__________The sixty-seventh session of the Commission meets today through 17 March under the priority theme “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”. The United Nations largest annual gathering on gender equality and women’s empowerment brings together representatives of Member States, United Nations entities and civil society and non-governmental organizations from across the globe. At the outset of the morning meeting, the Chair recalled that, at the first meeting of its sixty-sixth session, on 26 March 2021, the Commission elected her as Chair and Pilar Eugenio (Argentina) as Vice-Chair of its sixty-sixth and sixty-seventh sessions of the Commission. She further recalled that, at the second meeting of its sixty-sixth session, on 14 March 2022, the Commission elected Antje Leendertse (Germany) Maris Burbergs (Latvia) as Vice-Chairs of its sixty-sixth and sixty-seventh sessions. The Commission then adopted its provisional agenda for its sixty-seventh session (document E/CN.6/2023/1) and its organization of work (document E/CN.6/2023/1/Addendum 1.) He also urged leaders to promote women and girls’ full participation and leadership in science and technology, from Governments to board rooms and classrooms. Noting that the United Nations is working to advance a Code of Conduct for information integrity on digital platforms, he said: “Together, let’s push back against misogyny and forward for women, girls and our world.” “Gender-based discrimination is a systemic problem that has been interwoven into the fabric of our political, social and economic lives and the technology sector is no different,” she stated. Noting remarkable evidence and examples of women and girls and the potential they present, she said the Commission will engage in detailed analysis of problem and solutions, as well as consider the responsibilities of Governments and private sector in ensuring that adequate safeguards, norms and standards exist. The Commission will call for more opportunities to be available to women as creators, owners and leaders in innovation and technology design that is gender responsive and eliminate algorithms that perpetuate existing discrimination and biases. It will further call on the public and private sectors to make more available funding and enable the full participation of women and girls in the technology ecosystem and invest in public technology infrastructure. Also delivering statements in the general discussion were Heads of State and Government of Hungary, Switzerland and Georgia. The Vice-Presidents of Iran and South Sudan, as well as the Prime Minister of Iceland, spoke. New technologies, if used well, offer a strong and equalizing force to rapidly change this situation, he continued. Young entrepreneurs are developing new apps to protect women and girls from violence. Online learning in some regions is narrowing gender education gaps, preparing women for digital jobs and connecting women to work opportunities. The advanced AI applications that will power economies tomorrow can be designed in ways that rule out gender discrimination today. “By tackling stereotypes that prevent girls from pursuing STEM careers, we can work to change mindsets and increase the diversity of thought in our workplaces,” he said. Citing author Nancy Duarte, he emphasized: “The future is not a place that we are going to go. It’s a place that you get to create.” DAISSY LORENA DE LA CRUZ ESTRADA, youth representative from Colombia, via a pre-recorded video message, highlighted the value of peoples’ ancestral heritage, stressing: “Life is a whole and we value all forms of existence.” She also called attention to the opportunity to reflect on the crisis of life where Western thinking has imbued a logic based on deprivation and competition, and where only a few enjoy global opulence. Today, the human being has separated from nature, creating a false dichotomy between the human being and nature. This distortion of reality has reached the point whereby hierarchical paradigms have destroyed social, family and community relations, she said. Meanwhile, Lynda Tabuya, Fiji’s Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum, took note of progress made in the region, spotlighting the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, which emphasizes the importance and need for a well-connected region. However, many women continue to face barriers, such as digital literacy, social and cultural norms, and lack of financial resources. Many women and girls in rural and maritime communities do not have access to the Internet and cannot afford data, smartphones and computers. Thomas Blomqvist, Minister for Nordic Cooperation and Equality of Finland, speaking on behalf of the LGBTI Core Group, noted that discrimination against young persons that are or are perceived as lesbian, bisexual, transgender in educational settings is impacting quality learning. Digital literacy can increase access to diverse women role models and remove gender bias and stereotypes from curricula and learning material, among other things. “Progress won over decades is vanishing before our eyes,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, in his opening remarks. In many places, women’s sexual and reproductive rights are being rolled back, and in some countries, girls going to school risk kidnapping and assault. The United Nations stands with women and girls everywhere, he emphasized, highlighting priority areas for action and stressing that education, income and employment must be increased for women and girls, particularly in the Global South. Opening remarks With a focus on the follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, over 35 speakers, including Heads of State, ministers and senior officials of regional blocs and groups and Member States, spotlighted the benefits of women and girls having access to digital resources, while also