SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Increased Women’s, Girls’ Participation In Digital Technology Crucial To Economies, Global Sustainability, Speakers Tell Commission, As Session Continues

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The increased participation of women and girls in digital technology and innovation, and their engagement as students and professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, is crucial to economies around the world, as well as the global transition to sustainability, ministers and other Government officials emphasized today in the general discussion, as the Commission on the Status of Women continued its sixty-seventh session.

The session, which runs from 6 to 17 March, is focused on the theme “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”. 

Chair of the Working Group of the Human Rights Council on discrimination against women and girls Dorothy Estrada Tanck said girls and young women around the world play crucial roles as human rights defenders and agents of change.  Frequently excluded from formal decision-making processes, they tend to use alternative ways of engaging in public life, including online spaces.  Among the challenges they face are limited access to education, professional training and economic opportunities.  Digital gender-based violence and harassment, gender- and age-based discrimination, as well as ongoing conflicts, authoritarian regimes and climate change also impact their activism.

The adoption of a comprehensive human rights-based approach that is child rights-centred, gender-responsive and intersectional, is crucial to ensuring a sustainable environment for girls’ and young women’s activism, she emphasized.  The Commission, given its mandate, should genuinely involve women human rights defenders and be an accessible and safe space for developing concerted actions towards achieving gender equality, she said, urging the international community to work together to overcome the gender backlash and uphold the human rights of all women and girls across the globe.

As the Commission continued its general discussion, speakers spotlighted their national efforts to promote education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for women and girls.  Ministers from several small island developing States, including Tuvalu and Saint Lucia, drew attention to the climate crisis, while others stressed that the design and use of technology for climate action and gender equality must go hand in hand.

Minister for Woman and Children Development of India, Smriti Irani speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, said that about 123 million girls are enrolled in programmes that promote science and technology education in schools, while other initiatives seek to train rural women and those from marginalized segments of society to use mobile phones and other critical tools.  Unlike much of the world, her country enjoys near-parity in men and women’s engagement in STEM.  Outlining a variety of Government initiatives in that area, she cited an online campaign aimed at celebrating women who have carved out niches for themselves in science and technology — “STEM Stars”.

Minister for Justice and Public Order of Cyprus, Anna Koukkides-Procopiou also speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, said education and training of women in information technologies has been included as one of the main pillars of the Cyprus national action plan for equality between men and women.  More women in the digital sector could create an annual increase in the European Union’s gross domestic product (GDP) of €16 billion.  She called for reducing the existing gender digital divide, favouring female employment and entrepreneurship, and removing inequalities in the labour market to advance women’s professional prospects and their active participation in social life.

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Health of Australia, Malarndirri McCarthy in a similar vein, pointed out that if the proportion of women in the technology workforce in her country increased, the economy would grow by $1.8 billion a year.  While data and digital competencies are the fastest-emerging skills in the country, the proportion of women in STEM-qualified occupations is only 15 per cent.  To address this, the Government is investing in 1,000 digital traineeships in the Australian public service targeting women and First Nations people, she said.

Minister for State of the United Arab Emirates, Noura Al Kaabi said her country continues to empower women in technology and ensure equal opportunities.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, it launched “The Digital School” initiative — the first school that provides distance education in a smart and flexible format.  Women make up 55 per cent of the school’s students and 61 per cent of university students in STEM.  Spotlighting the Emirates Mars Mission, she said women make up 34 per cent of the Mission and 80 per cent of its entire science team.

Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation of Fiji, Lynda Tabuya voiced support for the development and use of technology and innovation in a climate sustainable way with a commitment to net-zero carbon emissions.  She reported that as Fiji positions itself in global outsourcing services and blue, green and circular economies, women make up 70 per cent of the estimated workforce of 5,000 people in that field.  The level of employment is projected to increase by 15,000 by 2026, with a similar proportion of women employees, as the country plans to recruit and train rural women.

However, Minister for People Empowerment and Elder Affairs of Barbados, Kirk Humphrey pointed out that it has been the world’s pursuit of technology and efficiency that has led to the climate crisis.  The world has weaponized technology, he said, urging all to feminize technology instead.  The international community must do more than just talk about climate and gender to address the impact of natural disasters on women and to involve women in the creation of digital technology.  “The climate crisis that we face and the digital divide that we face is compromising the hopes, aspirations and dreams of these young people,” he stressed.

Also speaking were ministers, senior officials and other representatives of Guyana, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mauritius, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jordan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Federated States of Micronesia, Oman, Trinidad and Tobago, Tonga, Lesotho, Croatia, Benin, Burundi, Angola, Chile, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Philippines, Poland, Colombia, Canada, Malta, Singapore, Dominican Republic (for the Council of Ministers of Women’s Affairs of Central America), Senegal, Spain, Uruguay, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Nauru, Greece, Timor-Leste, Russian Federation, Mexico, Belarus, Brunei Darussalam, Brazil, Nepal, United Republic of Tanzania, Cambodia, Belgium, China, El Salvador, Andorra, Cuba, Malaysia, Togo, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Marshall Islands and Israel.

An observer for the Holy See also spoke.

The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 10 March, to continue its work.

General Discussion

Minister for Human Services and Social Security of Guyana, Vindhya Persaud associating herself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said digital and online platforms are providing women with increased opportunities for advocacy and participation in public and political life.  “For women and girls to take that quantum leap and develop the requisite digital skills to avoid being left behind, they must have access to reliable, safe and affordable internet and devices,” she said, adding that bridging the digital gender gap requires evidence-based policymaking and targeted action by Governments.  Also critical is increasing the representation of women and girls at all levels in science, technology and innovation.  In Guyana, there is a deliberate strategy to improve Internet connectivity and introduce digital skills and technology in every classroom — including rural ones — she said, adding that the Women Investment and Innovation Network programme uses virtual platforms to impart technical vocational skills and business literacy.  Meanwhile, online tools are also being used to eliminate violence, promote safe online spaces and ensure access to justice for victims.

Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Public Service, Gender and Affirmative Action of Kenya, Aisha Jumwa Katana aligning herself with the Group of 77 “developing countries” and China and the African Group, spotlighted her country’s supportive policy frameworks on technological connectivity, safety, availability, affordability and usability.  Among other things, her Government has established a dedicated Ministry on Information, Communications and the Digital Economy; is tackling financial exclusion by expanding access to formal financial services and products that empower women and men economically; and has supported platforms to facilitate women-led businesses and commerce.  All Government services are now fully and easily available and accessible to men and women, she stressed.  In addition to putting in place an innovative plan to jump-start a self-supporting ecosystem to produce world-class research, technology products and industries, Kenya is exploring partnerships with technology companies in the region.

Minister for Solidarity, Humanitarian Action and National Reconciliation of Burkina Faso, Nandy Some Diallo said the switch to digital technologies was made unavoidable by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Her Government’s policies in the digital area promote the rights of women, she said, noting that women now account for a much larger population than previously of those involved in the technology sector.  The rate of access to the Internet among young girls has increased from 31 per cent in 2019 to over 50 per cent now.. Burkina Faso is committed to protecting the safety and rights of women and girls in the digital domain while preserving their right to information.  Ensuring access for all is a priority for her country, she said, adding that television and radio, alongside digital services, must also be accessible for all.

