African Nations Concur to use Innovation for Women's Empowerment

By: GWL Team | Thursday, 15 December 2022

To fully utilize the potential of innovation and technology to enhance the economic, social, and political development of women and girls in Africa, inclusive innovation and technology ecosystems must be built.

At the 67th pre-Commission on the Status of Women in Africa (Pre-CSW67) Ministerial discussions, which were organized by the African Union Commission in collaboration with UN Women, ECA, ITU, and UNDP, these were some of the major concerns that were brought up.

According to the results of consultations, technology and innovation have shown to be a beneficial disruptor in Africa, driving development in areas like financial inclusion, job creation, healthcare access, and the establishment of virtual forums for citizens to discuss governance issues.

Delegates also pointed out that while innovation and technology are touted as essential tools for accelerating the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals, statistics on access, recipients, and who shapes their development point to inequalities between and among the sexes.

Women make up only 24% of internet users in Africa, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), whereas men make up 35% of users.

Delegates emphasized the importance of preventing the widening of the digital gender divides as a result of these technical advancements.

Ms. Prudence Ngwenya, Ag. Director, African Union Commission - Women, Gender and Youth Directorate, spoke at the opening ceremony of the ministerial segment of the consultations and urged governments to mainstream the Common Africa Position into their efforts to advance gender equality and women's empowerment.

“Empowering women and girls through the provision of meaningful access to the internet and innovative technologies could undoubtedly provide them with opportunities to start businesses, and to access education, health, social as well as financial services,” affirmed Ms. Ngwenya.

Dr. Maxime Houinato, Regional Director for East and Southern Africa for UN Women, spoke to the attendees of the pre-CSW Expert Consultations and urged them to make efforts to ensure that the values and guiding principles that govern the governance of technology and innovation are shaped by the needs of African women and girls.

"CSW 67 offers Africa the chance to shape the global conversation on digital cooperation, to make sure that technology and innovation can accelerate economic growth, while equitably distributing the benefits to African women and girls, and to reshape sociocultural norms to create a more equal and just world for them,". Dr. Houinato said.

We know that digital technologies offer enormous potential for transforming people's lives, and Ms. Edlam Abera Yemeru, Director a.i. of the Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), made a statement during the opening session to that effect.

At the same time, we are aware of the high likelihood that women will be left behind. We must ensure equal access to technology for women and girls.

The 67th Pre-CSW Africa Consultations on "Innovation and technological change, as well as education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls," that further hosted both experts and ministers, evaluated and adopted the Common Africa Position for CSW67 and made suggestions on:  Access to digital tools, the internet, and relevant content for women and girls; Data availability to support the gender-responsive innovation; Human and Institutional Capacity in support of technology and innovation for women and girls; Human rights and agency; Digital safety for women and children and; Regional digital cooperation .

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) continues to play a crucial role in advancing women's rights, capturing the realities of women's lives around the globe, and establishing international norms for gender equality and women's empowerment.