calling for more protective measures. Calls were also made to expand and enhance resources that ensure women’s participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in all aspects of involvement and development. In a similar vein, Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati, Indonesia’s Minister for Women Empowerment and Child Protection, speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), underscored the transformative role of digital technology to increase access, and strengthen participation, in quality education, including women and girls. ASEAN was focused on increasing women’s financial inclusion, up-skilling, and re-skilling, among other efforts. Manty B. Tarawalli, Sierra Leone’s Minister for Gender and Children’s Affairs, speaking for the African Group, said that almost half of the world’s populations, including, among others, women and girls and people in the least developed countries — of which the majority are in Africa — do not have access to the internet. Digital access must be enhanced and improve general literacy and digital skills across populations in Africa improved. “The anthropocentric and patriarchal thinking has led us to think that a good life is based on individual benefit, reducing reciprocity among beings, peoples and communities,” she continued. Pointing to ideas on how to use innovation and technology for a good life, she underlined the need to design education so that it is not taught based on hierarchy and individuality. Education should be circular for everyone based on equality and where girls and women in rural areas have a guaranteed right to education and participation. It is urgent to bring about change, she declared, underscoring that technology at present is designed to be a distraction and is not being used for creativity or equality of critical thinking. Amandeep Singh Gill, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, pointed out that while it has opened doors for women, “technology holds a mirror to the ugliness of our world”. Digital platforms have multiplied the reach of pornography, objectifying women and girls, and often facilitate gender-based violence. More women must be brought into research and development to prevent the misuse of digital platforms and change how the digital future will look 10 or 15 years from now. Noting that trillion in global gross domestic product has been lost because women are excluded from the digital world, he urged Silicon Valley and the innovation world to ensure women’s participation in all aspects of the digital world. The Commission then elected today, by acclamation, María del Carmen Squeff (Argentina) to complete the remaining term of Ms. Eugenio, and Chimguundari Navaan-Yunden (Mongolia) as Vice-Chairs of the Commission’s sixty-seventh session. The Chair then informed the Commission that, following consultations within the Bureau, it has been agreed that Ms. Navaan-Yunden of Mongolia would also assume the responsibilities of Rapporteur for the sixty-seventh session. SIMA BAHOUS, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said a new kind of poverty excludes women and girls in devastating ways — that of digital poverty. As such, the current Commission’s work could not be more timely nor more critical, she said, adding: “We need to do what this Commission does best: develop norms and standards for an urgent issue of significant importance that offers both opportunity and challenge.” The digital revolution presents unprecedented opportunities for women and girls. At the very same time, it has also given rise to profound new challenges, compounding gender inequalities in severe ways. “We will not achieve gender equality without closing the digital gap,” she stressed. Pointing to data, she said women are 18 per cent less likely than men to own a smartphone, and far less likely to access or use the Internet. In the technology sector globally, women also face a gender pay gap of 21 per cent and nearly half of all women working in technology have faced workplace harassment. ANA PELÁEZ NARVÁEZ, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, voiced deep concern about the war in Ukraine and the grave humanitarian situation faced by the affected civilian populations. The Committee reviewed Ukraine’s ninth periodic report and issued recommendations to protect and promote women’s rights in that challenging context, she said, adding that Ukraine has invited the Committee to conduct a technical follow-up visit to the country. The Committee’s task force on Ukraine is exploring the possibility but is facing logistical and resource limitations. Also voicing concern about the grave humanitarian situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, she recalled that the April 2022 visit of the Chair of the Committee’s task force on Afghanistan and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls provided insight into the situation of women and girls in the country and devised strategies for protecting their human rights, among other developments. AMANDEEP SINGH GILL, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, said technology has opened doors for women everywhere through education and access to information, and has helped break down barriers to knowledge. “At the same time, technology holds a mirror to the ugliness of our world,” he underscored, noting that digital platforms have multiplied the reach of pornography, objectifying women and girls, and often facilitate gender-based violence. Digital technologies have also led to other forms of hatred spread online and prevented the full enjoyment of human rights by women. Moreover, it has impeded women political leaders from taking their legitimate space in the political arena. Turning to the equal and inclusive representation of women in decision-making, she said the Committee held a half-day of general discussion on the matter two weeks ago