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Youth Delegates Demand Greater Inclusion in Discussions about Digital Policies, Innovation, Protocols, as Commission on Status of Women Continues Session

The youth representative of Guyana said that in her years studying at the University of Guyana, she was of the few females pursuing computer science.  The development of inclusive technology that serves everyone, including women, requires effective programmes that help young girls in every demography to develop an interest and comfort in STEM.  By encouraging more girls to contribute to that field, biases can be eliminated and technology that truly serves all people can be developed.Another youth representative of Guyana said she was told that she would not survive for long in the male dominated field of computer science.  Today, however, she is a STEM enthusiast, a junior programmer for the Guyanese defence force, and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in artificial intelligence.  Mentorship and tech camps can inspire girls to pursue careers in information and communication technology.  She also co-founded a podcast called “STEM-y Conversations” — a safe virtual space to talk about all things related to information and communications technology, including STEM careers as a viable alternative to more traditional career paths. FOUNÈ WADIDIE COULIBALY, Minister for Advancement of Women, Children and Family of Mali, noted her country continues to face a profound political and security crisis, while the transitional authorities are working to help it emerge from the situation.  Mali has dedicated an entire ministerial department to information and communications technology (ICT), establishing a number of agencies in that domain.  She noted there are three active mobile telecom operators, and with a population estimated at over 20 million — half of them women — Mali boasts over 281,000 people subscribed to landlines, about 9.6 million Internet users and 241 women working in ICT in public administration — 26 per  cent of that staff.  The “Buy from Women” farmer information programme has 1,400 females enrolled, and other projects aim to advance women and schools by providing computers and other technology.  She further cited an interactive digital platform with over 2,000 women entrepreneurs enrolled, a women’s economic empowerment fund and a programme providing 20,000 students with laptops.  Over 27,000 women and girls have benefited from training programmes and equipment since May 2021.  Despite progress, however, the country continues to lack Internet access, energy sources and literacy in use of technologies. The youth representative of Qatar, noting that her country’s Constitution prohibits discrimination against women, said women’s empowerment is the basic pillar in Qatar’s national vision of 2030.  Noting that the country is in the lead in the region on social justice indicators, she said the number of girls enrolled in education constitutes 70.4 per cent of total enrolments.  Reporting that the total number of women graduates in Qatar sums up to 67.5 per cent of the total graduates majoring in STEM fields, she said the Government has dedicated funds to encourage entrepreneurship.  In partnership with sports, technology and digital funds, the Government ensures a minimum of two seats for women-led initiatives per year.  Pointing out that more than 5,000 women are company managers, she underscored that Qatar has been successful and progressive in further enabling women in many careers, from military to business and beyond. The youth representative of Chile said she is mayor of a small rural area in the north of her country, underscoring the importance of keeping their traditions alive in the Andes.  She voiced hope for actions that reverse the past lack of opportunities and maintain respect for their ancestral traditions, which would in turn allow to move forward with more space for participation, higher education and employment.  The women she represents — girls, women, women farmers, craftswomen and entrepreneurs in her community — wish to have greater visibility and contribute further to growth of her country, she said. The youth representative of Fund de Nationale, speaking via tele-conference, said she was calling in from Kenya and could not attend the conference because she did not have a visa.  She demanded action to correct a system that excluded young people.  She questioned why the conference is always held in New York City and why it is not rotated to locations in the Global South to reach young women.  She further questioned the seriousness of Commission members speaking about inclusion.  “You can do more, you will do more, and you must do more,” she said, referring to the need to involve young people.  Informing the Commission that she is an energy engineer, she urged that the written recommendations from colleagues demanding more youth participation be included. The youth representative of Saudi Arabia pointed to her country’s human capacity-building programmes providing quality education for all.  There are institutions providing training to girls in robotics and artificial intelligence, she said, noting various global entrepreneurial competitions and educational tools that her country promotes.  The national policies provide equal opportunities, she said. Further, men are 52 per cent more likely to be online than women, she added, underscoring that women and girls across the globe are less likely than men to be meaningfully connected at a level that allows for a safe, satisfying, affordable and productive online experience.  Despite its rapid transformation of society, which has included unprecedented advances for women and girls, digital technologies are also giving rise to profound new challenges that may perpetuate and deepen existing patterns of gender equalities, she continued.  In that regard, the digitalization of many Government services provides unique opportunities to empower women as economic, social and political actors while holding the potential to reduce inequality in access to quality and life-long learning experiences. The interactive youth dialogue centered on the Commission’s theme “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”.  The session runs from 6 to 17 March.  (For background, see Press Release WOM/2221.) CORNEL FERUȚĂ (Romania), reiterating that his country is determined to achieve zero tolerance towards gender stereotypes and gender-based violence, said these commitments extend through governance and respective policies.  Noting that the country has advanced a new legal framework and a national strategy for preventing and combating sexual violence for 2021-2030, he said it has also established services, medical centres and online communication tools to support victims.  On tackling human trafficking, the Government has proactively engaged in identifying potential victims in commercial sex, especially among refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, including through enhanced training for police officers.  Noting that out of 3.6 million Ukrainian refugees the vast majority are women, he said the Government laid out cross-cutting measures for tackling cases of abuse and exploitation of displaced persons from Ukraine.  In this regard, Romania designed and adopted a national plan of measures for the protection and inclusion of Ukrainian refugees in health care, education, labour and housing, he said, noting it is the first plan of this kind in the European Union. The representative of Catalonia, also speaking for the United Cities and Local Governments World Secretariat and United Regions Organization, said there can be no global feminist agenda without a strong local and regional presence, promoting the meaningful participation of women and youth organizations in their full diversity in policymaking, working to close the digital divide, create safe spaces and combat violence.  She called for combating aesthetic pressure — which is a form of gender oppression that is rampant on social networks — and adopting action plans to protect human rights defenders.  She called on the global community to pursue radical change, as the feminist transformation is neither utopian nor impossible. The youth representative of Malaysia noted that 27.2 per cent of her country’s population is between the ages of 15 to 30 — 9 million people.  Malaysia fosters holistic youth development, with an integrated monitoring hub to provide youth with information on youth development activities and programmers across all Government agencies.  A data sharing platform provides insightful statistical information accessible to all, and the country is launching the New Youth Development Model 2030, addressing digitalization, analytical and design thinking, and smart technology empowerment.  The Model will address youth from all backgrounds, including indigenous, rural and disabled youth. The youth representative of Ecuador recalled that, in the period from July to September 2022, 334 women in her country, including social leaders and politicians, received political harassment and violence.  Noting that the digital divide is an opportunity to change the reality of rural women, she pointed out that there is no relevant public policies in Ecuador to ensure access to Internet, education or business development.  The representative of Zimbabwe underscored the need to create employment for youth and involve them in all aspects of life.  In that regard, her Government has prioritized ensuring safety and security online by providing initiatives such as STEM education for girls, financial assistance for disadvantaged girls, especially from rural areas, and community-based spaces which enable youth to access digital technologies.  Through her country’s vocation training centres and colleagues, Zimbabwe has also incorporated an emphasis on digital literacy to ensure that its youth can understand how to use digital technology, including on facilitating their employment. The youth representative of Fiji, spotlighting the online sexual harassment, cyberbullying and scamming that girls and women face, called on Governments to adopt a comprehensive definition of technology-facilitated gender-based violence with the participation of survivors, women’s organizations and other stakeholders in the drafting process.  They must ensure laws and legal protections; close the legal loopholes; and enforce those protections.  There also must be an increasing responsibility from corporate social media companies to strengthen safety mechanisms and review the mechanisms that excuse online gender-based violence.  “We must all take action against misogynistic hate speech and power, which is allowed to spread on social media and [is] leading to increasing incel culture,” she stressed, highlighting the need for action on, among others, addressing gender stereotypes; strengthening mental health programmes; facilitating body-confidence building interventions, both online and offline; and preventing the marketing of unobtainable body ideals. The youth representative of Equatorial Guinea spotlighted her country’s efforts on addressing accessibility, awareness-raising and the digital divide.  Together with development organizations, her Government’s ICT ministry organized its first-ever day for girls in 2022, which had seminars and workshops on tools for the digital world.  It also had entrepreneurship and technological courses to enable girls to identify various problems faced by their communities and develop solutions to that end.  