Minister for Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare of Malawi, Jean Muonaowauza Sendeza associated herself with the Southern African Development Community, Group of African States and Group of 77 and China.  Noting that digitalization in her country is hampered by structural challenges, including limited access to electricity, poor telecommunications infrastructure and low access to technology, she said only 20 per cent of people have Internet access.  The 2063 Malawi development agenda identifies science and technology as key factors for achieving sustainable development and reducing inequality, she said.  Noting that the Government places issues relating to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at the center of development, she said the National Commission on Science and Technology has been instituted to enhance these areas in the country.  The initiatives include the establishment of the Women in Science and Technology Network, which comprises women scientists, researchers and technologists from academia, the private sector, civil society and Government.  At the national level, the Constitution of Malawi upholds the principle of equal rights for men and women and prohibits any discrimination based on gender or marital status.  It also ensures that women and girls can participate in STEM and other digital technologies and innovations.

Minister for Woman and Children Development of India, Smriti Irani speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, said unlike much of the world, her country enjoys near-parity in men and women’s engagement in STEM.  Outlining a variety of Government initiatives in that area, she cited the “Digital India Programme”, national scholarship schemes and an online campaign aimed at celebrating women who have carved out niches for themselves in science and technology — “STEM Stars”. About 123 million girls are enrolled in programmes that promote science and technology education in schools, while other initiatives seek to train rural women and those from marginalized segments of society to use mobile phones and other critical tools.  India has also rectified various infrastructural barriers in line with market forces and now enjoys one of the lowest costs of digital connectivity in the world.  In that regard, she underlined the importance of public-private partnerships, including with companies that work in the cutting-edge fields of artificial intelligence and robotics.

Minister for Justice and Public Order of Cyprus, Anna Koukkides-Procopiou speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, said that, according to the European Commission, by 2050, some 500,000 new jobs are expected to be created in the technology sector.  However, current data on women’s participation in that area suggests they may not be able to take advantage of such opportunities, she lamented.  The presence of more women in the digital sector could create an annual increase in the European Union’s gross domestic product (GDP) of €16 billion.  Underscoring the need for digital transformation and new technologies to benefit professional prospects for women and their active participation in social life, she called for reducing the existing gender digital divide, favouring female employment and entrepreneurship, and removing inequalities in the labor market.  She went on to say that education and training of women in information technologies has been included as one of the main pillars of the Cyprus national action plan for equality between men and women 2019-2023.

Minister for  Gender Equality and Family Welfare of Mauritius, Kalpana Devi Koonjoo-Shah speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, said her country is pursuing efforts to ensure access and use of digital technologies for all, mostly in terms of affordability, digital literacy, privacy, security and ownership.  Noting that her ministry is the lead agency to oversee, coordinate, monitor and evaluate gender mainstreaming at the national level, she said it created a national gender policy to promote gender equality.  Pointing out that gender-based violence and abuse against children remain pertinent issues in Mauritius, she said the country’s Prime Minister chairs a high-level committee for the implementation and monitoring of the national strategy and action plan on the elimination of gender-based violence for 2020-2024.  To that effect, the Government has created an integrated support center with four parallel digital phone lines to a toll-free hotline; a mobile application for victims of gender-based violence, known as “LESPWAR”; a domestic violence information system; and a computerized child protection register.

Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation of Fiji, Lynda Tabuya, associating herself with the Pacific Island Forum, said she supports the development and use of technology and innovation in a climate sustainable way with a commitment to net-zero carbon emissions.  She went on to say that 71 per cent of Fijians are connected to the Internet; 80 per cent of women own a phone; and 75 per cent of women own a bank account, while only 11 per cent use Internet banking.  Fijian women are leveraging digital connectivity to advocate for social change and inclusion, she stressed.  As Fiji positions itself in global outsourcing services and blue, green and circular economies, where women have a potential to excel, she pointed out that, from the estimated workforce of 5,000 people in this field, 70 per cent are women.  The level of employment is projected to increase by 15,000 by 2026, with a similar proportion of women employees, as the country plans to recruit and train rural women.

Minister for People Empowerment and Elder Affairs of Barbados, Kirk Humphrey pointed out that it has been the world’s pursuit of technology and efficiency that has led to the climate crisis.  While the gender divide is manifested in technology, its root causes must notably be addressed.  The world has weaponized technology by designing algorithms that use women without recognizing their individual needs and targeting persons on the Internet, he said, urging all to feminize technology instead.  He then highlighted the need to do more than just talk about climate and gender, to address the impact of natural disasters on women and to involve women in the creation of digital technology.  “Our girls and our women are not just statistics, and they are not mere numbers,” he stressed, adding that “the climate crisis that we face and the digital divide that we face is compromising the hopes, aspirations and dreams of these young people”.

Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sevlid Hurtic said the ICT sector is one of the fastest-growing areas in his country, with vast opportunities and high pay.  The Government therefore considers ICT a chance to curb the economic gender imbalance and foster greater equality.  Outlining strides made under the country’s third Gender Action Plan — which places special emphasis on technology — he said the programme provided incentives for women’s start-ups in the technology sector, mentoring for women and girls and campaigns to reverse gender stereotypes, while also launching practical online tools to prepare women to enter the labour market.  Noting that results are still hard to measure, he nevertheless cited a noticeable trend in more women employed by the ICT sector, including as managers and business owners.  The rate of girls graduating from ICT-related university programmes increased by 10 per cent.  More work is needed to build on those achievements, he said, calling for a systematic approach across international organizations, industries, non-governmental groups and other actors.

Minister for Social Development of Jordan, Wafa Bani Mustafa spotlighted a comprehensive national review of progress made in implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action launched in April 2019, involving the participation of 170 experts from all sectors, which enabled her country to stay abreast of innovation and best practices in this regard.  Since then, her country has undertaken extensive reforms, most notably taking steps to modernize its political system in 2021, including by updating its election and parties’ law in a way that helps enhance the participation of women, youth, and persons with disabilities.  Despite experiencing formidable external shocks that depleted 44 per cent of its gross domestic product over the past decade, Jordan has also undertaken a number of measures to empower women, including the creation of working groups, culminating in a strategy to empower women economically, launched in January 2021, she said, acknowledging that, despite such measures and the large number of women graduates, their participation in the economy is below expectations.

Minister for Health, Social Welfare and Gender Affairs of Tuvalu, Isaia Vaipuna Taape associating himself with the Pacific Islands Forum, said in the last three years his country has faced the COVID‑19 pandemic, a significant drought and outbreaks of typhoid and dengue fever.  As part of efforts to build resilience, the Government is focused on supporting women’s economic empowerment, promoting their participation in decision-making and protecting women and girls against gender-based violence.  The National Strategy for Sustainable Development, known as the Te Kete, prioritizes access to affordable and reliable telecommunication services as well as the development of an inclusive digital economy and a reliable, secure and safe online space.  Noting the devastating impact of climate change on the country’s land, people, culture and way of life — its very existence — he said the “Future Now” programme is working to create digital archives of Tuvalu’s history and cultural practices, preparing for the “worst-case scenario” of the country’s disappearance due to sea level rise.

Vice President of the Lao Women’s Union of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lavan Southisan aligning with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), stressed the vitality of innovation and digital technology for achieving an innovative, inclusive, resilient and sustainable economy; bridging the gender gap; and improving the well-being of all people at national and regional levels.  It is also essential to promote women’s roles in all sectors of socioeconomic development, including by increasing business ownership opportunities; creating an enabling environment for women’s micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises; and facilitating their access to digital education, skills development, finance, markets and capacity-building.  In this regard, enhancing education opportunities as well as professional and vocational training for women in the digital age is crucial more than ever to enable their access to information and ownership.  She then spotlighted her Government’s efforts in increasing children’s access to and participation in education.

Secretary of Health and Social Services of the Federated States of Micronesia, Marcus Samo associating himself with the Pacific Islands Forum, said that in his country and other small island States, the cost of access to technology is often prohibitive, and women and girls — especially those in outer islands — are disproportionately impacted.  “This is a challenge that we cannot overcome alone,” he said, calling for stepped‑up efforts by the private sector to reduce wholesale costs and increase access.  He outlined some progress made in increasing the share of women who use the Internet, including by supporting their incomes through e‑commerce, and listed a range of Government investments, from subsidies for addressing high energy costs in female-headed households to the roll-out of terrestrial fibre-optic infrastructure on outer islands, which are aimed at establishing the critical foundations for digital Government services and allow the online economy to help women thrive.  He also voiced concern that the cost of digital connection may be degradation of the natural environment, including the increased extraction of rare minerals, and called for efforts to address that challenge.

 Minister for the Public Service, Home Affairs, Labour and Gender Affairs of Saint Lucia, Virginia Albert-Poyotte associating herself with CARICOM, declared:  “Technology and innovation presents a new language and a gateway to power.”  Citing the need to level that playing field for women, she said Saint Lucia has made strides in education, providing thousands of children and teachers with digital devices to enhance learning.  Additionally, the Government has started providing Internet access to persons in vulnerable situations at a minimal cost.  Women, particularly those working in the agriculture and tourism sectors, benefit from learning opportunities and institutional changes that create a more enabling technological environment — especially in financing.  Digital finance tools have the potential to accelerate progress in women’s economic autonomy in rural communities, as well as for single mothers and women heads of household.  Against the backdrop of the climate crisis, the global community should consider supporting island nations like Saint Lucia — which are most vulnerable to its impacts — with technology and innovation that builds resilience in the face of disasters, she added.

Minister for Social Development of Oman, Laila Ahmed Awadh Al Najjar speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, said that, under her country’s Constitution, women and other vulnerable groups enjoy equal rights, and no discrimination is permitted.  Underscoring that the Government puts all its resources into promoting the well-being of its population, she said the country’s national legislation is aligned with international conventions on the protection of children, women and people with disabilities.  Further, Oman launched rural programmes to finance women-driven projects that provide microloans to increase the number of women entrepreneurs.  Pointing to national initiatives to promote training and education in the digital sphere, she also spotlighted a network of educational institutions for women to facilitate their entry into the STEM sector.  She also pointed out that the number of girls applying for scientific and technology majors in schools and universities has increased, and in recent years has overtaken the number of boys in the same category.

Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister for Gender and Child Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, Ayanna Webster-Roy associating herself with CARICOM, said equal rights of women and men are Constitutionally guaranteed in her country.  Trinidad and Tobago has made major strides in its Digital Transformation Strategy.  For example, its National Digital Skills Programme gives opportunities to women and girls seeking to develop online skills, and its Literacy and Numeracy Adaptive Learning System is a web-based platform that allows students to engage in interactive, self-paced learning.  A National Children’s Registry — the first of its kind in the region — was also recently launched, serving as a key tool to help track the development of Trinidad and Tobago’s children.  However, she noted that many challenges remain, and women and girls now also face emerging risks, such as cyberbullying, human trafficking and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, which all demand more vigilance.

Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates, Noura Al Kaabi said that, with the support of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the country continues to empower women in technology and ensure equal opportunities.  During the COVID‑19 pandemic, her country launched several educational initiatives and digital platforms, including “The Digital School” initiative — the first school that provides distance education in a smart and flexible format.  Noting that 55 per cent of the school’s students are women, she said 61 per cent of university students in STEM are also women.  Moreover, the United Arab Emirates launched the “Virtual Reality Technology” initiative to give everyone an opportunity to attend sessions of the Federal National Council, in which women’s representation has reached 50 per cent.  She went on to say that women made up 34 per cent of the Emirates Mars Mission and 80 per cent of the entire science team of the project.  Further, the leadership team engaged in preparing the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), hosted by the United Arab Emirates, comprised two thirds women.  The management team has over 50 per cent of women involved, she added.

Minister for Internal Affairs of Tonga, Lord Vaea noting that the target of the Tonga strategic development framework II 2015-2025 for universal Internet access aligns with the priority theme of the Conference, said the national ICT policy strives to maximize the power and versatility of global connectivity while preserving the country’s culture and values.  Noting that the country’s women’s empowerment and gender equality policy envisions gender equality by 2025, he lamented that it will not be realized.  He went on to say that all Governmental secondary schools have Internet access, but noted that connectivity is sporadic.  During the COVID‑19 pandemic, the country managed to ensure continued education via e‑learning, including for technical and vocational training, he added.  Moreover, women and girls are encouraged to study STEM-related fields and collaborate on new initiatives for women in renewable energy, including the “SIDS (small island developing States) DOCK island women open network”, led by the country’s Prime Minister.  Turning to challenges, he outlined the lack of systematic ICT training programmes in public schools and the absence of gender-disaggregated data on how new technologies intersect with gender relations and cultural transformations.

Minister for Gender, Youth, Sports, Arts, Culture and Social Development of Lesotho, Pitso Lesaoana speaking via a pre-recorded video statement and associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said full access to digital tools remains a challenge for rural communities due to a lack of infrastructure, affordability and education.  Nevertheless, many women in Lesotho are taking advantage of mobile trade, communication and money services.  The country’s Gender and Development Policy (2018-2030) seeks to tackle gender disparities and inequality, eliminate all forms of discrimination, prevent and eradicate gender-based violence, and reduce poverty from a gender-equality dimension.  The country has also recently enacted the “Harmonization of the Rights of Customary Widows with the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act” and the “Counter Domestic Violence Act”, both of which aim to tackle underlying challenges that emanate from social norms and address legal barriers that hinder the realization of women’s well-being.

State Secretary for Political Affairs of the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia, Frano Matusic associating himself with the European Union, said his country is a signatory State to the Declaration of Commitment on Women in Digital and implements multi-stakeholder activities to contribute to gender equality in information technology.  It conducts awareness-raising activities that enable young girls and women to hear first-hand experiences of women working in the information technology industry and encourage them to opt for occupations in STEM fields, he said, detailing its other efforts in that regard.  As part of its development cooperation, Croatia financially contributed to a project of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) targeting vulnerable women in Lebanon, including Syrian refugees.  High-quality and continuous information technology training for 110 women has increased their employment opportunities and enabled substantive change in their lives and those of their families.

Minister for Social Affairs and Microfinance of Benin, Veronique Tognifode, speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, noting her country’s actions to accelerate the access of women and girls to digital technology and digital jobs, said scholarships are granted for girls enrolled in the science and technology sector, particularly in the digital field.  The capacities of women-run startups in the digital sector and renewable energy are bolstered, she said, noting as well the setting up of a fibre-optic network throughout the territory for broadband access.  Moreover, resources for income-generating activities are provided, primarily through microcredit.  The use of e-commerce through digital platforms promotes women-led local industries.  However, given the risks posed by digital technology, such as cybercrime, online gender-based violence and violations of privacy, more innovative measures and actions are needed to eliminate barriers that prevent women from thriving and to speed up gender equality in the digital field.

