• The writer
• The writer

Bridging gender digital divide for rural women, girls

THE intensive, educative, informative, and thought-provoking sessions at the 67th Commission of the Status of Women closed successfully after a two-week long deliberations. 

Advertisement


As a UN Women delegate who participated in the UN’s largest annual gathering on gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls and their human rights, I was reassured by the concluding recommendations and statements to chart a blueprint for all stakeholders.

At high-level conferences such as this, you have the whole world present, and that’s how you compare the progress of your country to others with regards to the theme under review.

Sixty-six years of independence should have been appropriately celebrated with key milestones such as access to electricity, internet and mobile technology in every nook and cranny of the country.

Nevertheless, the story is different because basic social amenities such as potable water, hospitals, schools et al are not easily accessible in most of our rural communities. 
Justine Greening said: “No country can truly develop if half of its country is left behind”.

Highlights  

In her opening remarks at the 2nd plenary session of the United Nations 67th Commission for the Status of Women (CSW67) themed, "Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls", the Chairperson, Mathu Joyni, bemoaned the gender digital divide especially among rural women and girls.

“Gender-based discrimination is an existing problem that has been woven into the fabric of our political, social, and economic lives.

The technological sector is no different.

While digitalisation is portrayed as an equaliser of opportunities, it has failed to consider gender, race, age, locality, disability, income, social technical infrastructure of low-income countries when developing technology solutions,” she added.

Thus, Ambassador Joyni called on everyone to prioritise women and girls’ acquisition of digital skills and learning that will enhance their meaningful participation in innovation processes.

Gender digital divide

Data made available by Afro Barometer, a pan-African, non-partisan, non-profit survey research network that provides reliable data on Africans’ experiences and evaluations of democracy, governance, and quality of life shows that in Ghana, 63 per cent of men are more likely to have phones with access to the Internet as compared to 49 per cent of women.

On the other hand, 66 per cent urban residents have mobile phones with access to the Internet than 40 per cent of rural residents.

The data also indicates that access to computers is very low.

Only two in 10 Ghanaians (20 per cent) own computers.

With 26 per cent of men, 27 per cent of urbanites, and 24 per cent of the youth owning computers than their counterparts.

Between 2019 and 2022, about 92 to 95 per cent of men owned mobile phones as compared to 83 to 90 per cent of women in the same period. 

Digital access in rural Ghana

 In rural Ghana, only 34 to 40 per cent of individuals had access to internet connectivity compared to 59 to 66 per cent of urban dwellers between 2019 and 2022, while only 10 per cent of individuals in the rural community own computers as compared to 24 per cent in the urban areas.

 As of 2022, only 18 per cent had secondary education and 54 per cent had post- secondary education in Ghana.

It is not enough to have connectivity; we need literacy to teach the populace how to use technology.  

More so, women and girls also need safety on the Internet and free connectivity as well.

Arguably, funding girls' education can support the mission to end poverty long term in most of these rural communities.

Advertisement

Cultural factors encourage fewer women to have access to technology while poverty disproportionately affects women and girls more than men.

Not forgetting that, the issue of gender digital divide also stems from gender-based discrimination and systemic norms.

GIFEC’s intervention

According to information on the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) website, over the past 25 years, a UN agency International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has promoted various initiatives to accelerate the growth of the information society and enhance the quality of life in the 21st century.

It is against this backdrop that, the government set up the Ghana Investment Fund for Telecommunications (GIFTEL) which later became (GIFEC) under the promulgation of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775) to facilitate the implementation of universal access to electronic communication and the provision of internet point of presence in underserved and unserved communities, facilitate capacity building programmes and promote ICT inclusion in the unserved and underserved communities, the deployment of ICT equipment to educational, vocational and other training institutions.

Advertisement

GIFEC has championed the undermentioned project to provide universal access to electronic communication.

Rural connectivity

The rural connectivity programme seeks to extend the coverage of mobile telephone services as far as possible into all areas of the country (2,016 Rural Areas) which is up to 3.4 million residents, where access to such services are not adequately available, and where existing licensed operators have proven unwilling or unable to expand their networks due to commercial or other technological constraints.

Recommendations

There is the need to improve the digital gender divide narrative in our rural communities by providing digital access on a national scale, with provisions for safety, equitable distribution, legal protections and more research.

More notably, making women and girls aware of all online dangers and informing them about how to protect themselves through access to education and digital literacy.

Advertisement

Also, quality education is the baseline for a digitised society, hence, the need to advocate for equitable education for all women and girls.

On this note, I urge stakeholders and responsible institutions such as GIFEC to guarantee a network of support with localised organisations and leaders to address gender gaps in schooling and provide access to digital resources for an empowered, equal, and safe digital space for women.

We need a united front for a game-changing and connected world for women and girls to achieve diversity at all levels.

Email: [email protected] 
The writer is a PR consultant for Abjel Communications and also a UN Women Delegate who participated in the 67th Commission for the Status of Women

Connect With Us : 0242202447 | 0551484843 | 0266361755 | 059 199 7513 |

Like what you see?

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...

0
Shares