In addition, she highlighted her country’s efforts on illiteracy, which included a civil society platform that has organized courses for women and young. The youth representative of Italy pointed out that there is not an equal distribution of resources, which must be redirected to erase the digital divide.  There are those who have access to devices and those who do not.  More investment and commitment are necessary to improve technology infrastructure and especially, the educational system for digital tools.  Digital tools empower women to become more sufficient and digital literacy is necessary so women can enter the job market.  Women need to feel safe online and be protected from cyberstalking and other forms of digital violence.  Ensuring safe access to the digital world for women is a human rights issue. Discussants included Marija Vasileva-Blazev, Officer in Charge for the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, and Luis Chuquihuara, Chair of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development at its twenty-sixth session, who spoke virtually via video-teleconference.  Kate Jenkins, Sex Discrimination Commissioner of Australia, was unable to participate. Ms. MEHMOOD, responding to a question about digital access for rural women and girls, pointed out that existing fem-tech applications or solutions are designed only for economically advantaged women.  To provide access to rural women, it is important to design technology keeping in mind their realities.  The international community must redefine the meaning of development and success in social entrepreneurship.  Moreover, Member States must engage young people and invest in the solutions they have created to bridge the digital divide and the urban-rural divide, she said. The youth representative of the European Union said she encountered greater stereotypes around women’s participation in the STEM field in university, where girls are five times less likely than boys to consider a technology career in STEM.  Girls need to develop transferrable skills that will be useful in the job market.  Failing to provide half of the population with access to digital skills and technology is not productive for society and future generations.  “We must challenge the stereotypes at all levels,” she said, adding that women should not be excluded from technology fields. Japan’s youth delegate pointed out that 18 out of 20 youth delegates are from Western developed countries, far from the Secretary-General’s philosophy of leaving no one behind.  She described being in conference rooms the past week with fellow youth delegates who had “tears of indignation, anxiety and frustration running down their cheeks”.  Despite walking the halls of the United Nations, they felt excluded from discussions because they are young or not white.  The Commission must take measures to include those not in the room because they could not obtain visas or were worried about their safety. SOFIA LOREUS, Minister for Women’s Affairs and Women’s Rights of Haiti, stressed that the autonomy of women and girls will only be possible when they are able to participate in all aspects of development.  Spotlighting her Government’s programmes and efforts to implement the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, she called for an urgent response to the growing phenomenon of young mothers, the circulation of demeaning images of women and sexist publicity.  There must also be gender-based budgeting, she added, noting the importance of gender equality for a democratic State and inviting all to do so.  In that regard, her Government will continue its approach by undertaking comparative gender-based analyses and gender-responsive budgeting to increase investments.  All sectors and stakeholders must prioritize investment, increase allocated resources, strengthen capacities and provide support for institutional mechanisms to achieve gender equality at all levels, she emphasized. Also speaking in the interactive youth discussion were youth representatives of Mexico, Eritrea, Switzerland, Finland, Lebanon, Fiji, Denmark, Hungary, Malaysia, Italy, Georgia, Qatar, Philippines, El Salvador, Angola, Guyana, United Kingdom, Netherlands, United Republic of Tanzania, Indonesia, Sweden, Equatorial Guinea, Federated States of Micronesia, Saudi Arabia, Chile, South Africa, Uganda, Ecuador, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.  A youth representative for the European Union also spoke. Oscar Fitzpatrick of Ireland, activist and Consultant to Youth for the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, said that as an intersex and transgender person, he has seen first-hand the impact of anti-LGBTIQ misinformation.  To manage anti-transgender misinformation, he stressed the need to develop a deeper understanding of the language used to amplify inequality and oppression. Gisele Luseba Ndaya, Minister for Gender and Family of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that her country ratified a national digital plan for 2025.  Yet, to create an inclusive digital economy in her country, “we need peace”, she underscored.  Weapons need to be silenced, she said, calling on the international community to support her country in this endeavour. Demanding that their voices be heard, youth representatives pointed to barriers, both offline and online, that prevent their participating in information and communications technology sectors, the policies and processes that enable such participation, and the Commission on the Status of Women, itself, whose organizers embrace inclusion, as the Commission’s sixty-seventh session continued today. In the afternoon, the Commission resumed its general discussion with over 35 delegates discussing the way in which their Governments are working to advance gender equality within the information and communications technology sector. Responding to speakers, Ms. KNEŽEVIĆ underlined the importance of equality and inclusion for all.  She pointed out that women with disabilities today are still fighting for their basic human rights in most parts of the world since they have been left out.  In that vein, there is no option to leave anyone behind as the international community builds the technology world.  Policies, strategies and actions must work on addressing the gender gap and the digital divide, she stressed.  “Technology should be something that will improve our lives — that will be the tool that we are using to live the best of our lives — and not something that should further the divide that we already have,” she said. DIEGO PARY RODRÍGUEZ (Bolivia), noting that cyberharassment takes advantage of anonymity online, said the risks in using new technologies include not only violations of privacy, but the risk of being trafficked or even killed.  It is thus important to work on policies and information-centred measures for greater cybersecurity to ensure that women and teen girls and protected and have access to helpful resources.  Recalling the President of Bolivia’s proposal at the General Assembly session last year for the declaration of a decade for the deconstruction of the patriarchy to fight against violence against women and girls, he underscored the need to change policies, as well as economic, social and cultural conditions, to eliminate all kinds of exclusion, domination, exploitation, discrimination and violence.  His country developed a diagnostic on digital gaps, with proposals for the participation of women and girls in new technologies.  Among them is a new robotics programme led by the Government agency for electronic and information and communication technology, he said. The youth representative of MenEngage Global Alliance said that daily lives are being shaped by the rapid space and scope of digital changes — but this enabling environment has come at a cost, fostering increasing digital misogyny, online violence and an increased gender digital divide.  Gender transformative programmes require that everyone pay attention to the “manosphere” — which often glorifies online violence against women and girls — and work together to unpack the role of information and communications technology in maintaining patriarchal norms and socializing boys and young men.  The digital backlash and stereotypical depiction of violence online must be countered, she added. Ms. OMISTE said the pandemic was a challenge for everyone and inequalities among people surfaced.  Rural zones where access to technology was much more difficult to access experienced even greater challenges.  It is indispensable that access to technology and information be expanded to preserve the individual rights of all people.  Women have not had sufficient roles in decision-making processes.  In Latin America and the Caribbean, youth groups have been set up to foster the productivity of women and girls in the labour market by developing their tech skills.  Today’s elite private and public enterprises must incorporate the perspective of women, girls and other vulnerable groups into their work as they work for business and social development.  She recommended that States focus efforts on developing technology skills for people at all ages, particularly in rural areas, where digital abilities are much more necessary.  Leaders must make the development of digital skills a priority and refrain from politicizing issues.  She called for States to reach out to rural and indigenous areas and work with private and public entities to create solutions. The youth representative of Japan said that last week she was in conference rooms with fellow youth delegates who had “tears of indignation, anxiety and frustration running down their cheeks.”  Despite being present at the United Nations, they do not feel included in discussions because they are young or because they are not white.  She said 18 out of 20 youth delegates are from Western developed countries, which does not represent the youth of the Global South.  This is far from the Secretary-General’s philosophy of leaving no one behind.  The Commission must take measures to include those who not in this room because they could not obtain visas or were worried about their safety.  She also demanded that stakeholders create safe spaces for youth online.  Tackling the issue of gender equality should not be a tug of war between nations.  It should uplift marginalized people in all communities, she said. The third youth representative of Guyana, noting her country’s progress in promoting gender equality through technology and innovation, said a women’s innovation and investment network ensures that women and entrepreneurs have a safe online community to advertise their businesses and train in financial literacy, adding that she benefited from that initiative as a woman in STEM and founder of her own software company.  “It is through policies and ideas shared in conferences like this that we can continue to inspire and motivate future generations of women leaders and innovators,” she said. Alison Berbetty Omiste of Bolivia, Systems Engineer and Lawyer, Co-Founder and National Director of Mujeres TICs Bolivia and Vice-Curator of the Global Shapers Community, said the pandemic was a challenge for everyone and inequalities among people surfaced.  Rural zones where access to technology was much more difficult to access experienced even greater challenges. AICHA NANETTE CONTE, Minister for the Advancement of Women, Children and Vulnerable Persons of Guinea, said limited access to technology and the Internet for women and girls is one of the key challenges facing her country, noting that according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), only 33 per cent of women in Guinea have access to the Internet.  