The theme of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2023 is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” in an effort to recognize and celebrate the women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education.
The purpose of IWD 2023 is to explore the impact of the digital gender gap on widening economic and social inequalities and to put the spotlight on the importance of protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and addressing online and ICT-facilitated gender-based violence.
Seeking to take part in the debate and increase the visibility of this important topic, the AU-EU D4D Hub organised an online brainstorming for its digital community in Africa and Europe to share their views on how the digital revolution can empower women and foster gender equality and inclusion.
Aligned with its mandate to foster multi-stakeholder collaboration in the digital field, the AU-EU D4D Hub asked in particular for ideas on how governments, civil society, academia and the private sector in Africa and Europe can work together to achieve gender equality in the digital age. Find the main recommendations below:
1. Design gender-responsive digital policies
Contributors called for policymakers in the digital field to pay attention to the unique needs of women and girls, valuing their perspectives and experiences, and intentionally considering them when designing, implementing, and measuring programmes and policies.
Particular emphasis was placed on gender-sensitive data collection, which means systematically including gender as a variable when collecting data on individuals. Such measure would support evidence-based decision-making that can represent the needs of women and girls.
In this sense, the role of academia was highlighted as instrumental to produce research on the influence of digital technologies on gender equality. “Academia can help by proposing evidence-based policies and programmes to promote gender equality in the digital realm,” said an anonymous contributor.
2. Promote access to technology and skills
Lack of access to technologies was identified as one of the major challenges for women to fully benefit from the digital transformation. Increasing connectivity in remote areas, building public digital centres, and making technology and Internet services more affordable were among the measures proposed to fix this issue.
“Owning a mobile phone, nowadays, and having access to the Internet can change lives,” said an anonymous contributor. “For women in developing countries, the Internet can be a gateway to educational opportunities and help them build their confidence, self-esteem and self-determination.”
We should also consider inclusiveness when designing digital services and technologies to ensure that women and girls can fully benefit from them. “We can help create localised, relevant content and deliver it through accessible user interfaces,” another anonymous contribution reads.
Participants also called for more investments in building digital skills among women and girls, so they can use digital technologies effectively. “Basic digital literacy initiatives can assist women and girls to use technology to improve their education, career possibilities, and overall well-being,” said Yao Amevi Amessinou Soussou from Benin. “Education and providing women with digital skills can be transformative,” added Meron Zenebe from Ethiopia.
3. Challenge gender preconceptions and cultural norms
“Dispelling gender stereotypes and cultural norms that hold girls back is critical in ensuring inclusivity and safety in the digital space,” said Edna Stella from Benin. “Mentoring, awareness-raising, and close family support could make a difference in bridging the digital gender gap,” she added.
This view was widely echoed by other contributors, who called for all digital stakeholders, and civil society in particular, to help raise awareness of the many cultural barriers that prevent women from accessing digital spaces.
Eden Tadesse from Ethiopia proposed giving more visibility to female leaders in the tech sector to promote role models and change our mindset. She also advocated for the normalisation of inclusive language in digital media to influence our perception of gender roles.
4. Fight cyberviolence against women and girls
Online violence affects women and girls disproportionately, causing psychological harm and deterring them from participating in digital spaces. In response, several good practices to protect the rights of women and girls were identified, including online harassment reporting mechanisms, abuse policies, moderation tools, and content takedown procedures.
Cybersecurity training and awareness campaigns are other tools that can protect women and girls from cybercrime and cyberbullying. Likewise, digital literacy programmes can help women and girls become more informed and engaged digital citizens.
“Overall, protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces requires a multi-faceted approach that includes policy and legal frameworks, social norms and behaviours, education and awareness, and supporting women’s empowerment and participation in digital spaces,” reads an anonymous contribution.
5. Bring more women into the technology sector
A strong emphasis was given to the importance of bringing more women into the technology sector – and as a first step, encouraging them to study Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
Many solutions were proposed, including mentoring programmes connecting young women with more experienced professionals, offering internships and traineeships, expanding opportunities for women in leadership positions, organising events and workshops designed to introduce girls and women to technology (e.g. hackathons and coding competitions), supporting women-led enterprises, and designing more inclusive workplaces.
“Organizations must attempt to improve the culture and policies of the technology sector to make it more inviting and inclusive of women,” said an anonymous contributor. “Advocating for diversity in the workplace, supporting policies that encourage work-life balance, and tackling concerns such as wage parity and discrimination are all examples of this”.
Find an overview of all contributions below:
The AU-EU D4D Hub supports African institutions to lay grounds for an inclusive and sustainable digital transformation. A flagship Team Europe project, it provides demand-driven technical assistance, facilitates knowledge-sharing activities, and coordinates dialogues between African and European stakeholders. Learn more about the project
Under the strategic guidance of the African Union Commission and the European Commission, the project contributes to operationalising the AU-EU digital cooperation agenda.
AU-EU D4D Hub implementing partners
The AU-EU D4D Hub project is co-financed by the European Union and is implemented by: