On 11 October, The Working Group on Girls, UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF and a diversity of girls from around the world led the annual “Girls Speak Out” International Day of the Girl celebration. Under the broader theme of “Digital Generation. Our Generation”, this year’s event spotlighted the importance of seizing the momentum gathered through the bold commitments made at the Generation Equality Forum in the field of Technology and Innovation, with the goal of “Closing the Digital Divide to Accelerate Opportunity”.
Globally, 2.2 billion people below the age of 25 do not have internet access at home, with girls more likely to be cut off. Those who do get online too often encounter cyberviolence; in a recent survey of 14,000 girls in 31 countries, more than half (58 per cent) had been harassed and abused online. These realities are compounded for girls with poor access to internet or electricity and those living in conflict or crisis situations that compromise their right to education and access to enabling technology. In recognition of the significant barrier this poses to achieving gender equality, the 2021 Generation Equality Forum placed technology and innovation as a key gender priority.
The Generation Equality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality was launched at the Forum and is bringing together civil society leaders, governments, corporations, philanthropies and young change makers to drive meaningful access to digital technology and universal digital literacy over the coming five years. Adolescent girls and young women are at the heart of the ground-breaking Action Coalition mobilization; which led more than a thousand commitment makers to announce 40 billion of investments across the coalitions that will directly impact girls’ and young women’s lives.
In this context, the International Day of the Girl celebration offered girls the opportunity to share experiences and demand continued innovation in building youth connection through digital spaces – all with the goal of ensuring that girls can have equal access to the digital world.
The opening of the event centred around a candid girl-led conversation in which the participants shared how they are personally impacted by the digital divide and considered existing solutions and additional resources needed to be able to fully engage in an increasingly digital-dependent world. “We as girls have an extreme amount of power to achieve transformation in our community. I want to encourage every girl to embrace all your potential and push for change in your community. By doing that we will be unstoppable”, said Louise, a Tech Trailblazer for UNICEF in Brazil.
Girl advocates recognize that no one can close the digital divide alone; actors from all sectors of society need to take responsibility for driving change. The Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation is one of the key spaces in which such diverse actors have united to take action and make change happen. The holistic approach of the coalition focuses not only on improving digital access and competencies, but also on increasing investments in feminist technology, building more inclusive innovation eco-systems and designing new mechanisms to prevent and eliminate online gender-based violence. This has translated into ambitious commitments for action by 2026 from partners, including:
- Digital Grassroots, the youth network leader of the Coalition, which committed to build the capacity of future internet leaders by engaging 1,000 young women in programmes to strengthen internet literacy, internet health projects and to implement action research on gender equality in internet governance.
- Facebook, Google, Twitter and Tiktok, who announced a joint commitment, in collaboration with the World Wide Web Foundation, to tackle online gender-based violence and abuse and improve their platforms in the next two years, with a focus on reporting systems and building better ways for women to curate their safety online.
- The Government of Rwanda, who committed to bridge the gender gap in digital access by 2026 in three specific areas: ownership of smartphones, access to digital financial services, and STEM studies at the upper secondary level.
The speakers acknowledged that successfully mapping out a path to lasting and meaningful progress for girls through the Action Coalitions depends upon clear accountability measures, the development of which is already underway. The leadership of girls in designing and implementing the Generation Equality Forum accountability structures is an “absolute pre-requisite”, emphasized Dan Seymour, Head of UN Women Strategic Partnerships Division.
Watch the recording of the event here.
Learn more about the Action Coalitions and how to become a Commitment Maker here.