As well, women remain underrepresented in engineering and technical specializations.  For the university school year 2021-22, women represented only 32 per cent of those in information and communications technology, she said, among other things.  A digitalization in the country’s education system is currently under way, with 196 cybercentres built and equipped in secondary, professional and higher learning establishments throughout the country.  She underscored the need to increase provision of equipment and training for young girls and women. The youth representative of Angola stressed the need for a holistic approach to digital technologies, noting that her Government is updating legislation to ensure that digital spaces can be safe and universally accessible.  Angola is developing various projects to promote digital literacy for girls and women and foster their interest in STEM careers.  Highlighting the situation of girls and women in rural areas, she added that they must be able to participate in decision-making that affects their sexuality, reproductive health and citizenship.  “These girls are, after all, our future,” she said, calling for more global mechanisms to ensure this. Hawa Yokie of Sierra Leone, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Kamara Yokie Innovation Center, said gender inequality in the digital and innovation space is particularly pronounced in underdeveloped countries, especially Sub-Saharan Africa.  She said the Center is a hub of design thinking, coding and robotics that equips girls with the tools and supportive environments to learn by doing. ANTONINA MIKO MIKUE (Equatorial Guinea) spotlighted her Government’s policy to achieve gender equality by improving the legal situation of its women and girls; its plan to train teachers and administrators, install digital classes for all schools and create teams of digital experts in school centres; and its national strategy to develop an information and digital economy.  Equatorial Guinea wants to universalize access to ICTs, technical and digital training and capacity-building to promote women’s entrepreneurship, she said, underscoring the importance of addressing women and girls’ needs.  Together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), her Government has organized a national day for women in ICT to promote technological innovation projects.  She then showcased its education programme; highlighted the impacts of her Government’s efforts on women and their visibility; and noted that Equatorial Guinea has — for the first time in its history — chosen a woman as its Prime Minister. The discussion featured presentations by:  Milica Knežević of Serbia, Senior Test Developer at an international information technology company; Hawa Yokie of Sierra Leone, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Kamara Yokie Innovation Center; Alison Berbetty Omiste of Bolivia, Systems Engineer and Lawyer, Co-Founder and National Director of Mujeres TICs Bolivia and Vice-Curator of the Global Shapers Community; Oscar Fitzpatrick of Ireland, activist and Consultant to Youth for the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association; and Aisha Mehmood of Pakistan, Founder of Baithak — Challenging Taboos.  Discussants included Marija Vasileva-Blazev, Officer in Charge for the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth; and Luis Chuquihuara, Chair of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development at its twenty-sixth session, who spoke virtually via video-teleconference. Youth representatives of non-governmental and other organizations also spoke today, including Girls Learn International, World Organization of the Scout Movement, Outreach International, MenEngage Global Alliance and IT for Change, along with a representative of Catalonia, also speaking for the United Cities and Local Governments World Secretariat and United Regions Organization. GLORIA THOMAS, Minister for State with Responsibility for Social Development and Gender Affairs of Grenada, aligning herself with CARICOM, said efforts cannot be distracted by the backlash related to leaving men and boys behind, because both reality and statistics show that there are gaps that need to be filled and that achieving gender equality will benefit them as well.  Urging participants to keep the gender agenda alive, she noted her Government has identified digital and physical infrastructure as a developmental priority, and last week held an information and communications technology week.  Citing a 2018 World Economic Forum report projecting that by 2050, 75 per cent of jobs will be STEM-related, she noted that women today occupy just 22 per cent of positions in artificial intelligence, while studies show that the number of women pursuing advance studies in STEM is dropping.  They do not feel safe online, which will diminish their opportunities.  She asked what can be done to combat discrimination and about dealing with sexual harassment and stalking online. The representative of Viet Nam stressed that the political will of Governments, along with stakeholders’ deep awareness and a mind-set for change, are essential to implement digital innovation and technology transformation to achieve gender equality.  She spotlighted her Government’s national digital transformation programmes and its application of technology in industries, among other efforts. THILMEEZA HUSSAIN (Maldives), recalling that the Gender Equality Act enacted in 2016 prohibits both direct and indirect gender-based discrimination, said implementation of this act was further strengthened by the National Gender Equality Action Plan launched in 2022.  Moreover, the Maldives Penal Code was amended to include provisions on online abuse and harassment, including technology-facilitated violence.  To accelerate efforts on the digital inclusion of women and girls, the country carried out digital literacy programmes in association with civil society.  Further, under the leadership of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the Maldives digitalized social services to enhance shock-responsive social protection benefits and services targeted towards women and girls.  The adoption and expansion of e-justice services made judicial institutions responsive to gender-based violence.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government shifted services to e-platforms and promoted financial autonomy for women through digital financial services.  Mobile health-care services, such as telemedicine and mobile clinics, became a means for women and girls living in remote and rural areas to gain access to health-care services, she added. AMINA PRISCILLE LONGOH, Minister for Gender and National Solidarity of Chad, spotlighted her Government’s various initiatives which included a strategic plan for a diversified and resilient economy by 2030 and plan to improve fibre-optic access.  Chad has also seen a 30 per cent reduction in mobile data rates; reduced imports of digital equipment; is implementing education, health-care, justice, financial and e-Governance measures; and has created a national agency for information security and electronic certification.  Since her country’s population consists mostly of rural women, she advocated for a reorientation of investments in technology to also meet their urgent basic needs of water, health care, security and physical protection, among others.  She then voiced her hope for strong resolutions — and not just words — from the Commission, stressing that it is inconceivable that those who promote digital platforms are concerned only about profits to the detriment of users. The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 14 March, to continue its work. The you representative of the Netherlands said accessibility to digital devices is very important and is crucial to give girls and youth meaningful participation in daily life and society.  However, online safety is also very important as girls are exposed to gender-based violence.  Nonetheless, online digital content can be used to give women and girls comprehensive access to information about sexual and reproductive health and their rights.  This gives them power over their own bodies.  In addition, digital literacy is important. It must be used to fight discrimination and the algorithms that create echo chambers of disinformation.  She also stressed that youth advocates are hidden away and do not feel they are being listened to, adding that their recommendations must be reflected in the text of the conference. Milica Knežević of Serbia, Senior Test Developer at an international information technology company, said there must be programmes on empowerment and education in information and communications technology for people with disabilities, and more of those programmes for women and girls with disabilities. The youth representative of the National Youth Council of Sweden, noting that digital access is not equal to digital literacy, said the current educational system is not reducing but increasing inequality.  Moreover, it marginalizes young women and LGBTI+ persons.  The youth declaration of the “Transforming Education Summit” demanded decision-makers to invest in gender-transformative education online and offline to create a present and future free from gender stereotypes, he said. RABETALIANA ROVA HARIMBOAHANGY, Director-General for Social Protection and Advancement of Women of the Ministry in Charge of Population, Social Protection and Promotion of Women of Madagascar, associating herself with the “Group 77” and China and the African Group, said the digital world affects women in the rural areas of her country, where only 29.9 per cent of women have access to a mobile phone; 2.6 per cent use the Internet; and 1.4 per cent possess a computer.  Given the stereotypes attributed to “masculine” and “feminine” abilities, she said the representation of women in science remained weak because of sexist discrimination.  In this regard, she spotlighted the importance of funding for development and the need to increase partnerships and cooperation and enhance capacity-building in ICT.  Changing the conditions of women in the ICT field depends on effective multilateral leadership and relevant partnerships to capitalize on the progress made, she stressed. Norway’s youth representative, also pointing out the same omission of youth delegates from developing nations, underscored that sending people to the United Nations conferences costs money.  Yet, the fund which helps finance the costs of delegates’ travel to conferences is out money.  To that end, she encouraged developed nations to support the fund. MARKOVA CONCEPCIÓN JARAMILLO (Panama) pointed out that the inclusion of women, girls and other excluded groups allows for more creative solutions capable of responding to current needs and challenges.  While her country’s Internet connectivity has increased in recent years, its use — along with that of mobile phones — among women is lower than that of men.  Against this backdrop, there is a need to account for multiple factors such as incomes, households and digital skills, especially since connectivity and digital inclusion are vital, cross-cutting elements affecting women’s socioeconomic conditions.  