Women and Children
The Necessity of Technology for Female Empowerment
By Anna King | October 11, 2013
As the world observes the International Day of the Girl Child, the United Nations, civil society and private businesses appear increasingly devoted to harnessing new technology to empower women and girls. The recent Social Good Summit, for instance, which coincided with the 68th General Assembly, convened global leaders to discuss these very uses of technology, which can aid development and help bring about a more equitable world for all.
Several UN initiatives already focus on this area, including UN Women’s social mobilization platform “Say NO—UniTE to End Violence against Women.” In July, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said, “Technology has enormous power to highlight and record human rights violations and to raise awareness so that we change mindsets and deal with violence at its roots.” He cited the example of Malala Yousafzai’s recent speechat the UN. “Within minutes after she spoke, 24,000 unique accounts Tweeted about Malala Day….hundreds of millions of people received her message in real time….[This is] the power of technology to bring about positive change.”
The Next 15 Years
At the Summit, “The Next 15 Years: How Will Technology, Data and Digital Media Shape Our World?” panel included Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark; UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador and Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway; and Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever.
Clark said that on average, girls are dropping out of the educational system much earlier than boys worldwide, and that technology should be used to go beyond the Millennium Development Goal of primary education for all. “What is primary education for the rest of your life, if that’s all you’re going to get?” she asked.
A Female-led Global Economy
At “The Global Economy Will Be Run by Women” panel, Noa Gimelli, director of the Women’s Economic Opportunity Initiative at ExxonMobil, said that when women are empowered, the benefits can be seen everywhere, from their families to their country’s GDP. Exxon, she said, is currently working with the UN Foundation to produce a road map for women’s empowerment, identifying the best interventions to help them thrive. Providing women entrepreneurs access to mobile phones and bank savings accounts, for example, are two such interventions that may appear small but could have a profound social impact.
Kathryn Dickey Karol, the vice president of Caterpillar, Inc., said her company was working in partnership with the UN’s Girl Up program, helping women and girls in 120 countries to feel technologically and financially empowered. And Suzanne Fallender, director of the Global Girls and Women Initiative at Intel, claimed her organization was investing in technology and education to try to attain equal access to education for boys and girls. “On the technology side,” Fallender said, “we see enormous impact looking at what is the Internet gap for women.”
Women and the Digital Revolution
Another panel, “Breaking the Silence Forever: The Digital Revolution Powered by Women Worldwide,” featured Neema Namadu, an activist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Jensine Larsen, the CEO of World Pulse, a social media organization that connects women worldwide.
“Realizing that those women who are being introduced to the web are getting such a sense of transformation,” Larsen said. “They want to then share the information with the women in their community.” Many of them do so by training other women.
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