Minister for National Solidarity, Social Affairs, Human Rights and Gender of Burundi, Imelde Sabushimike said that, in all countries — and in developing countries in particular — the share of women and girls working in and benefiting from digital technology is lower than that of men.  In addition, they are often relegated to so-called “secondary roles” in tech-related fields.  Outlining several Government efforts to reverse those trends, she said it is enacting laws to create a more supportive digital environment for women, expanding fibre-optic Internet broadband across all provinces of the country and providing mobile phones to thousands of women — including women community leaders, who can use those tools to sound alarms about potential gender-based violence.  The Government has also established a multimedia centre to raise awareness about women’s digital entrepreneurship opportunities and provide resources.  Notwithstanding those strides, she said women’s access to the digital world remains blocked by a lack of available infrastructure, as well as women’s low purchasing power and limited skills, appealing to development partners for more support.

Minister for Social Affairs, Family and Gender of Angola, Ana Paula Sacramento Neto associating herself with the African Group and the Southern African Development Community, said her Government is seeking a society of technological innovation.  It is expanding projects related to digital television, virtual classrooms, telecommunication infrastructure rehabilitation projects and rural communications, and it has launched an Angolan satellite.  In addition, it is working to promote the use of online technologies by women and girls and create a safe digital environment.  It implemented the Innovation and Technology Transfer Programme, which incorporates start-up innovation projects emerging from incubators and promotes the participation of women.  In the area of education, the Government has built more schools throughout the country to provide girls with access to free education and promote women and girls’ involvement in Engineering and Computer Science programmes.

 Minister for Women and Gender Equality of Chile, Antonia Orellana highlighted the importance of addressing gender-based violence, using new technologies.  In this regard, she cited data from the non-governmental organization Amaranta, part of her national delegation, which found that 73.8 per cent of women surveyed in Chile have been exposed to some type of online violence, aligning with global figures.  Regrettably, women and girls have fewer tools to recognize, prevent and address this violence in time, due to a lack of digital literacy and access to comprehensive sexuality education.  Against this backdrop, she underlined the need to develop broad security mechanisms, aligned with the Belém do Pará/Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.  To this end, she spotlighted a bill for the right of women to live a life free of violence, presented by the Government of Michelle Bachelet in 2017, which her Government has decided to relaunch.  She also highlighted the need to eradicate digital violence and the use of new technologies in the context of transnational organized crime, including the trafficking of girls, boys and teens.  Further, more must be done to tackle the serious problem of surrogacy, a concern highlighted by many, including the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, she said, appealing to countries to create laws to address such violence.

President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women of Lebanon, Claudine Aoun, noting the importance of the ICT sectors for her Government, said that her country is distinguished for having a high-skilled workforce.  However, there are inequalities between men and women in STEM, be they in education or employment.  Despite women excelling in university education, a majority of them end up specializing in education, health care and the humanities.  Turning to her country’s crisis, she underscored the need to update its institutions and life patterns and called for women’s equal participation in this modernization process.  As such, her Government prioritizes having women pioneers in all areas of education and employment; has provided digital literacy programmes and career counselling services; updated its laws on social security and labour to improve working conditions for women; and has worked to protect women and girls from violence, including cyberviolence.

Minister of State for Women’s Affairs of Libya, Huria K M Eltarmal noting that her country increased participation of women on the highest level of Government in various ministries, said it also enhanced women’s’ competitiveness and participation in decision-making at all levels.  In this regard, positions of women affairs officers have been set up in 14 ministries, with a large proportion of women engaged in senior positions, including in judiciary bodies.  She also noted that everything is being done to encourage women to stand for the national elections that will be soon held in Libya.  Sharing that the Government allocates subsidies to mothers, widows and older women, she said more than 1.5 million recipients have been added to the programme, including younger girls under 18 years of age, with the overall cost reaching 490 million dinars.  Moreover, subsidies are issued to women and exemptions are provided to married women to access health services and education, she said, adding that Libya is trying to promote harmony throughout its society.

Secretary-General of the Family Affairs Council of Saudi Arabia, Maimoonah Al Khalil said her country seeks to build a digital system that embraces and attracts women’s skills, adding that Saudi women have proven their capacity in this regard.  Her country’s journey to support women in science and technology started more than 30 years ago, in 1988, when it established the first information technology colleges, she said, adding that its first beneficiaries were women.  Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision focuses on enhancing women’s empowerment in all fields alongside men, strengthening the role of women in industry, innovation, science, technology engineering, arts and mathematics.  Citing various statistics, she highlighted that her country ranked second among 193 countries and first among the Arab, Middle East, Asia group in the cybersecurity index in the World Competitiveness Yearbook, published by the International Institute for Management Development.

Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Ghana, Hajia Lariba Zuweira Abudu said her country’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo — who is also an African Union Gender Champion — has created a system to train girls and young women in ICT.  Through the Ministry of Communication and Digitalization, Government has trained over 5,000 girls from the country’s five regions in cybersecurity and data privacy, she said, adding that 100,000 girls will benefit from this initiative.  Furthermore, Ghana is mainstreaming ICT studies, including coding, into its national curriculum.  The Ghana Code Club provides support and training to the process by establishing ICT clubs for junior high school students.  As well, girls from the Methodist Girls High School gained international recognition by winning the 2019 World Robofest Competition, she said, adding that Ghana Education Service, under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, has established and operationalized over five STEM new model schools.  To address gender inequality, her Ministry also engaged with traditional authorities, faith-based leaders and non-state actors, she said.

Under-Secretary for the Department of the Interior and Local Government of the Philippines, Margarita Gutierrez spotlighted her country’s initiatives to address key gender issues in the country, namely the unequal sharing of benefits from advancements in science, technology, innovation and ICT; the limited participation of women and girls in higher-level technical and leadership positions; and the increase in cybercrime during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Among other things, it has provided grants to encourage innovation; developed a program to anchor technology in basic education; developed 2,000 centres to promote digital literacy; and enacted landmark legislation.  She voiced her strong support for the Asia-Pacific region’s recommendations on ensuring meaningful connectivity; closing the digital gender divide; fostering inclusive education in the digital age; promoting women and girls’ participation and leadership in STEM education and careers; implementing policies for inclusive digitalization; and addressing virtual and non-virtual gender-based violence and discrimination.

Secretary of State, Ministry of Family and Social Policy and Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment of Poland, Anna Schmidt speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, emphasized the need to reduce gender inequalities and combat discrimination and violence against women and girls.  To this end, she spotlighted two newly adopted bills proposed by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy.  The first modifies the 2005 Law on combating domestic violence, broadening the definition to also encompass violent behaviour perpetrated with the use of information and communications technology, as well as extending the scope of application to ex-partners who do not live together.  The second law amends the Labour Code, guaranteeing parents and caretakers additional holidays and leaves, access to flexible forms of employment, including home office, as well as extra protection from dismissal, she said, adding that such incentives will protect women from new forms of online harassment and stalking.  In addition, Poland is taking steps to provide full Internet access and eliminate the digital gap experienced by older and rural populations.  She went on to stress the need to combat disinformation campaigns more proactively, pointing out that they have escalated alongside the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Vice Minister for Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, Laura Gil, stressing that the current level of progress is not enough to achieve gender equality, emphasized that this transformation must include girls, teenagers and women in all their diversity.  It is not enough to implement a gender-based approach or address consequences of inequalities, she continued.  Since root causes must be addressed, efforts of all fora must start with raising awareness.  Power, she explained, will come from building together and consolidating ideals where women are at the centre.  In that regard, extolling stories of women and recognizing their achievements is just the first step.  All must develop affirmative actions to open spaces for women and girls; propose specific actions to close the digital divide; and ensure safe, feminist digital environments.  “Any action which does not include a gender-based approach is doomed to failure,” she warned.