To close digital gaps and facilitate innovation for women and children, her Government has developed a strategic digital agenda; helped women digitalize with support from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); worked on a new platform to enable women to train for free; and promoted the digital transformation of its education sector, among other things. KIM SONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that in his country, the dignity and rights of women are firmly guaranteed by law in fields ranging from politics to education, health and the labour market.  Numerous talented women are appointed as senior officials of State power organs, ministries, and newly organized education, health and light industry institutions and enterprises.  Meanwhile, women enjoy many State social benefits.  Citing one important programme, he said six-month or two-year “refresher” courses are available to women, aimed at improving their practical skills in accordance with their wishes, abilities and ages.  The number of women workers enrolled in tele-education programmes is increasing, as is the proportion of women in their 40s and 50s enrolled in tele-education colleges.  Meanwhile, he said, a law adopted in 2021 provides women workers on maternity leave with the equivalent of 100 per cent of their salaries. The youth representative of Norway, pointing out that most of the youth delegations are from developed nations, underscored that sending people to United Nations conferences costs money.  There is a fund to help send delegates to conferences but it is out money.  Developed nations are encouraged to give money to this fund.  Homosexuality is illegal in 68 countries and punishable by death in eight countries.  While LGBTQ+ persons can use online platforms to find community, it can also be an unsafe place.  Work needs to be done to make online platforms a safer place.  Initiatives needs to be funded to help empower girls and the LBGTQ+ community. Mr. FITZPATRICK said that as an intersex and transgender person, he has seen first-hand the impact of anti-LGBTIQ misinformation.  Pointing out that the algorithmic bias can cause anti-transgender content to appear in search results with hierarchical preference, he said this may lead to individuals being radicalized by misinformation rather than factual information.  To manage anti-transgender misinformation, he outlined a need to develop a deeper understanding of the language used to amplify inequality and oppression.  Spotlighting that misinformation remains a critical issue in the digital realm, he said the European Union’s programme “EUvsDisinfo” aims at combating COVID-19 related misinformation by identifying and exposing false narratives.  Turning to hate speech and violence, he noted that hate speech legislation enabled by France and Germany requires hate speech to be removed within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.  France also established a national hate speech reporting platform to facilitate the reporting process.  On digital citizenship education, he described Switzerland’s initiative “Critical Thinking” and the European Commissions’ “DigCompEdu” framework that provide educational programmes, media literacy campaigns and technical tools to monitor misinformation. When the floor opened, the youth representative of Mexico noted young women often have no access to digital technology due to discrimination, with less time invested in their education.  The Government is tackling all aspects of the digital divide, with the Mexican Institute of Youth promoting a digital abilities laboratory — a training area for young people to bolster attitudes, skills and citizen participation.  She also cited a national strategy to prevent teenage pregnancy and action to promote girls in STEM education.  Further, in 2021, the National Institute of Women launched a strategy for digital skills, with 4,000 women receiving digital literacy training, while the legal code sanctioned digital violence.   ISLAM ABDULLAH HASSAN AL-AMRI, an observer for the League of Arab States, noting that national, regional and international partnerships assume special importance in achieving progress in research and innovation, recalled that the 2030 Arab Women Development Agenda was perceived to operationalize the Arab ministerial declaration on gender, parity and equality.  Moreover, the Arab Women Development Agenda (2023-2028) was adopted at the Arab League Summit as a five-year regional plan to improve the status of the Arab woman by combating digital illiteracy, including among refugee women.  Noting that contextualizing the Beijing Platform and its programme of action on IT-related issues no longer reflects the emerging issues driven by innovation, he urged the international community to recognize the existence of digital gaps and take action.  In this regard, the League of Arab States’ members sought to mainstream gender perspectives in innovation and technology, as they focused on improving infrastructure and connectivity and addressing stereotypes.  He went on to underscore the importance of adopting a new approach towards technology and scientific knowledge and urged to put the needs of women and girls at its core. The youth representative of Outreach International pointed out that digitalization has created a gateway for violence towards LGBTIQ+ youths and their communities.  To make the Internet a democratic space is to know that hate speech and digital violence cannot be supported by any discourse, he said, calling for regulation which ensures global education on the limits and boundaries of Internet use and allows for promoters of hate speech and violence to be both identifiable and held accountable.  Instead of being used to reduce LGBTIQ+ youths to stereotypes and wrongful labels, technology must be used to empower all people, especially the marginalized.  “We are living, breathing human beings that have needs and demand to be able to exercise all of our fundamental rights,” he emphasized. The youth representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said her country promotes digitalization in all sectors through digital policies and legal frameworks.  Noting that the country wishes to increase efforts in the inclusion of women and young girls with disabilities, she asked the panellists about the best practice to engage rural women and girls with disabilities in digital inclusion and technological innovation. The youth representative of Switzerland, while noting that new technologies can cause risks for fundamental rights, stressed they can also be useful for advancing gender equality.  To that end, more women need to be included in the development of technological tools, he said, acknowledging that Switzerland is far from achieving parity in STEM fields with only 30 per cent of women engaged in STEM careers and 12 per cent in information technology.  Spotlighting the importance of reaching an agreement on a definition of gender-based violence facilitated by technology, he said it would allow to quantify and confront the issue.  In that regard, Switzerland created an algorithm aiming to identify hate speech in order to research it, he said. The youth representative of IT for Change, speaking also for the Feminist Young Alliance, urged the Commission to centre the youth forum as decision-makers, co-leaders and co-designers of both the present and the future.  Young lower-caste women in her country stand in line for over five hours to wait for technology systems to work, receive rations and have access to social protections.  Young, rural indigenous women and girls have been forced to drop out of education due to shifts to the digital space facilitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Young women and girls from minority communities, journalists, human rights defenders and fact-checkers face technology-facilitated gender-based violence, especially in online spaces.  “Who is accountable and responsible for this systematic exclusion, discrimination and violence — online and offline?” she asked.  “Whose rights are centred and whose lives are heard and whose realities are heard in digital spaces and decision-making spaces?” ALYSON CALEM-SANGIORGIO (Monaco), associating herself with the European Union and Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence against women and girls, said women are more exposed to cyberharassment and intimidation regardless of their professional tenure.  Monaco’s 2021 law seeks to protect girls from cyberharassment, including in schools, and condemns sexually explicit content shared publicly as a kind of vengeance without consent.  Noting that the Committee for the Promotion and Protection of Women has launched a digital campaign, “Action Innocence”, to bring awareness among youth, she underscored the importance of promoting empathy.  She went on to say that the International Tennis Federation adopted 21 principles and implemented monitoring tools to look at the interaction between players and the public.  Moreover, the Government included programming courses in the school curriculum with an aim at promoting coding.  She also spotlighted the importance of increasing the representation of women and girls in STEM disciplines. The youth representative of the World Organization of the Scout Movement said that more than 57 million young people in 173 countries organize each year the world’s largest digital and radio scout event where more than 2 million young people take part in three days of educational activities in the digital space.  They do so because the event is free and co-designed and co-created by youth.  In addition, they are learning in fun ways through non-formal education, developing digital literacy skills in a space where they feel safe and protected, she said, spotlighting the mandatory “be safe” online e-course prior to entering the platform.  She called for the inclusion of young women, girls and gender diverse youth in the co-design and co-creation of online digital spaces, as well as support and investment in non-formal education, stressing that for many young people excluded from formal educational settings, youth organizations like hers are a lifeline. Ms. VASILEVA-BLAZEV stressed that innovation and technology can be cross-cutting tools to achieve equality and justice only when they are developed with inclusion and human rights in mind.  Since technology is not always developed with girls and young women in mind, those with intersecting identities face significantly greater risk of exclusion, she said, noting that her office has heard specific examples from young women with disabilities around user privacy challenges.  Online risks and threats are growing with notable impacts on young people who are using the digital space to work and advocate for their rights.  As such, there must be better policies and regulations that enable inclusion and human rights as a key standard.  Technologies must be safe, affordable and accessible to be truly empowering, she underscored, noting the need to also address the huge gap in women’s participation in decision-making processes.  To that end, there must be meaningful partnerships that include Governments, industry leaders, the private sector, civil society and young people in particular.  She highlighted several initiatives in that regard such as the Global Digital Compact; spotlighted her office’s work; and reiterated its commitment on meaningful youth engagement and inclusion. The youth representative of the United Kingdom stressed the importance of using the Commission to build intergenerational intersectional consensus to prevent rolling back on human rights.  He highlighted the United Kingdom’s core priorities of delivering on quality education for all women and girls, centring on their empowerment and leadership to eliminate the digital divide and eliminating all forms of technology-facilitated gender-based digital violence.  