with broad participation by States parties, civil society and experts, as the first step in the elaboration of a draft general recommendation on this crucial topic. The equal and inclusive representation of women, including those from disadvantaged groups, in decision-making systems is a matter of human rights. Turning to the Commission’s priority theme, she underlined the crucial need for women to be equally represented in the design of and decision-making on artificial intelligence. Otherwise, discrimination against women will continue in automated systems that will significantly shape the future. “If this technology is not accessible, usable, and available to disadvantaged groups of women, including older women, women and girls with disabilities and rural women and girls, the talent of countless women and girls from all over the world will be left behind,” she stressed. A representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, spoke for the Group of Friends on Violence against Women and Girls. The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 7 March, to hold ministerial roundtables on the priority theme. MATHU JOYINI (South Africa), Chair of the sixty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women, expressing solidarity with all women and girls in conflict and disaster-affected areas, said that for the next two weeks, the Commission will evaluate progress made on addressing challenges and on opportunities in achieving gender equality and on the empowerment of rural women, as well as getting back on track to gender equality in a context of overlapping challenges. For the first time in its history, the Commission will have a youth segment, enabling young people to engage and discuss the priority theme. The priority theme could not be more timely. As stated in the Secretary-General’s report, digital technologies are rapidly transforming societies, allowing for unprecedented advances to improve social and economic outcomes for women and girls, but also giving rise to profound new challenges that may perpetuate existing patterns of gender inequalities. Recalling that the Commission had, during its sixty-sixth session, elected by acclamation the Russian Federation and Türkiye to serve as members of the Working Group on Communications on the Status of Women at its sixty-sixth and sixty-seventh sessions, it appointed Morocco today to serve on the Working Group at the sixty-seventh and sixty-eighth sessions, as well as Bangladesh and the Dominican Republic to serve on the Working Group at the sixty-seventh session of the Commission. “This is our moment to step up,” she underscored, adding that while technology can be a tool to drive gender equality and propel the feminist movement, it cannot continue to be a tool for misinformation and fundamentalism. Female technology innovators in the Global South and East are leading efforts to create, shape and influence digital technology that reflects and responds to lived realities, democracies and human rights. Highlighting that only 1.9 per cent of all funding makes it to grassroots women and girls organizations, she called on Governments, philanthropies and corporations to develop bold, gender-transformative actions, embed transparency and accountability in technology, and expand inclusive digital economies. This is the moment to be bold and courageous, embrace disruption to the status quo and catalyse meaningful change, she said. REEM ALSALEM, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, via a pre-recorded video message, said technological advancement cannot be an end but must remain a means to an end — the empowerment of women and girls and achieving gender equality. The international community must not fall into the trap of unquestionably celebrating the positive potentials of technological change; it must also recognize its detriments, such as the mental health crisis that being constantly connected is causing for millions of adolescents including girls or the way in which digital spaces are spaces for vicious onslaughts on women and girls. “The question is how do we navigate this field in a balanced manner when some foundational assumptions we have taken for granted are being profoundly challenged,” she underscored, pointing to the challenged assumptions that women and girls have an uncontested right to education, and that schools are safe spaces for girls, among others. The gap in access to digital tools and opportunity disproportionately affects women and girls with low literacy or low income, those living in rural or remote areas, migrants, women with disabilities and older women, she continued. Underlining the need to close the gender digital divide, she emphasized that every member of society, especially the most marginalized, must have equal access to digital skills and services. The international community must invest in digital, science and technology education for girls and women. Jobs and leadership positions must be ensured for women in the technology and innovation sectors. Transparency and accountability of digital technology must also be ensured. Further, misinformation must be confronted head on, working with men and boys to foster ethical and responsible online behaviour and make equality a cornerstone of digital citizenship. She also called for effort and investment to ensure that online spaces are free of violence and abuse, with mechanisms and clear accountability to tackle all forms of harassment and discrimination. Also speaking in the general discussion were ministers, senior officials and representatives of Sweden (for the European Union), Belarus (for the Group of the Friends of the Family), Angola (for the Community of Portuguese Language Countries), Bahamas (for the Caribbean Community), Panama (for the Inter-American Commission of Women of the Organization of American States), Kazakhstan (also