Today, we celebrate gender equality with the implacable conviction that women are to take an equal part in technological innovations and access the board spectrum of digital services at par with men. Whilst gender equality involves an equal treatment of women and young girls under the law, it also entails an equivalent access to assets and opportunities. Discrimination in the cyber space can be as valid and pernicious as discrimination against women in the real world. In the contemporary context, access to virtual assets and Information Technology (IT) facilities has become a necessary ingredient for women empowerment and socio-economic development.
In the same vein, there is no doubt that countries will stand to gain from women’s integration to the digital world. The Forum associates itself to the findings of the UN Women’s Gender Snapshot Report 2022 which revealed that the exclusion of women from the digital space in low and middle income economies have stripped countries from their opportunities in leveraging on their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is also trite that in Africa as well as other regions of the world, the software development industry remains male dominated, thus demonstrating that women are less IT literate than men. The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2022 also provides that over 190 million women in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to mobile internet. The Forum firmly believes that as long as women and young girls are left behind in the developmental agenda, the region will continue to suffer from various socio-economic hardships.
The time is thus nigh for legal and policy frameworks to be devised and polished to allow for women participation in digitalisation processes and in IT innovation. In addition, women and young girls are to be protected in the digital space from behavioural issues such as cyberbullying and laws need to step up to fill such gaps where they exist. The SADC Model Law on Gender-Based Violence can be a powerful tool to help countries raise the bar of gender parity through guiding normative standards. Accordingly, the Forum will continue to fervently accompany its Member Parliaments and partners to mainstream gender equality in the digital world at all levels.
Happy International Women’s Day 2022 !
Ms B. Sekgoma, Secretary General- SADC PF
STATEMENT FROM THE SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE SADC-PF ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 8TH MARCH 2023