Minister for Women and Gender Equality of Canada, Marci Ien noted that, in many parts of the world, women and girls lack equal access to technology.  That is particularly true of women and girls with disabilities, indigenous women and marginalized women.  At the same time, the rise in online violence, hate speech and harassment has had a disproportionate and devastating impact on their safety and ability to participate in public discourse.  Canada continues to invest in technology and innovation in ways that reflect its diverse population, including through equal pay for equal work, provision of affordable and available childcare and support for women-owned businesses.  Canada’s international policy is a feminist and intersectional one, she said, noting that it is building strong partnerships with women’s rights organizations around the world.  The country is developing legislation to address online violence and employing indigenous-led approaches to tackle gender-based violence more broadly.  She went on to deliver brief remarks on behalf of First Nations Chief RoseAnne Archibald, a prominent Canadian indigenous leader.

Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms and Equality of Malta, Rebecca Buttigieg spotlighting that technology provides an enabling environment to facilitate and amplify gender-based violence, called on Member States to work together towards an intergovernmentally agreed definition to guide evidence-based policymaking.  Noting that apps, algorithms, and technology devices are the first line of defense for millions of women and girls vulnerable to gender-based violence online, she said it is critical to embed gender-responsive perspectives across innovation and technology ecosystems.  In this regard, she called on States to address the impunity that prevails in cases of gender-based violence, in particular femicide, and put women on the frontlines of policy creation and legislative processes.  As a Security Council member for 2023-2024, Malta continues to support quality public education programmes that promote digital and media literacy for women and girls, she added.  Underscoring that women and girls bring diversity to research and provide fresh perspectives to science and technology, she called for the promotion of STEM and digital subjects.

Minister of State, Ministry of Social and Family Development of Singapore, Xueling Sun outlining demographic statistics in her country, said its was ranked seventh in the world for gender equality in the latest United Nations Human Development Report.  Singapore has high digital connectivity and about 40 per cent of its technology professionals are women — well above the global average of 28 per cent.  The Government attracts and supports female talent in that sector through partnerships with the community, academia and industry, including though the Singapore Women in Tech movement, which provides mentoring and networking.  Turning to online risks and threats, she said the Government passed a new online safety act after extensive consultation with stakeholders, which took effect on 1 February and which will require social media services to minimize Singaporean users’ exposure to harmful content and empower users with tools to manage their own safety.  That law is complemented by the Protection from Harassment Act, which criminalises harassment and doxing, she added.

Introductory Statement

Chair of the Working Group of the Human Rights Council on discrimination against women and girls, Dorothy Estrada Tanck said its latest thematic report to the Human Rights Council on activism of young women and girls highlights the important contributions made by girls and young women from different regions and backgrounds to the promotion of gender equality and the advancement of human rights, along with the profound transformative potential of their actions.  Girls and young women around the world play crucial roles as human rights defenders and agents of change and are an integral part of the struggle for more democratic and fair societies.  Frequently excluded from formal decision-making processes, activist girls and young women tend to use alternative ways of engaging in public life and are increasingly using online spaces.

Access to education — especially at secondary and tertiary levels — professional training, productive resources and economic opportunities continue to be limited for many girls and young women, particularly those living in rural or precarious settings, she continued.  Digital gender-based violence and harassment add a further layer of challenges to their activism.  Most of the young women and girls consulted had experienced some form of targeted and gendered online abuse, including threatening messages, sexual harassment and the sharing of private images without their consent.  Moreover, girl activists face deep-rooted structural gender- and age-based discrimination, which is frequently exacerbated by other forms of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability, among others.  In addition, ongoing crises caused by conflict and displacement, authoritarian regimes, and climate change, among other factors, impact on possibilities to exert their activism.

The dignity and agency of all girls and young women must be recognized and actively supported and protected, while ensuring safeguards against threats, violence and reprisals, she stressed.  They should be duly informed about their human rights from the youngest age and empowered to be active participants in their own lives and in public affairs.  States and all stakeholders must take targeted measures to tackle the root causes of the numerous barriers faced by girls and young women.  The adoption of a comprehensive human rights-based approach that is child rights-centred, while being gender-responsive and intersectional, is crucial to ensuring a sustainable environment for girls’ and young women’s activism.  Access to quality education and school curricula that include teaching on human rights, promote understanding of the harmful impact of gendered social norms and discriminatory stereotypes, and support the development of critical thinking skills, personal empowerment and solidarity are essential.

“While promoting the closing of the gender digital divide, our attention should not be diverted from the very real physical violations taking place, like unacceptable bans on girls’ access to education or poisoning in girls’ schools,” she stressed.  The Commission — the only body within the United Nations which is exclusively devoted to women and girls — should genuinely involve women human rights defenders and be an accessible and safe space for developing concerted actions towards achieving gender equality.  “More than ever before, we must unite and support all efforts to preserve or construct the democratic space,” she said, urging States, the international community and all stakeholders to work together to overcome the gender backlash and to prioritize and continue to uphold the fundamental human rights of all women and girls across the globe.

General Discussion

Minister for Women of the Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Council of Ministers of Women’s Affairs of Central America, Mayra Jiménez expressed support for all rights of women and girls — including in the technological sphere — while spotlighting the need to bolster their role in its management.  The global digital transformation has altered the labour market, the way people communicate, how they execute citizenship, and how they produce knowledge.  The exclusion of women and girls from those arenas therefore constitutes a major obstacle to achieving gender equality.  Their participation in society and their enjoyment of human rights remains limited, due in large part to those digital gaps.  Meanwhile, new threats are emerging, as the digital age has made space for such forms of abuse as sexual slavery, human trafficking, violence and other crimes that originate online.

Citing significant advances in public policy mechanisms aimed at increasing women’s participation in STEM and ICTs, she nevertheless said those efforts have not yet produced the desired outcomes.  “Digital technologies must bring about inclusive growth and contribute to a structural change in societies,” leading to material equality between men and women, she stressed.  The Council of Ministers has been working through its various policies to step up women’s empowerment, improve their digital access, eliminate occupational segregation, facilitate STEM-based professional training and help women adapt to the demands of changing labour markets on an equal footing with men.  She also listed programmes aimed at supporting rural women, including by opening up new access to labour markets across the region.

Minister for Women, Family and Protection of Children of Senegal, Fatou Gueye Diane aligning with the African Group and Group of 77 and China, said that digital technology is a powerful economic lever, which women and girls must be able to access, adding that, however, a digital transformation can further exacerbate inequalities.  Spotlighting her country’s National Strategy for Digital Transformation 2020-2025, which promotes equal access to digital technologies for all, she said Senegal has also put in place a new law and strategy to promote measures to overcome the gender digital gap.  Funding has been provided to the digital ecosystem through public-private partnerships, she said, calling for efforts to be stepped up to integrate women in framing policies for technology and innovation.  Senegal is making efforts to promote the participation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics studies, thereby empowering them, she said, observing that their vulnerability goes hand in hand with their deficit in digital skills.