for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), Czech Republic, Slovenia, Serbia, Ukraine, Netherlands, Portugal, Türkiye, Republic of Korea, France, Egypt, Paraguay, Lithuania, Morocco, Ireland, Austria, Thailand, Luxembourg, South Africa, Ecuador and Japan. Mohammed Bahr Aluloom of Iraq, speaking for the Group of Arab States, pointed to the region’s investment in digital technology where women account for between 34 and 57 per cent of those with degrees in science, engineering and mathematics. He also stressed the importance of regional cooperation in supporting women’s empowerment in the framework of the green and blue economy, which requires green technologies. LATANYA MAPP FRETT, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Fund for Women, said transformational social change comes from movements led by those most impacted by inequality. The Fund offers flexible feminist funding and support to grassroot movements and organizations in 176 countries. It leads a co-designed feminist accountability initiative with women organizations and youth across the world. That work will launch this week with aim to equip civil society members to explore a landscape of commitments made toward gender equality and create and lead their own accountability mechanisms that not only track those commitments but also advocate with stakeholders, holding all accountable. One such group is Girls for Climate Action in Uganda which trains young women and girls in climate policy and advocacy. * The 1st Meeting was covered in Press Release WOM/2221 on 25 March 2022. CSABA KŐRÖSI (Hungary), President of the General Assembly, via a pre-recorded video message, said the international community needs the experience of women to address complex and interlocking crises, from climate change and conflict, to poverty, hunger and, increasingly, water scarcity. He asked: “If we do not harness the potential of half of humanity, how are we supposed to reach the ambitious goals set forth in the 2030 Agenda?” Women are still a minority in digital information technology, computing, physics, mathematics and engineering and account for less than 35 per cent of people working in the global information and communications technology sector. Moreover, they are 20 per cent less likely than men to use the internet — but 27 times more likely to face online harassment or hate speech when they do. The unequal pace of digital transformation, exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, has amplified the barriers faced by women and girls, she continued. Thus, education in the digital age, in the context of rapid innovation and technological change, is vital to understand how to tackle existing and emerging challenges in a deeply interconnected and digitalized world, she said, warning that without the integration of a gender perspective in technology and innovation, the 2030 [Sustainable Development Goal] targets will not be reached. The Commission’s deliberations will provide an important contribution to the work of the Council, the high-level political forum and the Sustainable Development Goals Summit in September, towards the advancement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she said. Mathu Joyini (South Africa), Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, stated: “Gender-based discrimination is a systemic problem that has been interwoven into the fabric of our political, social and economic lives and the technology sector is no different.” While digital technologies are allowing for unprecedented advances to improve social and economic outcomes for women and girls, new challenges may perpetuate existing patterns of gender inequalities. She called for more opportunities to be available to women leaders and innovators and for the public and private sectors to make more available funding that enables the full participation of women and girls in the technology ecosystem. Comprehensive interconnected prevention and response measures must be multiplied to create a more favourable context for gender equality, she continued. The Commission must reaffirm the existing legal normative framework on the equal rights of women and their protection against discrimination, most notably the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, given the thrust from different corners of the world to dismantle the gains women fought so hard to realize. She further urged all participants to rise up to their responsibilities in defending those international and regional instruments. “Civil society, particularly feminist organizations and those they represent, should not continue to be left alone to weather the storm of the push back and should not be left behind.” She urged particular attention in the discussions to the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan and Iran, noting that they both represent dramatic examples of the global push back against the rights of women and girls. Technology is a social construct, which reflects human values and existing patterns of powers, he said, underlining the need to work harder to address asymmetries of power in the analogue world. Digital technology amplifies and distorts the existing analogue reality in ways that often escape policymakers. More deliberate responses and catalysed action is thus needed to improve access and skills and ensure that policies are gender-sensitive and lead to investment, infrastructure and the engagement of women in policymaking. More women must be brought into research and development of technology to prevent the misuse of digital platforms and change how the digital future will look 10 or 15 years from now. Further, trillion in global gross domestic product has been lost because of the exclusion of women from the digital world, he pointed out, urging those in Silicon Valley and the innovation world to ensure that technology developments, from education to skills, to research and