Assétou Sawadogo Kabore and Ndeye Sine Diop – two participants in the SGCI Gender and Inclusivity Project – share their impressions of the 67th annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) held in New York in March.
“We must remember that it is not a question of having beautiful conclusions; they must be implemented.”
This was the response of Burkina Faso gender specialist Assétou Sawadogo Kabore when asked if she agreed with a closing statement that described the conclusions reached at the 67th annual CSW67 were ‘game-changing’.
“I will find them beautiful if, indeed, they have been implemented and that the situation of women and girls has actually changed in Burkina Faso,” she said, reiterating the call by UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous for all participants to do their part to translate the conclusions into reality.
“This year’s Agreed Conclusions bring us a vision of a more equal world. As we leave here now, let us bring the might of our combined determination to translate them into reality for all women and girls,” Bahous said.
Held under the 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 was attended by 7,000 participants, including UN Secretary-General António Guterres, four heads of state or government, and 116 ministers. A total of 206 events were organised in the UN compound and 700 in the NGO parallel forum.
Closing the technology gender gap
The session reaffirmed the importance of women and girls’ full, equal and meaningful participation and leadership in science, technology and innovation, and expressed concern about the limited progress in closing the gender gap in access to and use of technologies, connectivity, digital literacy and education.
Specifically, the commission called on all initiatives promoting innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age aimed at achieving gender equality to:
- Develop digital tools and services to address the needs of all women and girls across sectors and geographies.
- Mainstream gender in digital policies to remove barriers to equal access for all women and girls.
- Foster a policy of zero tolerance for gender-based violence that occurs through or is amplified by the use of technology.
- Mainstream a gender perspective in the design of emerging technologies.
- Promote policies and programmes to achieve gender parity in emerging scientific and technological fields.
- Develop gender-responsive innovation that challenges gender stereotypes and negative social norms.
Kabore, who is a regular participant at the Commission on the Status of Women, described the commission as a “rich experience” and an important opportunity for anyone “committed to the fight to improve the living conditions of women and girls”.
Kabore said girls in Burkina Faso and the West Africa region face social and cultural constraints when it comes to school attendance. “In fact we prefer to send boys to school compared to girls. There are also forced and early marriages and unwanted pregnancies that make it difficult for girls to stay and stay in the curriculum. We can add the low supply … and the exorbitant cost of training, the absence of scholarships for girls…”
She said the conference theme, focused on innovation and digital technology, was highly relevant to the situation she described.
“It is necessary that women appropriate digital technologies to take their place in development. Everything has been digitised: health, training, trade … It is an opportunity and I think that interventions, especially made at this level to fill the gap of the digital divide, are important.”
Kabore said her participation in the SGCI Gender and Inclusivity Project meant she had a better understanding of the issues and “a head start on the others” which generated “added value” in the participation of her team.
“It was truly a rich experience and I would invite the entire SGCI team to participate in the next CSW,” she said.
Defending the rights of women
Ndeye Sine Diop, coordinator of the Gender and Equity Unit of the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation in Senegal (MESRI), agreed, saying her experience of CSW67 reassured her that the “cause of women was well defended” by the representatives of member states around the world.
Diop, who attended the session for the first time, said it was gratifying to be “in the place where we defend women and improve their status and living conditions, legally, politically, economically, socially and environmentally”.
She said her involvement in the SGCI’s Gender and Inclusivity Project had prepared her for CSW67 and she was reassured by the fact that what was being done within the SGCI Gender and Inclusivity Project was in line with the conclusions and recommendations of CSW67.
“The SGCI Gender and Inclusivity Project is timely,” she said. “I was reassured by the various workshops, conferences, roundtables, interviews, parallel sessions with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF), the Network of Women and Civil Society of Senegal. There were a lot of activities related to the themes that interest me professionally, namely gender, inclusion, diversity and gender equality in the digital age.”
Diop said the commission’s final conclusions supported her own view that, through digital technology, “many things will change for girls and women” for the better.
These changes include higher literacy levels, more education and training, and the sharing of entrepreneurial initiatives – all leading to greater economic empowerment. Technology could also enable women to monitor market prices and food, access information on climate change and its consequences, and pay electricity and water bills from their mobile phones, she said.
“With the agreed conclusions, the situation will change, digital technology will help us in a dazzling way to promote gender equality and inclusion within our societies,” she said.
“Women and girls will be affirmed leaders by 2030. They will be economically empowered. They will be able to exchange with women from other member states and share their experiences of good practice.”