Minister for Equality of Spain, Irene Montero noting that feminism provides a response to the world’s crises through deep changes to economies and social structures while ensuring freedom from violence, underscored the harmful impacts of conflicts and crises on women.  Spain has notably responded to such crises by strengthening the protective nature of the State, ensuring professional wages, intervening on housing, increasing economic investments to combat machismo, facilitating reconciliation and taxing wealth.  While technological change can advance the rights of women, it can also be a source of new inequalities — especially on labour and territory — if it does not include a gender approach, she cautioned.  Among other things, she highlighted the need to deal with machismo and online violence, guarantee safety in cyberspace, address the digital gap for older and rural women, facilitate women’s participation in STEM, and ensure wealth redistribution.

President of the National Institute of Women of Uruguay, Mónica Bottero Tovagliare said her Government has created action strategies for 2020-2025 to ensure equal access for adolescents, women and girls to science and technology.  Uruguay needs to develop science and technology skills, she stressed, noting that the country’s gender equality will otherwise be affected.  Underscoring that 65 per cent of university graduates are women, she lamented that only 48 per cent of them are employed in science and technology.  In this regard, she spotlighted a lack of adolescents and women willing to study in these areas.  Noting that half of jobs will disappear by 2025, she said 75 per cent of future work will be related to STEM.  Uruguay has transformative tools to reduce the gender gap, she added, noting that these policies, including gender policy, are being improved during the current Administration.  Spotlighting the country’s high level of digital penetration in Latin America and the Caribbean, she said this tendency was relevant even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ministry for Women and Children Affairs of Bangladesh, Fazilatun Nessa Indira noting that the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, has prioritized gender equality and empowerment for all women, spotlighted progress achieved in the economic and political empowerment of women.  Noting that the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of Parliament of Bangladesh are women, she said the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, has received several awards for his leadership, including a Global Women’s Leadership award, Planet 50-50 Champion and Agent of Change Award.  As a proponent of the “Digital Bangladesh” campaign, he has prioritized ICT for achieving gender equality and launched a “Smart Bangladesh” campaign to enhance a technologically based society.  The Prime Minister also pledged to increase women’s participation in ICT by 50 per cent in 2041.  Detailing special ICT projects undertaken in Bangladesh, she noted that 80 per cent of women entrepreneurs are operating in e‑commerce, over 10 million rural women have been empowered through ICT, and 50,000 women were provided computer training.

Deputy Chairman, State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs of Azerbaijan, Sadagat Gahramanova said that her country’s law on guaranteeing gender equality ensures gender mainstreaming in all spheres of society, preventing inequality between women and men.  Every year the State Committee on Families reports to the Parliament on the implementation of this law, which allows for gender analysis in both the State and private sectors.  Noting that all State programmes in Azerbaijan include a gender component, she said a national plan of action was drafted to ensure gender equality by 2025 and the programme “Azerbaijan Vision 2020” was implemented.  Reporting that the share of women accounts for 48.3 per cent of the workforce, she said the State Committee along with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has opened 17 women’s resource centres in the framework of promoting the economic and social participation of women in rural areas.  In 2022, the country’s President approved a five-year State programme for young people to study at elite universities abroad, she said, pointing out that 20 per cent of scholarship recipients were girls.

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Health of Australia, Malarndirri Mccarthy said her Government is committed to implementing in full the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which is the generous invitation to reconciliation from Australia’s First Nations people.  The Government is also committed to a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to the National Parliament through a 2023 referendum.  Detailing challenges related to gender-based violence and gender inequality, she said that the “landscape of inequality holds Australia from being the best we can be”.  Noting that data and digital competencies are the fastest-emerging skills in the country, she lamented that the proportion of women in STEM-qualified occupations was only 15 per cent.  Against that backdrop, she pointed out that if the proportion of women in the technology workforce in Austria increased, the economy would grow by $1.8 billion a year.  In this regard, the Government is investing in 1,000 digital traineeships in the Australian public service targeting women and First Nations people, she said.

Vice Minister for Labour and Social Protection of Mongolia, Zulpkhar Sarkhad expressing his full support for activities that ensure international human rights principles and standards, spotlighted his Government’s efforts, which included joining international treaties and agreements; creating a legal framework to support digital development; and enacting legislation on public information transparency, personal data protection, cybersecurity and electronic signatures.  Mongolia — which has improved its ranking on the United Nations E‑Government Development Index, the main indicator of a successful e-transition at the international level — is notably using the advancement of information technology to develop e‑governance, digitalize Government operations, integrate inter-organizational data and coordinate information exchanges.  It also established a new ministry to serve as the central administrative body in charge of ICT and the e‑transition.  He then emphasized the need to provide access to digital technology and capacity-building for citizens, especially rural populations, the elderly, people with disabilities and unemployed women.

Deputy Minister for Women and Social Development Affairs of Nauru, Isabella Degeago reported that her country has one service provider for digital connectivity.  However, Nauru is among the largest Internet consumers in the Pacific, she said, pointing out that the issue of connectivity is ultimately linked to the issues of access to services and the empowerment of all women and girls.  Her country is working to break down obstacles preventing women and girls from sharing in the benefits of digital transformation on an equal footing with men and boys.  Obstacles include barriers to connectivity and gender norms limiting women and girls’ access to effectively participate in education and careers in science, technology engineering and mathematics.  The second Nauru National Women Summit in April 2022 recognized the need for more girls in education in those fields, as this will translate to better job opportunities, equal pay and empowerment.  Given the importance of their participation, a legal framework must be developed for the protection of women and girls in those spaces, she said.

Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Affairs Responsible for Gender Equality, Demography and Family of Greece, Maria Syrengela, speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, voiced support to the United Nations and European Union on strengthening relevant regulatory frameworks to address digital and technological divides and end violence against women.  As innovation and technological change has been a Government priority since before the COVID‑19 pandemic, her country has undertaken measures to ensure women and girls access to and effective use of new technologies.  Underscoring the need for horizontal policy to achieve substantial gender equality in practice, she spotlighted several of Greece’s efforts in that regard, which include ratification of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on Eliminating Violence and Harassment in the World of Work; a national action plan; an innovation lab for women; and financial support for companies to create childcare units that enable parents to stay in the labor market.

Secretary of State for Equality and Inclusion of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Maria Do Rosario Fatima Correia said women currently make up 40 per cent of members of the National Parliament and 15 per cent of Government officials overall.  The Government has established a “gender-marker” in its finance system, which ensures that gender equality and inclusion are contemplated in the planning and budgeting of all public institutions.  For a young country such as Timor-Leste, innovation and technological change — as well as education in the digital age — are critical elements for creating a just society.  During the COVID‑19 pandemic, Timor-Leste maximized the use of digital information technology for online classes, and in 2022 it implemented a Digital Literacy Campaign.  The Government is also working to improve Internet access across the country, including to rural women, and providing skills training, she added, noting that challenges nevertheless remain.