Calling for the deconstruction of privileges and structures that “we benefit from, often at the expense of others”, he noted women, girls and youth cannot only be seen as beneficiaries of technology, but already bearers of knowledge and skills. The youth representative of Georgia said the Georgia Government has an action plan to include more women and girls in the technology fields through festivals and events to carry out awareness campaigns to make girls aware of opportunities in the STEM fields.  Gender equality is an important part of the Government’s action plan, as it also wants gender justice.  Further, the Government was able to mitigate the damage of the pandemic by adopting a women’s empowerment document and it is working to combat online harassment, which includes hate speech, she reported. Ms. YOKIE, responding to the youth delegates from Africa, pointed to the lack of infrastructure on that continent and called for increased funding to ensure affordability and accessibility for women and girls.  It is very hard for young women and girls in Africa to access digital technologies, she said, adding that the gender gap is leaving women behind in innovation and technology. The youth representative of Lebanon said the digital transformation is leaving out young women and girls living in areas without access.  Three billion people around the world are technologically disconnected, she said, calling on Governments to ensure that women and girls have equal access to benefit from technology.  The international community must provide access to digital literacy programmes and invest in infrastructure; a whole of society approach is crucial.  Calling for digital feminism, she stressed:  “Let us empower women and girls through digital platforms where they can express themselves freely.”  Young people must be able to grow up online safely, she added. The interactive dialogue also heard from panellists offering perspectives and experiences of the challenges and the successes engaging information and communications technologies to affect change, close the gender digital divide and make online space safe for all communities. TAREK LADEB (Tunisia) said the rights of women are a priority in the country, as it works to expand their participation in public affairs towards building equality with men in all spheres, in an equal, just and inclusive society.  Tunisia has joined all international instruments related to women, and co-chairs with Finland, Armenia, Rwanda and Chile the Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality to bridge the gender gap in digital technology, which is crucial to realizing Sustainable Development Goal 5.  The country is committed to helping women reach the highest level of education in the digital and scientific spheres and has adopted legislation to enable them to enjoy equal pay, investment and equal opportunities, and benefit from digital facilities, he said. The youth representative of Malta emphasized that comprehensive education programmes must include digital skills development in order to empower and equip youth with tools to safely navigate online spaces.  To address the digital gender gap and promote the inclusion of all youth in digital spaces, her country has committed to ensuring equal access to technology; promoting STEM education; and creating transparent and accountable online safeguarding mechanisms to protect women and girls from violence, abuse, harassment and discrimination.  There must be robust data protection and privacy laws as well as gender impact assessments on emerging technologies to ensure that young women and girls have both equal opportunities and the room to innovate themselves, she noted, adding:  “Access to digital technologies, digital literacy and digital innovation should not be considered a luxury but must be afforded to all.” NACIM GAOUAOUI (Algeria) said his Government aims to transform the country’s economy through technology and the promotion of women’s opportunities in various sectors.  It has established two ministries tackling digitalization and statistics, with a view to promoting start-ups.  It has also established a 0 million fund for private financing and a fund that attracts women.  Turning to access to technology, he said 48.27 per cent of women use laptops and 91 per cent of women use mobile phones.  He also reported that 60 per cent of university graduates and 41.7 per cent of those working in science and technology are women, adding that Algeria is a leading country in the world and in the Arab world, according to data from UNESCO.  It shares its expertise with neighbouring States and is working on a fibre optic project on interconnectivity with Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Mali. Speaking in the afternoon general discussion were ministers, senior officials and other representatives of Mali, Albania, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Guinea, Eritrea, Uganda, Liechtenstein, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Bulgaria, Myanmar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Cabo Verde, North Macedonia, Bolivia, Tunisia, Monaco, Romania, Ethiopia, Panama, Iraq, Yemen, Maldives, Algeria, Grenada, Madagascar, Solomon Islands and Equatorial Guinea.  Observers for the International Development Law Organization and the League of Arab States also spoke. JAN BEAGLE, Director-General, the International Development Law Organization, noted that it will take another 286 years to close the gender gap in legal protection, and 140 years to achieve women’s equal representation in leadership.  Rule of law is a powerful tool to protect women’s human rights and dignity, she said, highlighting her organization’s work in the most insecure and fragile regions of the world.  It is crucial to ensure that the digital divide does not become the new face of gender inequality.  However, of the 2.9 billion people who remain unconnected, the majority are women and girls.  The digital gender divide is particularly acute in least developed countries where only 1 in 5 women have access to the internet.  It is essential to invest in robust, gender-transformative laws and policies to guide all aspects of innovation and technology, she said, adding that it is especially crucial to combat technology-facilitated gender-based violence.  Further, the international community must ensure the participation and leadership of women and girls in all digital spaces, including women in the justice sector.  It is crucial that the rights of women and girls are protected in both online and offline spaces, and that a people-centred and feminist approach informs the development and use of technology, she underscored. OGERTA MANASTIRLIU, Minister for Health and Social Protection of Albania, noting that her Government empowers women by enhancing their economic, social and political participation, said that females are represented in high leadership positions and constitute 70 per cent of the Government’s members.  Noting that innovation and technology are Albania’s top priorities, she said her country ranked eighth in Europe and nineteenth overall for digital public services.  Through its “e-Albania” platform, the Government has enabled the delivery of electronic and online public services, she said, noting that out of 2.7 million registered citizens, 53 per cent are women.  Through e-platforms, Albania increased access to the development programmes for vulnerable women, she added.  Turning to Digital Agenda 2026, she said it lays out a way forward for innovative solutions in this domain.  She went on to say that gender mainstreaming is being implemented in the framework of Albania’s national gender strategy 2030. The representative of Indonesia, spotlighting the importance of educational and digital literacy for women, said his country works with various stakeholders to achieve digital inclusion of women.  In this regard, he highlighted the need for developing inclusive policies to encourage women’s participation in technology. Ms. OMISTE, stressing the importance of cross-cutting access in the digital sphere, called on States to promote initiatives towards this goal.  They must also address the specific needs of regions and their peoples, she said, adding that digital education must be a priority to ensure safety. THOA THI MINH LE (Viet Nam), aligning herself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), stressed that the political will of Governments, the deep awareness of all stakeholders and a mind-set for change are essential for implementing digital innovation and technology transformation to achieve gender equality.  She spotlighted her Government’s national digital transformation programmes; application of technology in industries, agriculture and services; assistance to women in accessing information, education and development opportunities; and its mindfulness of increased risks of cyberbased attacks, sexual harassment, violence, human trafficking and other violations of privacy rights.  She then advocated for removing persistent barriers, eliminating gender stereotypes, closing the gender divide, improving investments in digital technologies and equipping women and girls with the relevant knowledge and skills to support their transition to digital-related forms of empowerment.  This notably requires multidimensional approaches to address the challenges that women and girls face, she pointed out. LACHEZARA STOEVA (Bulgaria), associating herself with the European Union, said gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls has been a longstanding priority for her country, based in the Law on Equality between Women and Men.  That legislation introduces norms, establishes the institutional environment and defines the bodies and mechanisms for the implementation of gender equity policy.  Meanwhile, the Government is working to promote women’s and girls’ choice of education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as to create the conditions needed for greater participation of women in decision-making at all levels.  Bulgaria ranks first in the European Union in its share of employed female ICT professionals at over 28 per cent, and third in its share of female students specializing in ICT at 31 per cent.  A national strategy for the development of scientific research has been successfully implemented, while initiatives such as the annual SHEleader@digital event and the Entrepregirl competition are encouraging young women’s professional involvement in the digital sector. The youth representative of Hungary noted she had told her mother she wanted to be a lawyer while in kindergarten — and 20 years later, she has completed law school.  She was able to chase her dreams, but that is not the case for young women around world, with 129 million outside the education system and 2.5 times more likely to drop out than boys.  Women and girls are also more likely to be concentrated in lower paid employment and part-time jobs.  Citing a European Union gender pay gap of 21 per cent, she noted many young girls face expectations that compel them to avoid thinking outside box and accepting gender roles.  Urging girls to never forget that they have the right to become whatever they want to be, she called for promotion of education, more financial help, and better parental leave for both mothers and fathers.  Interactive Dialogue with Youth Representatives The youth representative of Finland, stressing that new technologies should lead to human-rights based solutions, said her country’s youth group has developed “a right to be online manifesto” to help the technology sector tackle online and tech-facilitated gender-based violence.  