Girlpower from Tajikistan to Costa Rica, helps narrow gender gap online
A marked global gender gap in terms of internet use continues to grow, but from Syria to Costa Rica, girls are increasingly pushing back to try and narrow the gap.
The gender gap for online users has widened from 11 per cent in 2013 to 17 per cent in 2019, and in the world’s least developed countries, it reaches 43 per cent.
This year, to mark International Day of the Girl Child, taking place on Monday, the UN is showing how the pandemic has accelerated the use of digital platforms, but also highlighting girls’ different realities when it comes to getting online.
Below, you can read stories from across the UN, featuring how five girls, from five different countries, are using technology to build a better future.
In his message for the day, the UN Secretary-General noted that these girls and all the others “are part of a digital generation.”
“It is our responsibility to join with them in all their diversity, amplify their power and solutions as digital change-makers, and address the obstacles they face in the digital space”, he said.
The path to girls’ digital equality is steep. In more than two thirds of all countries, girls make up only 15 per cent of graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths, known by the acronym, STEM.
In middle and higher-income countries, only 14 per cent of girls who were top performers in science or mathematics expected to work in science and engineering, compared to 26 per cent of top-performing boys.
“Girls have equal ability and immense potential in these fields, and when we empower them, everyone benefits,” Mr. Guterres said.
He recalled seeing this long before he began his political career, when he was a teacher in Lisbon, Portugal, and “witnessed the power of education to uplift individuals and communities.”
“That experience has guided my vision for gender equality in education ever since”, he explained. “Investments in closing the digital gender divide yield huge dividends for all.”
Tied to this, the UN has a new platform, called Generation Equality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation, where governments, civil society, the private sector and young leaders, are coming together to support girls’ digital access, skills and creativity.
“The United Nations is committed to working with girls so that this generation, whoever they are and whatever their circumstances, can fulfil their potential”, Mr. Guterres assured.
Snapshots from around the world
To celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child, the UN is paying tribute to the girls who use their digital technology skills as a key to open new doors. Here are some of their stories:
Empowering Syrian youth for better jobs
When Madeleine first came to Damascus four years ago to pursue her childhood dream of studying telecom engineering, she was full of ambition.
Although the shocking death of her father during her first academic year weighed down on her, she remembered how much he cherished her and her siblings’ education, and this made her work even harder.
Now, Madeleine is one of 60 adolescents participating in a UNICEF-supported course in computer networks maintenance.
Read the full story here.
In Sri Lanka, building girls’ confidence one coding challenge at a time
For girls stuck at home, NextGen Girls in Technology, a UNESCO-award-winning programme in Sri Lanka, helps girls discover their passion for digital skills, including the Internet of Things (IoT) and programming.
Since the pandemic started, courses in the programme have reached around 2,500 primary and secondary school level students, and over 500 teachers.
14-year-old Diyathma from Maharagma is one of them. She has won the hackathon coding competition for her age group.
Bridging the digital and employment divide in Cameroon
12-year-old Happi Tientcheu recently participated in the Connected African Girls’ Coding Camp. She and her group, Dangerous, developed Girls’ Orientation System, an online animation platform that helps girls and young women ICT career opportunities.
Overall, 70 inventions were produced at the coding bootcamp, which gathered around 8,500 young African girls and women from across the continent in Cameroon, as well as online.
Learn more about the coding bootcamp, here.
Breaking stereotypes in Tajikistan
Nurjan Tolibova, a 17-year-old programmer from Dushanbe, joined PeshSaf, a project under the Youth Innovation Laboratory (YIL), to improve her coding and tech skills Nujran.
Although admitting that gender stereotypes are still affecting women in the non-traditional fields, like STEM, Nurjan strongly encourages the girls all over the world to pursue their dreams.
“Do not be afraid to study tech, regardless of the general perception of how programmers should ‘look like’. If it’s something that you like, do it”, she says.
Learn more about the project, here.
Girls and the digital divide in Costa Rica
For Kattia (17), living in a remote area of Costa Rica means no internet connection. To access information and communication, she had to travel away from her home with her family’s mobile phone, to find adequate reception to conduct her schoolwork.
At the start of the 2021 year, as part of a UNICEF-supported project with the Government, Kattia received her first computer with internet access.
"This is the first computer we've ever had in my house. And it's a relief, it's super cool, because in addition to being super cute, it is tactile. I can use it to draw. It’s going to be very helpful, because after I graduate, I plan to study graphic design,” says Kattia. “Technology is essential for me.”
Learn more about UNICEF's work in Costa Rica here.