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UNGEI event highlights importance of technology in girls' education
NEW YORK, USA, 25 February 2011 – As the 55th session of the Commission on the Status of Women takes place in New York this week to promote women’s and girls’ access to education, training, science and technology, the UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) brings together a diverse group of partners from governments, civil society, private sector and girls themselves to explore how technology can empower and promote girls’ development.
Despite significant strides in closing gender gaps in education, girls make up more than half of children out of school. Simply put, the educational disparity between boys and girls still persists.
For Susan Durston, Associate Director of Education at UNICEF, the steps are clear: “We have to try to get more girls into schools with meaningful curriculum.”
Breaking down barriers
Information technology is one of the fastest expanding sectors offering employment opportunities to young women across the globe and yet girls and women are not acquiring the skills and education necessary to take advantage of these opportunities.
“The potential for technology to break down barriers to knowledge, political participation and economic opportunity is vast,” said H.E.Stefan Wallin, the Minister of Culture and Sport of Finland. “The rapid technological transformation has already created a gap between those with access to information and communication technology, and those without. Development interventions can help overcome the digital divide by empowering girls and women who have previously been excluded or marginalized in society.”
Because powerless and poor girls make up the most disadvantaged group in education, empowering girls and young women through education and technology requires concerted efforts by all partners. Cisco Systems, the member of the UNGEI Global Advisory Committee and the first UNGEI private partner has been a key player in providing women and girls globally with an opportunity to build information and communication technology skills to improve access to career and economic opportunities. ‘Cisco Networking Academy helps students develop the ICT and 21st century skills, such as critical thinking and collaboration that are essential for success in the highly competitive global workforce,’ says Mary de Wysocki, Director of Internet Business Solutions, Education, Cisco Systems.
Fabiola, 17, is a member of Youth Empowerment through Technology, Arts and Media project supported by Plan Finland. She has produced media pieces on early marriage, early pregnancies, school dropout, and education of the girl child for other youth, parents and local leaders and has come to New York as a member of Plan International girl delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women to advocate for girls’ rights in Cameroon.
“Because I am a girl, I will fight for my rights,” said Fabiola, as she addressed the panel. “I will make known to my society that I exist. I will change the world into one where everyone is treated equally regardless of gender, race, language, culture, or religious perspective.”
An essential investment
In addition to underrepresentation of girls in science classes - except in the Arab States - girls do better than boys in languages and worse in mathematics and science.
“It is essential to invest in mathematics, science and vocational education for girls to ensure they are able to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the information technology sector,” said Linda Raftree, Plan's Social Media and New Technology Advisor.
The uninhibited and safe use of information and communication technologies should be a major part of girls’ education as it can expose them to new ideas and ways of thinking, as well as provide a unique chance for strengthening adolescent girls' learning, personal development and future economic opportunities. However, to enable each girl to benefit from these opportunities, it is crucial that all girls receive a quality education and have access to out-of-school programmes, so no girl is left behind.
Leaders for Education Series