development, and governance of technologies, sees more participation of women. Global frameworks are not working for the world’s women and girls and need to change, he emphasized. In that regard, his initiatives aim at getting the Sustainable Development Goals on track, supporting reform of the global financial system and increasing resources for women and girls at the country level. As well, an independent study reviewed the Organization’s capacity around gender equality across all pillars of its work. On gender parity in its personnel, the Secretariat is forecast to be close to parity in professional staff in 2025 — three years before the deadline, notwithstanding more difficult obstacles in the missions. He also pointed out that 3 billion people are still unconnected to the internet, the majority of them women and girls in developing countries. In least developed countries, just 19 per cent of women are online. In the tech industry, men outnumber women two to one, he said, emphasizing that centuries of patriarchy, discrimination and harmful stereotypes have created a huge gender gap in science and technology. Sima Bahous, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said a new kind of poverty excludes women and girls in devastating ways — that of digital poverty. “We need to do what this Commission does best: develop norms and standards for an urgent issue of significant importance that offers both opportunity and challenge,” she stated. Every member of society, especially the most marginalized, must have equal access to digital skills and services, she said, underscoring the need for investment in digital, science and technology education for girls and women. Further, misinformation must be confronted head on, working with men and boys to foster ethical and responsible online behaviour and make equality a cornerstone of digital citizenship. ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, noted that the Commission on the Status of Woman takes on even greater significance at a time when women’s rights are being abused, threatened, and violated around the world. “Progress won over decades is vanishing before our eyes,” he said. In Afghanistan, women and girls have been erased from public life. In many places, women’s sexual and reproductive rights are being rolled back and in some countries girls going to school risk kidnapping and assault. Gender equality is growing more distant; on the current track, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) puts it 300 years away. “I am here to say loud and clear: The United Nations stands with women and girls everywhere,” he declared. The Deputy Secretary-General and the Executive Director of UN-Women recently visited Afghanistan with a clear message for the authorities: women and girls have fundamental human rights, and we will never give up fighting for them, he added. Gisele Ndaya Luseba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Minister for Gender, Child and Family, speaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), highlighted the establishment of several policy frameworks by the bloc to advance innovation and technological change, including the adoption in 2008 of the Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation, and in 2017, the approval of the SADC Charter on establishing the Women in Science, Engineering and Technology Organization. Highlighting the new opportunities digital technology is creating for women and girls around the world, speakers renewed calls for investments to bridge the gender digital divide, ensure a safe digital environment and ensure the full participation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and math, as the Commission on the Status of Women opened its annual session today. Calling for urgent action to equalize power, he said education, income and employment must be increased for women and girls, particularly in the Global South. Leaders must promote women’s and girls’ full participation and leadership in science and technology, from Governments to board rooms and classrooms. Moreover, the international community must create a safe digital environment for women and girls, he said, adding that the United Nations is working with other stakeholders to advance a Code of Conduct for information integrity on digital platforms. “Promoting women’s full contributions to science, technology and innovation is not an act of charity or a favour to women; it benefits everyone,” he underscored. “Together, let’s push back against misogyny and forward for women, girls and our world.” Latanya Mapp Frett, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Fund for Women, declared: “This is our moment to step up.” Transformational social change comes from movements led by those most impacted by inequality. The Global Fund’s accountability initiative, launched this week, aims to equip civil society members to create and lead their own accountability mechanisms. Highlighting that only 1.9 per cent of all funding makes it to grassroots women and girls organizations, she called on Governments, philanthropies and corporations to develop bold, gender-transformative actions, embed transparency and accountability in technology and expand inclusive digital economies. LACHEZARA STOEVA (Bulgaria), President of the Economic and Social Council, via a pre-recorded video message, said addressing current multiple and intersecting global crises in a gender-responsive, sustainable manner is a priority of the Economic and Social Council, which fully supports the work of the Commission and will continue to promote progress for all women and girls. The rights of women and girls and gender equality are cross-cutting issues that influence all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, she said, underscoring the need to ensure the systematic mainstreaming of a gender perspective to leave no woman or girl behind.