We are living in an increasingly digital world that provides new and exciting opportunities for growth and development. And yet women around the world are disproportionately left behind when it comes to accessing and benefitting from these opportunities. This year’s International Women’s Day, observed on the 8th of March, makes an urgent call for digital progress to benefit all people, under the theme ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’.
It is a call to celebrate and recognize the contributions of women and girls who are advancing digital technology and building gender-responsive innovations and a reminder that innovation and technology are major drivers of change that can break negative trends and reach those who are most likely to be left behind.
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Globally, women face a stark digital divide. Women make up only one in five artificial intelligence workers and an analysis of artificial intelligence systems across industries found that nearly half demonstrate gender bias. A recent study by UNICEF found that boys in developing countries are 180 per cent more likely to own smartphones than girls. In Sierra Leone, only 17 per cent of women use mobile phones for financial transactions, compared to 30 per cent of men according to a USAID study. Women and girls also face the worst aspects of our social media age, with online harassment and bullying becoming routine for far too many across age groups, professions and sectors of society. In fact, research indicates that at least 38 per cent of women globally have personally experienced online violence and this rate is rising.
The digital age offers unprecedented opportunities for tackling poverty and inequality and improving the well-being of women and girls
In Sierra Leone, we have an opportunity to challenge these trends. The Gender Equality Act, signed into law in January 2023, provides an important platform and new momentum to build coalitions and work with the public and private sector and development partners on commitments to advancing gender equality, including by closing the gender divide in digital access. UNFPA and UN Women are committed to working with all p