Add the category of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to the tools with the great potential to spur gender equality around the world.
ICTs are broadly defined as the internet, telecom and unified communications tools and while they are common everyday products in many urban areas, women in rural and far-flung regions do not have as much access to them. That reality presents big opportunities for hospitals and other organizations to use ICTs to enable economic empowerment by providing women with access to education, financial means, healthcare information and more.
“Women are a value-add to the ICT sector,” said Mata Coulibaly, Gender Program Officer of the New Partnership for Africa's Development. Coulibaly was speaking on Dec. 19 in Geneva at a workshop hosted by the Internet Governance Forum. The group’s goal is to open up new opportunities for women in the labor market.
Experts emphasized the importance of including men in the dialogue of women’s economic empowerment and gender equality.
“Gender issues should not be a women-only conversation,” said Joyce Dogniez, Senior Director of Global Engagement at the Reston, Virginia-based Internet Society.
Will Hudson, Senior Director of International Policy at Google stressed that one stakeholder group alone could not address the digital gender gap.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, Hudson said, efforts by Google and other tech companies to train women in rural communities are kick-starting a cycle of education and empowerment.
The speakers also stressed the importance of having all stakeholders involved in policy-making processes to ensure the needs of women are factored into decision-making.
Elizabeth Thomas Raynaud, Director of the organization BASIS, which stands for Business Action to Support the Information Society, concluded the session stating ICTs are an “undeniable enabler in advancing the economic empowerment of women.”