Young leaders take centre stage at CSW67 interactive dialogue


More youth leaders have actively been engaged in an interactive dialogue at a UN Youth Summit, focusing on the prevalence of online violence and hate speech against women and girls.

The dialogue was organised by the UN Women at the 67th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) and prioritised the need for the inclusion of women and girls in the creation, use and regulation of technology.

A document made available to the Ghana News Agency at Tema, indicated that women and girls remained underrepresented across the creation, use and regulation of technology and were less likely to use digital services or entre tech-related careers.

It said they were significantly more likely to face online harassment and violence, which limits not only their own digital empowerment, but also the transformative potential of technology, it said.

The event, therefore, saw the inclusion of youth leaders in the official negotiations for the first time, opening space for them to share their experiences, lessons learned, and best practices relating to the role of innovation and technological change in achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls.

It said with the rise of digital technologies, youth representation emphasises the essential need to ensure that no one was left behind, particularly women and girls in rural and marginalised areas, gender minorities and persons with disabilities.

The Summit was moderated by Chimguundari Navaan-Yunden, the Commission’s Vice-Chair designate, who described the dialogue as a unique opportunity for the youth to contribute to the normative framework on gender equality, technology, innovation and education in the digital age.

Other participants included Marija Vasileva-Blazev, the Officer in Charge of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, and over 40 youth speakers and delegates.

The panel involved prominent youth activists, including Oscar Noel Fitzpatrick, a multidisciplinary activist from Ireland; Alison Adrian Berbetty Omiste, a Systems Engineer and Lawyer from Bolivia; and Hawa Yokie, an Innovator and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics enthusiast from Sierra Leone.

The others were Aisha Mehmood, the co-founder and CEO of the Kamara Yokie Innovation Center, who is also a technology and feminist activist from Pakistan and founder of Baithak-Challenging Taboos; and Milica Knežević, a Senior Test Developer and an activist for the rights of persons with disabilities in Serbia.

Milica Knežević emphasised that persons with disability represented the biggest minority group in the world, with over a billion people living with some form of disability.

“Women and girls with disabilities are a population that is still among the poorest of the poor. Therefore, we must ensure the affordability of devices, as that represents a first step and necessity for using technology, but also for raising awareness of technology’s importance.

“We need to support and encourage women with disabilities in developing digital skills,” said Milica.

Aisha Mehmood, whose work centred around girls and women in rural communities, also among the most marginalised groups emphasised on the importance of expanding access to technology.

Technology access is a necessity, and it should not be a luxury or a privilege for some.

Madam Hawa Yoki addressed the need to institutionalise gender equality in technology and innovation and to empower girls in Africa, where the challenges faced by women and girls in this sector were often not undocumented.

“We need to design a digital education curriculum that addresses women’s needs, including online safety and security, and the potential of technology to empower women economically and socially. The curriculum should be accessible to women in all parts of the world,” said Hawa.

Oscar Fitzpatrick elaborated on the challenge of online hate speech and violence towards LGBTIQ+ youth.

He said to address hate speech and violence, platforms and users needed clear pathways for moderation and accountability.

Alison Berbetty Omiste emphasised on the need to increase the representation of women and girls in the technological industry.

Issues such as cybersecurity, technology companies, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, technologies applied to e-government, data analysis, and other areas are significant in the public and private spheres, and it is essential to have the voices of women, Alison added.

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