Africa: The power of girls from Tajikistan to Costa Rica helps close the online gender gap
A marked global gender gap in internet use continues to widen, but from Syria to Costa Rica, girls are retreating further and further to try to close the gap.
The gender gap for online users widened from 11% in 2013 to 17% in 2019, and in the world’s least developed countries it has reached 43%.
This year, to mark International Day of the Girl, which takes place on Monday, the UN shows how the pandemic has accelerated the use of digital platforms, but also highlights the different realities of girls when it comes to to log in.
Below you can read stories from across the UN, showing how five girls from five different countries are using technology to build a better future.
In his message of 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 them in all their diversity, to amplify their power and their solutions as actors of digital change and to overcome the obstacles they face in the digital space”, a- he declared.
The road to digital equality for girls is steep. In more than two-thirds of all countries, girls make up just 15% of graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known by the acronym STEM.
In middle- and high-income countries, only 14% of top-performing girls in science or math expected to work in science and engineering, compared to 26% of top-performing boys.
“Girls have equal abilities and immense potential in these areas, and when we empower them, everyone benefits,” Guterres said.
He remembers 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.”
“This experience has guided my vision for gender equality in education since then,” he explained. “Investments to bridge the digital gender divide pay huge dividends for everyone. “
Linked to this, the UN has a new platform, called the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation, where governments, civil society, the private sector and young leaders come together to support digital access, the skills and creativity of girls.
“The United Nations is committed to working with girls so that this generation, whatever they are and whatever their circumstances, can reach their potential,” said Guterres.
Snapshots from around the world
To celebrate International Day of the Girl, the UN honors girls who use their digital technology skills as a key to opening new doors. Here are some of their stories:
Empowering young Syrians for better jobs
When Madeleine arrived in Damascus four years ago to pursue her childhood dream of studying telecommunications engineering, she was full of ambition.
Although the shocking death of her father in her first year of school weighed on her, she remembered how much he cherished her and her siblings’ education, which forced her to work even harder.
Today, Madeleine is one of 60 adolescent girls participating in a UNICEF-supported course on computer network 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 program in Sri Lanka, helps girls discover their passion for digital skills, including the Internet of Things (IoT) and programming.
Since the start of the pandemic, the program’s classes have reached approximately 2,500 elementary and secondary students and more than 500 teachers.
Diyathma, 14, from Maharagma is one of them. She won the hackathon coding competition for her age group.
Bridging the digital and employment divide in Cameroon
12-year-old Happi Tientcheu recently attended the African Girls Connected Coding Camp. She and her group, Dangerous, have developed Girls’ Orientation System, an online animation platform that helps girls and young women find career opportunities in ICT.
A total of 70 inventions were produced during the coding bootcamp, which brought together 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 Youth Innovation Laboratory (YIL) project, to improve her coding skills and Nujran technology.
While admitting that gender stereotypes still affect women in non-traditional fields, like STEM, Nurjan strongly encourages girls around the world to pursue their dreams.
“Don’t be afraid to study technology, whatever the general perception of what programmers should ‘look like’. If it’s something 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 part of Costa Rica means no internet connection. To access information and communication, she had to leave home with her family’s mobile phone, in order to find a suitable home to do her homework.
In early 2021, as part of a UNICEF-supported project with the government, Kattia received her first computer with internet access.
“It’s the first computer we’ve ever had in my house. And that’s a relief, it’s super cool, because besides being super cute, it’s tactile. I can use it to draw. It’s going to be very useful, because after I graduate I plan to study graphic design, ”says Kattia. “Technology is essential for me.