What you need to know:
- Addressing a side event at the concluded the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Mr Gutteres noted the gender digital divide is fast becoming the new face of gender inequality.
- The UN boss highlighted his proposal for a global digital compact, whose one objective is to establish institutional mechanisms to protect women and girls online.
UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres has said technology is playing a key role in gender equality reversals.
Addressing a side event at the concluded the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), Mr Gutteres noted the gender digital divide is fast becoming the new face of gender inequality.
“The male chauvinist domination of new technologies is undoing decades of progress on women’s rights,” he said.
After more than 100 years of progress, “technology is now reversing that trend. It is concentrating power again more in the hands of men-to the detriment of all.”
To end this sad state of affairs, the UN boss highlighted his proposal for a global digital compact, whose one objective is to establish institutional mechanisms to protect women and girls online.
He said input from civil society will be crucial to the compact, which is set to be approved at the 2024 Summit for the Future.
Participants raised a wide range of issues related to technological advancement and growing global inequalities.
Women from different parts of the globe decried the glaring digital gender gap, the proliferation of gender-based violence (GBV) and the exclusion of women and girls from decision-making spaces.
Alison Brown, president of the International Alliance of Women, raised the idea of a neutral global internet to help protect human rights and promote women’s access to online spaces.
“One global free internet for everybody” is a key objective of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. There is also the importance of increased digital literacy and online governance: “We need to have some mechanism that creates guardrails that do not put into question freedom of expression but protect women from the kinds of vicious harassment and bullying that we are now seeing on the internet,” he said.
Eleanor Nwadinobi, president of the Medical Women’s International Association, tied the issue of violence against women and girls to the Covid-19 pandemic and wider global health concerns.
“The time has come for us to stop putting in silos the different issues that affect women and girls, including cyber violence,” Said Linda Wilson, a delegate of the Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
She emphasised the offline impacts of technology-facilitated GBV and asked the Secretary-General’s advice on how to make governments more accountable on the issue. Several youth leaders raised the question of youth representation within the United Nations.
“What will it take for the United Nations to look to [adolescent girls and young women] as decision-makers and policy developers?” asked Prabhleen Tuteja, Executive Director of the YP Foundation.
Moroccan gender activist Rania Harrara tied the problem directly to the issue of digital access.
“Meaningful youth engagement is about digital access, digital literacy and digital safety for all adolescent girls in all their diversity,” said Harrara.
With the advancement of technology, rights groups and gender experts have called for the enhancement of digital rights for women and girls. They have in particular been pushing for the designing of digital products and services that help the girls to meet their realities.
According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, the correlation between the gender equality index and the digital economy and society index shows that societies with greater equality between women and men also perform better in the area of the digital economy, which is vital for sustainable economic growth.
The 2020 Gender Equality Index shows the best performing countries in the digital economy and society are Finland, Sweden, Netherlands and Denmark.