resources over the last decades, she said its Internet access exceeds 89 per cent. The country is also playing a leading role when it comes to Internet access and belongs to the top 10 world countries with digital coverage. These efforts are coupled with financing targeted to help women undertake innovative projects, she said, pointing out that 70 per cent of university graduates from engineering, science and technology programmes are women. Furthermore, women entrepreneurial projects in Qatar exceed $20 billion, she said.
JESSICA YAOSKA PADILLA LEIVA, Minister for Women of Nicaragua, speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, spotlighted her Government’s work on education, innovation and technology for the empowerment of women and girls. Nicaragua has designed national plan to combat poverty and promote human development; implemented laws to advance women’s rights; develops a model of equity and complementarity to promote human capital, technical assistance and technology transfers. As technical and technological training is a priority, there are 53 technical centres to strengthen women’s capacities to participate equally in the labour force and to efficiently use technologies. Among other things, the Government has notably reached 401,623 students — 65 per cent of whom were women — through technical education and professional training programmes; promoted the use of technology among 52,525 students; guaranteed broadband connectivity for indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants to broadband; provided free access to Wi-Fi through 219 parks; and built 790 mobile digital classrooms with digital access. It has also recently created a national office on science, knowledge, technology, research and innovation to assist businesses; provided capital for 46,991 women; and trained 428,712 women in ICT.
BRONTO SOMOHARDJO, Minister for Internal Affair of Suriname, in a pre-recorded message, detailed policy measures and initiatives towards advancement of women’s rights and reported on the implementation of various projects in partnership with the Government, United Nations agencies, and civil society organizations aimed at reducing gender inequality. Pointing out efforts to strengthen partnerships on national and regional levels to achieve gender equality and women empowerment, he said efforts are being taken to involve more women and girls in ICT. Such activities include training of educators at junior and junior secondary levels; provision of ICT modules in civil servants’ courses; and yearly commemoration of the International Day of Girls in ICT. Through the Basic Skills Education Programme, the country is increasing the potential of young people to become productive and responsible citizens, while also providing mentoring through the Women’s Rights Centre. He went on to say that in commemoration of International Women’s Day, activities to encourage women and girls to participate in ICT will be carried out.
DOREEN MWAMBA, Minister for Community Development and Social Services of Zambia, speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, associated herself with the African Group and Southern African Development Community. Noting that her country has an agenda to reduce gender inequality by 2030, she said Zambia has a ministry solely responsible for advancing, science, technology and innovation. She went on to say the ministry also undertakes policy and legislative review of its ICT policy in response to technological changes with the aim of adopting digitalization. Zambia has enacted cybersecurity and cybercrimes legislation to protect women, girls and children online, she said, noting that the country’s Information and Telecommunication Authority, Line Ministries and other agencies, including civil society organizations and the private sector, work to increase participation of women and girls in ICT. Additionally, the country uses technology to deliver social protection and implement empowerment programmes, while promoting computer studies as a key subject at secondary school level.
DIVA GUZMÁN, Minister for the People’s Power for Women and Gender Equality of Venezuela, speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, said Venezuelan women have achieved progress in science, technology and other areas despite the difficulties created by the unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States. Women’s resilience in the face of adversity has been demonstrated in the agricultural sciences, where women have worked in high-level research and identified indigenous seeds. Women in science and technology have designed educational software given to boys and girls. Women scientists played a part in the genomic sequencing of COVID-19. Women have broken through gender stereotypes and serve as models for girls. Women make up 50 per cent of researchers in all areas of knowledge and 52 per cent of scientific projects financed by the State. An example of women’s greater participation in public policy is the appointment of a woman as Vice President of Science, Technology, Education and Health, which brings together four ministries led by women, she said.