 First Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, Olga Batalina speaking via a pre-recorded video statement, said her country belongs to the top five countries with inexpensive Internet, with 90 per cent of its population using the service.  Spotlighting the high potential of the Russian Federation’s women, she detailed programmes that train professional and personal skills of women’s leadership, including the project “Women under digital economy- STEM”.  Jointly with the Eurasian Women’s Forum, the Russian Federation promotes women’s entrepreneurial skills in the digitized economy.  Women also receive assistance for professional orientation through the project “Go to IT”, which overcomes existing stereotypes and helps women change their career trajectories towards information technology (IT).  Noting that social support and interaction with State institutions are predominantly done by women, she said digital technologies simplify their work, carried out under the project “Social Treasury”.  Under this project, citizens are informed about social support measures and receive assistance with filing documents for subsidies through an online application.   Additionally, the country has undertaken steps towards e‑Government, she said.

Under-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Martha Delgado Peralta voicing her solidarity with the people of Türkiye and Syria who were affected by the earthquakes in February 2023, pointed out that these disconcerting events recall the multiple challenges women and girls face in being the most vulnerable to disasters, climate effects and other crises.  Without the full and effective participation of women and girls, there will be no prosperous, sustainable and equal future, she emphasized.  In that regard, she advocated for new technologies to be key aspects in designing policies for sustainable development models.  Women and girls’ access and participation must also be a priority, she stated before spotlighting Mexico’s efforts, which include programmes to promote the use of technologies, their financial inclusion and economic autonomy.  She then spotlighted her Government’s feminist foreign policy, which raises visibility on gender gaps and identifies action areas.

Head of the Directorate General of the Multilateral Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, Irina Velichko noting that her country enjoys a robust level of development, said it also ranks highly on the list of countries with the most equitable gender opportunities.  Outlining some of its policies, including a National Gender Strategy (2021-2025), she said the country’s long-term development plan also focuses on science, technology and innovation.  Belarus has a high percentage of women graduating from doctoral programmes and engaged in the fields of research and development.  The country also built a “techno park” to help children become interested in science and technology.  However, she drew attention to the application of illegal coercive sanctions by some States, noting that they have a damaging effect on civilian populations, including by limiting access to digital tools, software and other critical technologies, which particularly affects women.

Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (Brunei Darussalam), Nor Ashikin Johari aligning herself with ASEAN, showcased her country’s achievements on women’s development and empowerment.  Brunei Darussalam has placed a high priority on women in its national agenda, including through the promotion and protection of their rights through a special committee; facilitated their representation in policy and decision-making roles, with women comprising 56 per cent of the public sector workforce and 65 per cent of senior-level officials; and has seen the highest number of female executives in the region.  As there is still more to do, her Government will formulate a national action plan that is relevant, practical and truly reflects the need of its women and girls.  She then underscored the value and importance of women for any nation in ensuring family welfare, achieving economic progress, promoting greater social development and contributing towards prosperity.

National Secretary for Institutional Coordination, Thematic Initiatives and Political Participation for the Ministry of Women of Brazil, Carmen Foro said her country just announced a set of robust policies focused on women, aimed at promoting gender equality, economic autonomy and full health, as well as at addressing domestic, family, sexual and political violence against women.  She spotlighted the Women Living Without Violence Programme, which will pursue prevention campaigns and educational activities and restructure public services and equipment to serve women living in situations of violence.  There are plans to establish a National Compact to Combat Femicide.  Outlining levels of women’s participation in Government, she said the Administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva prioritizes representation.  There are currently 11 women Ministers for State — the largest number in Brazil’s history — and new policies seek to achieve equal pay between men and women.

Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers of Nepal, Suman Raj Aryal recalled the finding in the Secretary-General’s recent report that only one fourth of the population of least developed countries is online — though three quarters of them have access to mobile technologies.  Calling for more investments in bridging those divides, he said the Constitution of Nepal guarantees the fundamental rights of women and girls with equal lineage rights, as well as the right to safe motherhood and reproductive health care.  National laws criminalize acts of violence and wilful discrimination, as well as harmful social practices and gender discrimination.  During the pandemic, these digital gaps left girls behind, as classes went virtual.  In response, the Digital Nepal Framework focuses on building up digital infrastructure in such areas as agriculture, health, education, energy, tourism and finance.  As it moves towards graduating from least developed status by 2026, Nepal will require adequate support in both resources and technology transfer to continue making strides and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said.

Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania, Abeida Rashid aligning herself with the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), spotlighted her Government’s efforts on innovation and technology for economic growth and human development.  In addition to developing a national development plan, it has implemented ICT policies; established institutions and mechanisms on technology and innovation to deliver services, especially for women and men living in unserved and underserved areas; introduced an ICT curriculum in schools and institutions of higher learning; and promoted the use of digital platforms.  Such platforms notably enable convenient access to financial and health services.  Yet despite these efforts, the gender digital divide still exists in the United Republic of Tanzania, she noted, calling for a multisectoral and integrated approach on strengthening financing, coordination, partnerships and sex-disaggregated data.

Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Women’s Affairs for Cambodia, Sorita Koung spotlighted her Government’s Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency Phase III 2019-2023, which recognizes gender equality as a key component of national and human resources development and highlights the need to further improve the status of women.  Underlining the need to address gender inequality, which impedes the participation of women and girls in digital transformation, she pointed out that access to a stable and affordable Internet remains a huge challenge for her country, especially the large populations living in rural areas, while ICT equipment is unaffordable in developing countries like hers.  She went on to outline policies and plans undertaken by Cambodia to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, including its National Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy 2020–2030, and its National Digital Government Policy 2022-2035, which sets out to promote women’s digital leadership within Government institutions.  Further, Cambodia’s national strategy “Neary Rattanak V” focuses on strengthening gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment through capacity development and institutional development across sectors, and at all levels.

Secretary of State responsible for Housing and Equal Opportunities of Belgium, Nawal Ben Hamou said that considering the perspectives and needs of women and girls in all their diversity will make technology more efficient, accessible and inclusive.  However, new technologies and digitalization can also exacerbate pre-existing gender inequalities and vulnerabilities, and the digital gap is still far from being closed.  “Urgent and transformative action is needed with regards to the fact that algorithms are often not gender neutral,” she said, noting that they can be discriminatory and perpetuate and even increase sexist and stereotypical views.  Similarly, artificial intelligence that fails to consider gender equality as a prerequisite can be dangerous to women and girls.  She also highlighted the need to eliminate structural barriers facing women and girls in society and called for an intersectional approach that considers the many dimensions of discrimination, including gender, age, race, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity and poverty.

Vice-Chairperson of the National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council, Yi Lin noting that amid a technological revolution, innovation-driven digital technologies constitute a new economic growth-point, called for vigorous improvements to be made in women’s digital skills, helping to fully leverage women’s potential.  To this end, she called for the creation of a friendly environment for women’s participation, through the elimination of discrimination and prejudice, supportive policies, and deepened international cooperation.  She went on to cite figures that bear out women’s robust participation in China’s economy, noting that they comprise more than 40 per cent of its labour force; 55 per cent of entrepreneurs; 45.8 per cent of those working in the science and technology sectors; and 32.7 per cent of those participating in new forms of business, including digital trade and e-commerce.  Further, she noted improvements in women’s health, as evinced by the halving of maternal mortality since 2010, and the high average life expectancy of Chinese women, of 80 years.

General Director for Human Rights for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, Tania Rosa associating herself with the Council of Ministers of Women’s Affairs of Central America, noted that her Government has enacted a national connectivity plan and developed an ecosystem to promote women’s leadership in social innovation.  It is also implementing projects and initiatives to enhance the accessibility of services for vulnerable groups, provide them with information, and establish standards and measures covering different types of disabilities.  Such measures go hand-in-hand with El Salvador’s commitment to sustainable development, she noted, while advocating for the elimination of multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination.  In addition to implementing various initiatives to close the gender gap in digital education by providing equal opportunities for girls and boys, El Salvador has implemented reforms that enhanced sentencing related to computer crimes.  She then urged the Commission’s conclusions to reflect needs, especially those of vulnerable groups.

