Remarks by Executive Director at the CSW58 side event on ICTs and the internet as powerful means in advancing women’s rights and empowerment

Remarks by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the CSW58 side event “ICT and the internet as powerful means in advancing women’s rights and empowerment: possibilities and challenges, New York, 12 March 2014.

Date : 12 March 2014

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Thank you to the moderator for the opening remarks and the panelists and audience for joining the side event.

When women and girls have access to and are able to use ICTs, we can make progress in all areas being discussed at CSW58:

  • Women’s economic empowerment
  • Ending extreme poverty
  • Achieving the MDGs
  • Participation of women and girls in education, training and science and technology
  • Women’s equal access to full employment and decent work

UN Women places high importance on women and technology. We are exploring opportunities and partnerships to make a difference for women and girls around the world.

We need to close the technology gender gap because technology in many countries is still a domain associated with men and boys. We need to break gender stereotypes and make progress because today less than 15 per cent of managers and decision-makers in the ICT sector are female.

If the 21st century is to become the century of gender equality and women’s empowerment, women need equal rights and equal opportunities to shape the global knowledge society and make it responsive to women’s needs and empowerment.

ICTs drive change and participation – Entrepreneurs need ICTs to connect with their customers, sell products to new markets, forge business contacts and obtain market prices. It is predicted that 90 per cent of future jobs in the formal sector will require ICT skills.

A 2013 study on women’s representation in the ICT sector in Europe suggests that if as many women worked in the digital sector as men, the European GDP could increase by an estimated Euros 9 billion. However, just 30 per cent of people who work in this sector in Europe are women.

Many women entrepreneurs and workers without access to ICTs miss out on information, mobile banking, networking, political participation, and web-based and mobile-assisted learning tools and employment.

We want ‘smart’ societies as well as ‘wise’ societies in which rights and social justice is at the center. We want a knowledge society where ICT connection and application are at the disposal of every woman, man, girl and boy.

To get to a smart and wise knowledge society for all, we need to:

  1. Ensure that women and girls are able to access and utilize ICTs for education, employment and entrepreneurship.
  2. Increase the number of women and girls in the ICT sector and become producers of ICTs. This sector is not only growing in influence but also in number of jobs.
  3. Enable women to rise to positions of decision-making and leadership. 
  4. Facilitate women’s advocacy through ICT platforms.

UN Women, with the support of the Government of Canada, launched the Knowledge Gateway for Women’s Economic Empowerment last September.

You can check us out at empowerwomen.org. This global online community enables women to:

  1. Explore hundreds of resources and tools that can help them achieve their economic goals and advocate for their economic rights.
  2. Connect with other women entrepreneurs, farmers, workers, policy-makers, parliamentarians, professionals, researchers and advocates from more than 100 countries. 
  3. Discuss what governments, companies, civil society, communities and individuals can do to advance women’s economic empowerment.
  4. Learn new skills and gain insights on how to enter the job market, develop a career, run a business, and succeed professionally.

Empowerwomen.org is a concrete ICT tool to drive the women’s agenda in the economic sphere. It has already benefited over 40,000 women and men around the world.

Now UN Women, together with its partners, is exploring how this global community can expand to benefit women and girls without access to computers, tablets or smart phones, and internet access. We have already reached many women on World Radio Day through radio talks, and are also exploring internet cafes and libraries.
UN Women is also working to advance women’s ICT access and capacities through national, regional and global policy advocacy and partnerships.

Key initiatives of UN Women include:

  • Electronic payment systems in Papua New Guinea to improve safety for women and reduce corruption. 
  • A farmer information system in Kenya to provide women farmers with up-to-date critical information about prices and weather. 
  • UN Women is working with Cisco Systems and the Government of Jordan to promote women in the ICT sector through awareness-raising, training and mentoring.
  • Partnership with Intel for digital literacy training for young women in countries in Africa – She Will Connect

UN Women is also working closely with the organizations represented on this panel today and that we will hear more from them shortly on some of these initiatives.

Thank You.