The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, says women’s exclusion from the digital world has reduced one trillion dollars from the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of low- and middle-income countries.
Tallen said at a news conference in Abuja on Thursday, ahead of the commemoration of the 2023 International Women’s Day (IWD) that this occurred over the last decade.
The theme of this year’s edition is: “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”.
According to her, bringing women and other marginalised groups into technology has greater potential for innovations that meet women’s needs and promote gender equality.
“The lack of women inclusion, by contrast, comes with massive costs and according to the UN Women 2022 Snap Short Report, women’s exclusion from the digital world.
“This has reduced one trillion dollars from the GDP of low- and middle-income countries in the last decade. “This loss will grow to $1.5 trillion by 2025 without action.
“Reversing this trend according to the report will require tackling the problem of online violence, which 38 percent of women had personally experienced,” she said.
The minister stressed the need for gender-responsive approach to innovation, technology and digital education that could increase the awareness of women and girls regarding their rights and civic engagement.
She also called for the adoption of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses by girls to address discrimination, gender bias and improve participation in all spheres.
“I therefore ask that, teachers and educational institutions be supported to consciously remove gender biases and stereotypes in our educational environments, textbooks and didactic materials.
“It starts with making women’s contributions to STEM visible, including through connecting young women and girls with STEM professionals and mentors,” she said.
Also, Mr Marthias Schumale, UN resident Coordinator, said they would enhance involvement of women and girls in technology to increase gender inclusion.
“We will continue to invest into technology. And as we do that, we will prioritise women and girls because collectively we can make the world of technology and innovation inclusive by working together,” he said.
Ms Uller Mueller, UNFPA Country Representative, harped on the role technology plays to expand networks, opportunities, and minds.
Mueller, represented by Ms Erika Goldson, UNFPA Deputy Representative, however, noted that technology was increasingly misused and weaponised, with women and girls disproportionately targeted.
“This can take the form of image-based abuse, sextortion, harassment, hate speech, cyberbullying and doxing.
“ Data tell us that 97 per cent of girls between 11 to16 years in Nigeria have experienced unwanted sexual approaches in chat rooms, social networking sites or emails.
“Over 7.89 per cent of this group have been sent sexual images or content, 57 per cent of women have had their videos or images online abused or misused,” she said.
She added that UNFPA was developing safety and ethics guidelines for practitioners designing technology for gender-based violence prevention and response.
Mueller said that technology companies are engaged to involve women in design processes from the outset.
“Technology is essential to advancing gender equality. When women and girls can access and use technology safely, they can amplify their voices and exercise their agency and autonomy.
“This is giving them a platform that can transform their future – and ours,” she said.
Also, Prof. Ibrahim Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, said they would train 200 women on ICT and digital economy in March to reduce the gender gap in technology innovation.
Pantami was represented by Mrs Iklima Musa, Special Assistant to the minister on Strategy and Innovation.
Ms Kemisola Bolarinwa, President, Women in ICT Foundation, launched the prototype of a “Smart Bra Device” to detect abnormalities like cancer cells.
Bolarinwa also added that they invented a wrist watch and necklace to track movement, in a bid to curb insecurity, particularly kidnapping.