Head of the Section of Equality Policies, Ministry of Social Affairs, Youth and Equality of Andorra, Mònica Àlvarez noting that the world of technology has been dominated by men and the gender gap in this field is real, underscored the importance of women’s inclusion.  Recalling that her country has recently adopted a law for the effective application of equal treatment, opportunities and non-discrimination between men and women, she said it is a commitment to effective equality, including through programmes for youth.  Some of the measures proposed are training students in non-sexist, non-androcentric language in audio-visual communication, while being aware of the transmission of gender stereotypes in games and audio-visual materials.  In a cross-cutting way, Andorra is involving women in business, digitalization and robotization, as it also includes a gender perspective in programmes related to artificial intelligence.  She went on to say that her country addresses violence through mobile and online applications, providing support to victims and survivors.  The inclusion of women in technology leads to innovation and new patterns in designing algorithms, she added.

Cuba’s Ms. Hernandez Beleno said the unjust international order envelops digital matters.  Humanity can resolve the current crisis, yet the political will is lacking to create a world free of discrimination so that everyone can access all areas of economic, social and political life.  As part of its national plan that runs through 2030, Cuba has made progress in infrastructure to deploy technology throughout the country.  It has a comprehensive plan to create a legal basis for technical sovereignty.  The inclusion of women and girls in the digital world is very important.  Children have computer classes and participate in clubs so they are aware of the various technological tools.  The Government is broadening women’s participation in science and technology.  Women are involved at senior levels to develop comprehensive strategies to address gender violence at home.  Despite progress, the country still faces many challenges due to the United States unjust blockade, which prevents Cuba from making advances.

Deputy Under-Secretary for Policy and Strategic Planning Division for the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development of Malaysia, Senutha Poopale Ratthinan aligning herself with ASEAN and the Group of Friends of the Family, underscored the need to address the digital divide created by the lack of accessibility, ability and opportunities in technological fields.  Technology is at its best when it brings people together, she stressed.  In that vein, Malaysia is implementing strategic structural reforms, improving its action plans continuously and strengthening digital infrastructure across its territory.  Her Government has notably made significant headway in providing quality, accessible and affordable access to ICT for households as well as mobile phones for women.  While advancing women and girls in the digital space is a priority, the dangers of online gender-based violence — including obscene, offensive and threatening online content — must be addressed, she insisted, before spotlighting her Government’s legislative and policy measures to that end.

Director-General for Gender and the Advancement of Women, Ministry of Social Action, Promotion of Women, and Literacy for Togo, Gnansa Koudjoukalo Bénédicte aligning with the Africa Group, said her country incorporates socioeconomic and gender inclusion into its sectoral policies.  Togo has made great progress in digital technologies, including by setting out a legal framework for developing digital technologies, electronic communications, cybersecurity, and data protection.  Further, she said, her country has set up an entity for regulating online communications, a national cybersecurity agency, and an entity to protect personal data.  It has also adopted several measures to respond to the specific needs of women and girls in the realm of technological innovation, including a scheme to provide laptops for high-achieving girl students, subsidies for the education of girls, and information centres for women.

Director-General for the Department of International Cooperation for the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovations and Aerospace Industries of Kazakhstan, Ayazhan Mukanova pointed out that digital technology promotes global interconnectedness and progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Since Kazakhstan’s independence, her Government has enacted progressive women-oriented policies and reforms to transition towards a new development path that puts people at its centre and is grounded on digital governance.  In that regard, it considers Internet access to be a basic human right and has strived to eliminate use gaps.  With 99.5 per cent of its population enjoying access to mobile broadband services, it aims to address the urban-rural divide and provide high-quality Internet through satellite coverage.  She then spotlighted her country’s e-government initiatives, noting that its goal is to create an invisible State where minimal contact with officials is needed for services, and highlighted investments in human capital, science and education.

Sri Lanka’s Peter Mohan Maithri Pieris said the country is drafting three laws — on the National Commission on Women, women’s empowerment and gender equality — with the technical support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to ensure the country’s progress on gender equality.  Emphasis is being placed on alleviating gender-based discrimination and violations of women’s rights.  The Government is also formulating a policy, “Gender Equality and Women Empowerment 2023-2032”, to empower, promote and protect the rights of women under several thematic areas.  These areas include identity and autonomy, economic empowerment and productivity, employment, social equality and empowerment, equality in decision-making, access to justice, peace and security, freedom from gender-based violence and the girl child.  In addition, the Ministry of Child, Women and Social Empowerment has taken steps to prepare gender responsive budgeting for this year, giving special attention to women in different socioeconomic sectors.  This includes female-headed households, disabled women, migrant women and women carrying excessive microfinance loans from unauthorized financial institutions.

Observer of the Holy See, Robert David Murphy said women and girls are ready to seize learning opportunities, but they must be given the tools to do so.  In this regard, the importance of eradicating poverty to achieve equality for women and girls cannot be overlooked, he said, noting that women and children are more likely to live in poverty than men, increasing the risk of violence and exploitation.  “Without a strong international commitment to ensuring that the benefits of technological advancement are shared by all, women and girls in particular will fall further behind in our increasingly digital world,” he warned.  Moreover, innovation must be directed towards the good of the person, or it risks harming those it should benefit, with women and girls the most frequent victims.  Pointing to contraception, abortion and surrogacy as practices that undermine the value of women and the respect they deserve, he said the gifts and capabilities of women and girls should be cherished and nourished, including in the areas of innovation and technology.

 Marshall Islands’s  Amatlain Elizabeth Kabua said the international community cannot — and her country will not — overlook continued threats facing human rights defenders, including those speaking up for gender equality.  Noting that the fourth United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States will be held in 2024, she said it will be a key opportunity to focus on concrete and visible assistance by United Nations funds and programs, including UN-Women.  In that regard, the enhanced role of the new North Pacific United Nations Multi-Country Office is vital.  Outlining various national laws and reforms aimed at promoting gender equality, she stressed that “paper law alone is not effective”, and major concrete step-changes are needed along with practical implementation.  Turning to the priority theme, she said digital education and access for women and girls is crucial for small island developing States such as the Marshall Islands, where barriers exist to basic and affordable technology and the threat posed by climate-driven disasters exacerbates needs.

Director of the Authority for the Advancement of Women, Ministry of Social Equality of Israel, Ayelet Razin Bet Or noted that the right to vote was granted to Israeli women at the third Zionist Congress in 1899, long before it was common practice, even in the most progressive Western countries.  Recognizing barriers to women’s equality in innovation and technology, she said 60 per cent of 5 million women in Israel are mature women under the age of 64.  Noting that nearly 56 per cent of women are employed, she underscored that most of them are working mothers.  Long working hours are barriers to women’s integration, she said, adding that this explains their low participation in technology professions.  Against this backdrop, the Government promotes women’s studies in science and technology, while also mainstreaming gender in high-technology companies.  Noting that the growing use of technology increases cybercrime, she said Israel’s police operate a national hotline and use advanced technological means to eradicate online crime and expose crimes against minors.

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