Why We Chose Access And Safety As The 2022 Girls In ICT Theme-Bogdan-Martin


Without safe, reliable online access for girls and women, the gender digital divide will persist, especially in the world’s least developed countries, says  DOREEN BOGDAN-MARTIN.

Megan Anduru knows first-hand how important it is for girls to be able to connect to the Internet, so they can learn the skills they need to succeed in a connected world.

A young Kenyan teenager herself, she is deeply engaged in online safety and access. She is an information and communication technology (ICT) prefect at her school, a position that allows her to encourage other students to become part of the digital revolution.

But Megan is also keenly aware of what going online is like for too many girls around the world. Female students are three times as likely to be bullied online than male students. And in a 2020 Plan International survey, 58 per cent of girls surveyed said they had experienced toxic levels of harassment.

“There is a group where we come together and share what we have gone through,” Megan said during Girls in ICT discussions hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) last year, when she was 17.

“Through that, I learned that so many people lack self-awareness… and don’t know their rights. As I kept engaging with students, I found out that most of them have gone through child exploitation both online and off.”

After two years of the global COVID-19 pandemic that shut down schools, we recognize that the gender digital divide starts with girls who are afraid to, or unable to, access the same digital learning opportunities as their better-connected peers. Without safe, reliable online access for girls and women, the gender digital divide will persist, especially in the world’s least developed countries.

That’s why today – International Women’s Day – we’re announcing Access and Safety as the 2022 Girls in ICT theme.

As we mark the International Day of Girls in ICT on April 28, ITU will host a panel discussion focused on this critical theme. Keep up with us on Facebook for timely details about this important event.

Girls in ICT is a global celebration. Our regional offices around the world will hold events over 24 hours, to highlight ways to help girls and young women safely gain digital access and skills and to encourage them to learn about technologies and pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) career paths.

Are you joining us for Girls in ICT celebrations in 2022?

Get inspired with Girls in ICT activity ideas from our downloadable toolkit.

Submit your event or activity to our Girls in ICT portal to help track the global movement and share the impact of your work.

2022 EQUALS in Tech Awards: Nominations now open

Women-led digital innovation is critical to address the challenges of today. For example, for the more than six million domestic workers in Brazil, getting online can be a safe refuge from theft, abuse, and legal problems. I was interested to see how the Laudelina app, created by the Themis Project, offers a centralized resource that includes an accessible labour rights guide, a benefits calculator, a list of nearby protection agencies, and a social network for domestic workers to connect with and support one another.

Laudelina was the winner in the Access Category at the 2020 EQUALS in Tech Awards, and the app team’s work remains vitally important today. Initiatives like this one help bring the benefits of digital technology to the girls and women who need it most.

The annual EQUALS in Tech Awards recognize initiatives like the Laudelina app, aimed at closing the gender gaps in internet access, digital skills, and leadership in the tech sector. With the 2022 awards coming later this year, the EQUALS Global Partnership is currently seeking nominations.

Each year, EQUALS in Tech Award winners become part of the EQUALS community, gaining points of contact for cooperation, support, and promotion of their initiatives.

ITU is proud to be a co-founding partner of EQUALS, and I was inspired by the winning initiatives last year from Argentina, Burundi, Spain, Tunisia, and Uganda.

We are looking for inspiring nominees in five categories: Access, Skills, Leadership in SME (small and medium-sized enterprise), Leadership in Tech, and Research.

Find out more about the awards and nominate an initiative today.

Be a cybersecurity changemaker!

Finally, I want to alert women in cybersecurity to an incredible opportunity. If you are a junior cybersecurity professional wishing to take your cybersecurity journey to the next level, or a young woman professional interested in learning more about the field, please ​apply for the ITU Women in Cyber (WiC) Mentorship Programme​.

We’re also recruiting mentors, so if you’re an established woman cybersecurity expert, we want to hear from you. The deadline for all applications is 31 March.

International Women’s Day… every day

ITU is committed to supporting girls and women every day. As we reflect on past challenges and successes, we join people all over the world in not just imagining, but planning for, a future where everyone can enjoy the benefits of safe, reliable connectivity – along with the skills and support to fully participate in the digital world.

  • Bogdan-Martin is Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU.

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