Underscoring the responsibility of Governments, legislators and tech companies to ensure everyone’s right to be safe online, she highlighted the need to include youth, LGBTQIA+ people and other people in vulnerable positions.  However mere access to technology and the Internet is not enough if their safe use is not guaranteed.  Tech companies should develop gender transformative technology in an intersectional way, she said, calling also for legislation that promotes a more inclusive digital world. DÚNIA ELOISA PIRES DO CANTO (Cabo Verde) said her country has been investing in digital development in the long term, with important projects completed or in progress, in the area of education and professional training.  By enhancing e-Government platforms, e-business digital services and digital infrastructure, Cabo Verde has positioned itself as a regional hub in the ICT field.  Noting that ICT became a mandatory module for all students from grade five onwards, she said that digital inclusion is also carried out “on the street”, with the promotion of 150 digital squares to enable free Internet access.  In collaboration with the Institute for Gender Equality and Equity of Cabo Verde, the Government has also defined a strategy to promote innovation and technology among women and girls in its national plan for gender equality.  On gender-based violence, the Government improved services and strengthened cooperation between the national police, health and justice structures.  To tackle cyberbullying and cyberstalking, the Government concluded a partnership with the National Commission for Data Protection, she added. The youth representative of Denmark said that, as the digital trace will not ever disappear, crimes committed online have far reaching consequences for survivors, recalling references to “stalking”, “sextortion”, and “grooming”, among others, heard in the Commission’s discussions.  Girls are left to fend for themselves online, she said, underscoring the youth’s need for security across borders and a human-rights centred development of technologies in digital spaces.  She also pointed out that youth are also asking for a protection not mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report or the draft resolution, that of the protection of the right to be forgotten and taken off the Internet, and the opportunity to control their own data and ultimately their own lives, she said. GISELE LUSEBA NDAYA, Minister for Gender and Family of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, aligning herself with the African Group, said that her country ratified a national digital plan for 2025.  Non-discrimination in education and access to information is a crucial element of the country’s Constitution, she said, adding that the family code has been amended to foster equal rights for men and women.  A national digital identity system is in place, she said, reaffirming commitment to promoting innovation and empowerment of all women and girls.  The Government launched a development fund for micro- and small enterprises, she said, also pointing to GPS-equipped smartphone networks for information sharing among women.  Highlighting the role of technology in improving women’s economic performance and thus fighting poverty, she added that this is a major opportunity for the talented young women of her country.  However, to create an inclusive digital economy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, “we need peace”, she underscored.  Weapons need to be silenced, she said, calling on the international community to support her country in this. MARIA DA CONCEIÇÃO DA SILVA ÉVORA, Minister for Women, Family and Social Solidarity of Guinea-Bissau, said the equality of all of her country’s citizens is protected under its Constitution.  As Guinea-Bissau continues to modernize, women have risen in businesses, organizations and in political leadership roles.  In 2018, the People’s National Assembly approved a parity law that establishes a quota for women in decision-making, with a minimum representation of 36 per cent in elected positions.  Nonetheless, Bissau-Guinean women still face challenges in rising to positions of power, being elected or having an active voice in political decision-making.  Noting that the country is currently working to adopt a national strategy towards women’s autonomy, she went on to spotlight the threat multiplier that is the climate crisis, calling for women’s more active participation in its mitigation.  Bissau-Guinean women also continue to face many violations of their rights — including harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, early marriage and forced marriage — despite the Government’s ratification of treaties prohibiting such acts. The youth delegate of Rwanda said it is necessary to protect women from harm occurring in the digital space.  She referred to best practices from Rwanda, in which 60 per cent of the population are youth.  Rwanda has created spaces to support youth, such as creating mentorship programmes and providing seed funding for projects that can create innovative solutions to the challenges facing young people.  For example, a programme to help young women face mental health challenges.  She called on all States, development partners and community stakeholders to invest more in educational, entrepreneurship and innovative programmes to ensure women and young girls are included in the digital world.  Mechanisms must be developed to envelope women and girls in rural and indigenous areas. “It is time to walk the talk by meaningfully engaging the young people,” she said. General Discussion The youth representative of the Philippines, spotlighting her country’s significant strides in digital literacy and technology infrastructure, pointed out that digitalization is often under-utilized, especially in countries with low levels of digital literacy.  Those exposed to social media at a young age tend to follow trends blindly due to the fear or missing out, which usually leads to personal data being collected without their knowledge.  As such, it is crucial to not only provide access to technology but to also educate users on using it safely and responsibly.  In that regard, her Government has offered ICT training, programming for children, fiscal and online learning platforms, cybersecurity certifications, laptops and tablets.  It will continue to work to ensure that everyone, regardless of circumstance, has access to the opportunities that digitization has to offer by focusing on inclusivity and accountability, she said. The youth representative of El Salvador, welcoming the role of information and communications technologies as a flexible tool in empowering women and girls, said that her country has instituted a number of reforms to facilitate that. Highlighting the increased use of social networks, she noted that young people, especially women, have been restricted from developing their full potential as agents of change.  Many of these links have been exacerbated by multidimensional crises, she said, stressing the need to remove structural barriers. Malta’s youth delegate emphasized that comprehensive education programmes must include digital skills development so as to empower and equip youth with the tools they need to safely navigate online spaces.  “Access to digital technologies, digital literacy and digital innovation should not be considered a luxury but must be afforded to all,” she added. Another youth delegate of the European Union said it is necessary to bridge the digital divide as digitalization plays a key role in all sectors. It is also necessary to invest in research, to empower women and ensure they can become leaders.  Society will be poorer if women cannot learn and become leaders in technology, she stressed. As discussants took the floor again, Mr. CHUQUIHUARA emphasized that in this time of technological breakthroughs, women remain underrepresented in the sector by about one woman to every four men.  “Let us be clear that the problem is not of women, but of society as a whole,” he said.  The problem is not only one of under-representation in science, technology and innovation, but discrimination in the sector.  They are paid and promoted less than their male counterparts, and action must be taken now so the girls get the right access to education and are supported throughout the pipeline, creating a culture that values and respects their contributions.  Central to the mission at the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development — the intergovernmental body advising on such matters for development — is strengthening the ability of countries to leverage science, technology, and innovation.  Introducing girls early to scientific role models will help overcome stereotypes and bring more girls into the sector.  Keeping them there and ensuring that they make progress in their careers at the same pace as their male counterparts will require policy changes and innovative and flexible practices. TEKEA TESFAMICAEL, President, National Union of Eritrean Women, said the use of and access to digital tools, however limited, has shown an overall increase, contributing to the improvement of women and girls’ health and education.  The growing coverage of mobile networks is facilitating faster and easier sharing of information, including in hard-to-reach geographical areas.  Expansion of projects such as a rural digital library programme providing open access to academic and research materials has been crucial not just for girls, but in providing women with lifelong learning opportunities — including participation in science and technology.  The Government has also partnered with international organizations to train teachers in how to use technology in their classrooms.  However, challenges include the high cost of technologies, infrastructure and capacity-building, while regional instability and sanctions hamper the country’s ability to reach its objectives.  She further cited the digital divide between developed and developing countries as an impediment to access for women and girls and called for elimination of an unequal global power structure. The representative of South Africa said her country’s national youth policy mainstreams technology and innovation across its policy priorities.  For women and girls to fully participate in a digital economy, the right skills must be acquired.  However, the majority of young people in the country have been denied that opportunity due to lack of investment in digital infrastructure.  She underscored the importance of developing critical skills, such as web development, digital literacy, information technology, essential cell-phone repair, and marketing and entrepreneurship.  Once training is completed, young people can recruit and build learning communities, she added.  Her country is offering space engineering to teach young girls, including rural girls, how to make rockets and expose them to space engineering careers, she said, citing her country’s other initiatives. The youth representative of Girls Learn International said she is also a president and founder of a youth-led organization “STEM is US”, dedicated to giving underrepresented students the opportunity to code.  Over the past year, her organization worked alongside elementary school children to create an environment for building on their knowledge and self-confidence, while also engaging them in coding.  