Ms Sima Bahous, the United Nations (UN) Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women has called for equal access to the digital world for women and girls.
She emphasized that their creative contributions, knowledge, and perspectives could be instrumental in shaping the future of technology, transforming social norms, amplifying women's voices, pushing back against online harassment, and preventing algorithmic biases.
In addition, she underscored the need for distributing the benefits of digitalization to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.
Speaking in commemoration of the 2023 International Women's Day under the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” Ms Bahous stressed that women and girls worldwide must stand firm and resolute in the face of regressive gender norms and pushback against their rights.
She acknowledged the efforts of activists who are championing inclusion, an end to violence, and discrimination in education, at the workplace, and in legislation. She honoured and celebrated them while committing to their energy and drive.
Focusing on Sustainable Development Goal 5, which is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda, Ms Bahous highlighted its significance as a multiplier, a smart investment, and a prerequisite for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
She noted that technology and innovation were game-changers in this, and equal access to digital skills and services was particularly important for low- and middle-income countries, especially older women, migrants, women living in rural areas, and those with disabilities.
She emphasized the need to close the gaps in access and illiteracy in digital skills that affect these groups.
Ms Bahous drew attention to the unequal share of digital access and its benefits. According to current estimates, just over half (53.6%) of the global population is online, with men having more access than women.
Furthermore, the online space is not safe for women and girls. She called for the gender digital divide to be closed, and the online world detoxified for those entering it.
She called on governments, industry, and civil society to collaborate in closing the gap and in holding technology outcomes accountable.
She emphasized the need for strong and effective measures to tackle online violence, including safeguards, and expanded legal frameworks to address unregulated behaviours and standards in information and communication technologies.
Ms Bahous also stressed the need to provide necessary skills and learning, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects, which would pave the way for women and girls' leadership as technology creators, promoters, and decision-makers.
She stated that the vision of equality could be realized through safe and productive engagement, learning, and work, either online or offline.
Women and girls must have equal opportunities in every sphere of life, including education, the economy, society, and politics, without fear of violence or abuse.