She pointed out that, together with the Girls Learn International at her school, she engaged with the local community and collaborated with activists.  She also called for policymaking and investing in the education of girls and women to achieve gender equality. Chimguundari Navaan-Yunden (Mongolia), Commission Vice-Chair designate, opening the interactive dialogue with youth representatives, said this year’s theme gives young people a unique opportunity to contribute to the normative framework on gender equality, technology, innovation and education in the digital age.  Women and girls across the globe are less likely than men to be connected at a level that allows for a safe, satisfying, affordable and productive online experience.  Thus, the digitalization of many Government services provides unique opportunities to empower women as economic, social and political actors while holding the potential to reduce inequality in access to quality and life-long learning experiences. Aisha Mehmood of Pakistan, Founder of Baithak — Challenging Taboos, said girls and women in rural communities are among the most marginalized groups.  Designing tech-based solutions with a gender lens is the key going forward, she said, adding that digital access needs to be meaningful and safe for girls and women. The youth representative of South Sudan said that despite the low level of technological advancement in the country, the digital divide still exists for women and girls, who have less access to digital technologies than men.  Noting that women are not benefiting from digital technologies the same way their male counterparts are and spotlighting high illiteracy rates among women, she said these factors prevent South Sudan from achieving breakthroughs in technology and ensuring gender equality. SAVIA MINT N’TAHAH, Minister for Social Action for Mauritania, aligning herself with the Arab Group, African Group, Organization of the Islamic Conference and the “Group of 77” developing nations and China, said women in Mauritania have made great progress over the past several years towards advancement and prosperity.  The Government has worked to promote women’s rights, empower women and enhance their decision-making capabilities.  Many efforts have been made to guarantee basic services for the most vulnerable.  Yet the outcomes have not been ideal as women are not always aware of these services.  The Government is accelerating its outreach efforts to promote access to services, such as Government distribution of loans to finance income-generating services, training in occupations that need workers and scholarships.  As well, the Government has a legal framework to combat violence against women and girls and training is available for religious clergy to combat gender-based violence, including genital mutilation.  She noted that women make up six ministers, or 22 per cent, of the central Government.  All these activities are being completed in accordance of Shari’ah law. Ms. KNEŽEVIĆ said persons with disabilities represent the biggest minority group in the world, with over a billion people living with some form of disability.  While technological innovations, such as mobility devices and assistive technologies, have helped change daily lives, people with disabilities are left way behind.  Challenges in the physical world — socioeconomic barriers, lack of accessibility and segregation — are also in their technological world.  Gender gaps in access to the Internet and devices, affordability and digital literacy, among others, lead to an exacerbated digital divide for women and girls with disabilities.  There must be programmes on empowerment and education in information and communications technology for people with disabilities, and more of those programmes for women and girls with disabilities.  As well, the programmes designed to inspire and educate women and girls to join and lead information and communications technology and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), should also be inclusive of women and girls with disabilities.  All of these and other issues require legislative and strategic action, as well as tight collaboration among Governments, the public and private sectors, and civil society, she said. LJUBOMIR DANAILOV FRCHKOSKI (North Macedonia) said that despite progress achieved in harmonizing national legal frameworks with the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, not all regulations have been transferred to the national level and the implementation of standards is uneven at best.  Existing legal frameworks are not addressing all forms of violence and are not helping all women, especially women from vulnerable groups.  The sanctions for many crimes do not serve as adequate determent.  Many recommendations are necessary, such as criminalizing all forms of cyberharassment and violence; requiring investigations of gender-based violence to continue even if the victims withdraw their complaints; and the establishment of special units to handle gender-based violence within police departments, among others.  Non-governmental organizations could help by supporting the full harmonization of applicable legislation in line with the Istanbul Convention.  The collection of data and studies on the prevalence of different forms of gender-based violence would also be helpful to help reduce these incidents. However, as more than 40 youth speakers took the floor, many spotlighted the difficulty of being included in a process which enables their participation, both in decision-making on national and global platforms as well as within the Commission, itself. CEDRICK ALEPENDAVA, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs of the Solomon Islands, aligning himself with the Pacific Islands Forum Member States, said the realities of digital technology for rural women and girls in his country remain challenging.  Digital technologies are non-existent in most rural and remote areas due to significant cultural, geographical and structural barriers, he said, noting that the Solomon Islands only has two telecommunications companies.  While the introduction of undersea cabling has somewhat improved access and connectivity, infrastructure in the rural and remote areas is largely missing.  Noting that the Solomon Islands is a nation of about 1,000 small islands, highly dependent on agriculture, fishing, and forestry, he underscored that internal and external shocks tend to affect women, girls, children and other vulnerable groups.  Ensuring gender equality while responding to these shocks has been very challenging, he said, spotlighting the lack of resources and budget. Ms. MEHMOOD said girls and women in rural communities are among the most marginalized groups.  Left out by existing systems and policies, they remain underrepresented and underserved.  Access to technology is a necessity and should not be a privilege for some, she underscored, stressing the need for investments in policies and solutions that can localize technology, be available in languages that people understand, leverage audio and visuals for users with low literacy and make technology models inclusive for girls and women who are in these marginalized communities.  “Let’s not wait for another pandemic to learn how to make these spaces inclusive,” she emphasized.  To make gender inclusive technology, gender differences in access to technology must be understood.  For example, as girls are more likely to borrow or share a phone with family members, user privacy is essential.  Further, as girls have limited access to the internet, features that allow offline functionality can better serve female populations.  Designing tech-based solutions with a gender lens is the key going forward, she said, adding that digital access needs to be meaningful and safe for girls and women. KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) said his country’s elected civilian Government has made effective use of technology to enhance development.  It included acceleration of the ICT sector among its national objectives and launched an E-Governance Master Plan (2016-2020), which also provides education and training programmes on the use of ICT and cybersecurity.  Sadly, all progress made in that arena over more than a decade was rolled back by the illegal military coup in February 2021.  Since then, the military junta has brutally killed more than 3,120 people — including over 440 women — and deliberately shot dead peaceful women protesters.  He also drew attention to the military’s wholesale burning of tens of thousands of homes, its indiscriminate aerial bombings and heavy artillery shelling of civilians, and more than 60 massacres.  He spotlighted in particular crimes committed against women and girls, which amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.  Women human rights defenders from Myanmar have spoken out about such violations at a number of the Commission’s side events, he said, calling for the international community’s support. Mr. FITZPATRICK, echoing the Philippines’ delegate, said data harvesting has been accepted as a cost of engagement for a lot of young people on social media platforms.  In that regard, all have an obligation to create a future where young people, their data, and their right to privacy, safety and security are upheld and protected.  “It is time for our elders to step up and engage with as much commitment as they do for their age peers,” he emphasized.  Pointing to the attacks he faces online without fail as a transgender man, he called on all to interrogate their own biases, challenge themselves and understand what it means to be a meaningful ally for the LGBTIQ+ community. Sofia Loreus, Minister for Women’s Affairs and Women’s Rights of Haiti, stressed that the autonomy of women and girls will only be possible when they are able to participate in all aspects of development.  Underlining the importance of gender equality for a democratic State, she said that the Haitian Government will continue its approach by undertaking comparative gender-based analyses and gender-responsive budgeting to increase investments. The youth delegate of Rwanda echoed that need and called on States, development partners and community stakeholders to invest more in educational, entrepreneurship and innovative programmes to ensure women and young girls are included in the digital world.  Mechanisms must be developed to envelope women and girls in rural and indigenous areas.  “It is time to walk the talk by meaningfully engaging the young people,” she said. BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) stressed the importance of providing women and girls with access to and training on technology.  His Government has worked with civil society in that regard to empower women and increase rights awareness.  It has also pursued policies to guarantee their participation; enacted legislation; amended penal codes; and rejected outdated concepts, among others.   He then noted that the 6 February earthquake exacerbated the adverse effects of his country’s ten years of war against terror, foreign occupation, acts of direct aggression and unilateral coercive measures.  Such measures obstructed his Government’s efforts, including on the empowerment of its women; prevented its population from enjoying their human rights; are inhuman; and must be lifted immediately, he said.  He also called for an end to the Commission’s politicization, a rejection of selectivity and double standards and an address of gross violations against women in the Syrian occupied Golan and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, among others. CHIMGUUNDARI NAVAAN-YUNDEN (Mongolia), Commission Vice-Chair designate, delivering opening remarks, said that this year’s theme provides young people a unique opportunity to contribute to the normative framework on gender equality, technology, innovation and education in digital age.  Converging crises of climate change, living costs, conflicts and the COVID-19 pandemic have not only threatened to reverse progress but have also magnified the unequal pace of digital transformation within and across countries, amplifying structural and systemic barriers for women and girls.  While 76 per cent of the population living in least developed countries is covered by a mobile broadband signal, only 25 per cent are online.  The youth representative of Eritrea said today’s discussion cannot happen in a vacuum devoid of a discussion of the material conditions of countries in the Global South.  To address the future and present, “we must first reconcile with the past,” she stressed.  In her country, women’s enrolment in the Institute of Technology is near parity with male counterparts.  Women also spend more time conducting research and utilizing academic resources than men — suggesting that women are taking advantage of available resources to advance their capacity in technology.  Other key developments include access to health care in remote areas and reduction in the maternal mortality rate.  Women’s equality was a major pillar in Eritrea’s nation-building process, with every sector of the country having a gender action plan.  However, she noted that in Africa, with one of the world’s highest youth populations, 70 per cent still lack access to technology, including the Internet. Ms. YOKIE noted that according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), only 28 per cent of researchers in artificial intelligence worldwide are women, and female-led start-ups receive only 2 per cent of venture capital funding.  Gender inequality in the digital and innovation space is particularly pronounced in underdeveloped countries, especially Sub-Saharan Africa.  Despite a rise in the number of women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, she cited necessary initiatives, starting with increased access to education in those disciplines and training for women and girls through scholarships, mentorship programs, internships, and tech-focused clubs and competitions.  Digital education curricula must address women’s needs, including online safety and security, as well as systemic barriers that prevent women from accessing funding and resources.  As a co-founder of a technology revolution for Sierra Leonean women and girls, she spotlighted the Kamara Yokie Innovation Center, a hub of design thinking, coding and robotics that equips girls with the tools and supportive environments to learn by doing, adding:  “I lead as a dynamic, proactive, and unapologetic leader in the technovation space in Sierra Leone.” BETTY AMONGI, Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development of Uganda, associating herself with the African Group, said her country still grapples with low Internet access in rural areas; the high cost of Internet, with only 1.1 per cent of women and 3.7 per cent of men using the service; and limited access to e-education technologies in rural schools, among other issues.  Underlining the importance of digitalization, she said under the country’s legal, policy and national development framework the Government will focus on the following priorities in the next five years:  expanding ICT coverage to enable e-Government services; reducing Internet costs; promoting gender-responsive ICT development; and supporting innovation based on indigenous knowledge in medicine, appropriate technology in agriculture and harvesting.  Moreover, the Government aims at promoting digital platforms in business, while taking advantage of the regional markers under the East African Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the African Continental Free Trade Area, she said. Speaking via video-teleconference from Kenya, the youth representative of Fund de Nationale said she could not attend the conference because she could not have a visa.  She demanded action to correct a system that excludes young people and questioned why the conference is not rotated to locations in the Global South to reach young women.  She further questioned the seriousness of Commission members speaking about inclusion.  “You can do more, you will do more, and you must do more,” she said, referring to the need to involve young people. SARAH AHMED AHMED AL-MASHEHARI (Yemen) said Yemeni women enjoy all the rights of the Constitution, which is based on non-discrimination between men and women.  The Government has worked to empower women by ratifying the majority of international conventions that promote women’s rights, including the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Political Rights of Women.  Placing women in decision-making positions helps the Government adopt a comprehensive approach to justice.  The Council of the President takes a coordinated approach to justice, in line with the Charter of the United Nations, and is committed to peace and ending humanitarian suffering.  Eight women are included in the Committee under the Presidential Council and provide expertise and assistance.  The Council has nominated a female judge to the High Council of Justice for first time, she reported, adding that this is a step forward to representative justice.  Women in Yemen are defining their right and moving ahead in social and economic spheres despite the war, she said. The Commission on the Status of Women this morning held an interactive dialogue with youth representatives on 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 youth representative of Uganda said poverty leads to inequality, including unequal pay for women and girls in technology.  Governments across the world should focus on affording girls access to technology and protection from digital violence.  She encouraged the Commission forums to go out and conduct grassroots work, including against online bullying. The youth representative of the Federated States of Micronesia spotlighted the large carbon footprint of new and emerging technologies.  She added that while new forms of technology can facilitate solutions, they can also facilitate gender-based violence.  However, girls and young women from small island developing States are showing leadership online, she said, noting that they have raised their voices on international platforms, advocating for keeping global warming to 1.5°C and to promote their own rights.  Further, women and girls in the Federated States of Micronesia are harnessing digital technologies to discuss the taboo topic of menstruation, she added. SAMAR BASHIR YOUNIS AL-KAISI (Iraq), highlighting her Government’s plan to adopt a law against domestic violence, also highlighted the programme to promote literacy in women’s prisons as part of a broader literacy programme.  Calling on all international partners and various stakeholders to foster equal access to technology and ICT, she added that low-cost technology can help facilitate women’s and girls’ digital literacy.  As well, there are 97 women in the Iraqi Parliament:  a record number that exceeds the quota for women’s positions.  Citing that as an example of the effectiveness of her Government’s policies, she said there are a large number of women in leadership positions, in the executive branch as well the judiciary branch.  The Council of Ministers has adopted a national strategy for Iraqi women which is based on “participation, protection and economic empowerment”, she said.  As part of this strategy, the Government plans to revise school curricula to incorporate information about women’s rights and social justice.  She also highlighted a plan to support female students in universities through workshops to ensure that they are protected from cyberbullying. SAMUEL ISA CHALA (Ethiopia), associating himself with the African Group, called on all to mitigate technology-related challenges such as the stark digital divide, lack of connectivity, online harassment, unauthorized publishing of personal information and violence.  Women and girls — particularly those left furthest behind — must be represented and included in innovation and technology initiatives, he stressed, spotlighting his Government’s policies, national strategies, initiatives and development plans to make it an “African beacon of prosperity”.  As there is still a long way to go to ensure that women and girls can benefit equally from innovation and technology, States must redouble their efforts to bridge the divide within and among countries through increased investments in digital literacy, research and development, skills development and capacity-building.  Barriers in accessibility and affordability must be addressed; equitable representation for women and girls in decision-making processes must be ensured; and international cooperation for sustainable development must be strengthened, he added. ISALEAN PHILLIP, Minister for Gender Affairs of Saint Kitts and Nevis, aligning herself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that technology has an important role to play in empowering women and girls.  Her Government has ensured telecommunications coverage over both islands of her State, and has expanded broadband Internet communications, she said, noting that 80 per cent of residents have access to it.  The pandemic exposed the need to standardize ICT in schools, she said, adding that the Government is installing campus-wide Internet connectivity in all schools and is implementing a laptop programme so that all children have access to twenty-first century learning across social, class and gender divides.  Over the past five years, girls’ involvement in engineering has steadily increased, she noted, adding that the increasing pace of inclusion of girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is helping to close the historic gender disparity in this field.  Also noting various Government initiatives to increase the visibility and leadership of women, she added that Satin Kitts and Nevis is committed to shaping an inclusive culture.  Pointing to the risk of older people, especially women, being left behind in the digital revolution, she added that the disproportionate impact of the unequal ownership of technology has left Africa and Latin America with a small share of the global tech industry. MYRIAM OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said her country launched an interactive laboratory called pepperMINT — MINT standing for mathematics, information technology, natural sciences and technology — aimed at helping children, and especially girls, deepen their interest and knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.  Since 2017, almost 20,000 children and youth have participated in the laboratory.  She voiced hope that the skills they acquire will empower them to be agents of change and enter careers in those fields — not only to explore their full potential in a more diverse and inclusive career path, but also to play an integral part in collective efforts to address global challenges.  Underscoring the Commission’s role in flagging and responding to situations of grave human rights violations, she drew attention to human rights violations against women and girls in Afghanistan, as well as the arbitrary detention and widespread use of force against protesters for women’s rights and freedoms by authorities in Iran.


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