Maria Fernanda and a colleague discuss issues surrounding her girls' rights group

Other Issues

CLOSING THE TECHNOLOGY GENDER GAP

Technology – access to it, control of it, and the ability to create and shape it – is a women’s human rights issue.

Mobile phones are becoming increasingly important – especially in the Global South. They help women access banking, health information, early warning systems, and more. Yet women are 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than men. Women are also far less likely than men to have access to the Internet – the gender gap for Internet access is 200 million, and growing. Women and girls are not only under-represented among technology “consumers”, they are also far less likely to be technology leaders, decision makers, and creators.

Today’s technology needs to reflect the diversity of women’s experiences, imagination, and ingenuity. As our grantee partners around the world are discovering, immense opportunities arise when we break down the barriers to women and girls’ engagement. Women can connect, engage, learn, and contribute their talent, ideas, and potential for innovation. The bottom line: gender equality in technology helps drives gender equality more broadly.

Why it matters

A computer or a mobile phone with Internet access can help a girl learn to read and write, or connect a pregnant woman in a rural area with a midwife and with care that may save her life. It can help a young woman map a safe walking route home or launch her own small business. A mobile phone can be a woman’s bank account or a lifeline in a crisis or national emergency. It may also allow her to report violence without threats or social stigma. Digital technology is an increasingly important tool for movement building, allowing activists and networks to exchange information quickly and regularly, and to organize across locations.

We know that women and girls around the world want equality in the technology space for many reasons, including addressing the human rights issues they’re facing. If we want a world where gender equality is a reality, there is an urgent need to close the global gender gap in science and technology.

What we’re doing to drive change

Global Fund for Women invests in local projects that accelerate gender equality in and through technology, and we drive campaigns to spark change.

We give grants to groups using technology to make strides for women and girls in their communities. For example, grantee partner Society Without Violence Armenia launched a Rapid Response Unit and database to support victims of domestic violence and ensure incidents would no longer go unreported. Afghan Institute of Learning’s Mobile Literacy Program uses mobile phones and text messaging to teach women and girls to read and write.

In 2014, we launched a major online campaign and multimedia project – IGNITE: Women Fueling Science and Technology – to highlight the dynamic between technology and gender equality. As part of the campaign, we secured over 20,000 signatures from men and women in 182 countries supporting greater access to technology for the world’s women, and delivered this message to key leaders at the UN. Our IGNITE Girls Hackathon brought together girl coders in five cities around the world in February 2015 to contribute their talent, ideas, and creativity to build real-world solutions to address issues of safety for girls. The results of this 24-hour intensive coding collaboration? An app that maps incidences of sexual harassment, a game about women’s reproductive health care, and a website to break taboos around sex education in India, among other inventions. Every idea reinforced why Global Fund for Women believes in the power of technology to drive gender equality. As they say, give a girl a computer…

What’s ahead for our work in technology?

Global Fund for Women will continue to invest in women’s groups who are creating innovative solutions to end the gender technology gap. We will support groups who are dedicated to making the Internet safe for women and girls by strengthening cyber security, calling for changes to online platforms that perpetuate violence against women, leading anti-bullying initiatives, and creating safe spaces online. We will also support work to give girls access to training and skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT). For example, Feminist Approach to Technology, a long-time Global Fund for Women grantee in India, is creating a movement of tech-savvy young women through confidence, skills-building courses, and technology training. The Inwelle Study and Resource Centre in Enugu, Nigeria is teaching teenage girls computer and ICT skills to help them earn money to support their families and pay for secondary school fees. As a result, rates of early and forced child marriage are declining.

Global Fund for Women’s Technology Fund will create more opportunities for women and girls around the world to use and create technology as a tool to build power and drive action. Let’s get these critical tools of social change into the hands of women and girls, and witness the phenomenal changes they create.

DEFENDING THE WOMEN WHO DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS

“I’ve endured prosecution, received threats, and been attacked. They’ve tried to kill me with different kinds of weapons.” This testimony from a women’s human rights defender in Guatemala says it all: activism is dangerous. In many places around the world, standing up for women’s rights is met with violence and threats. These threats can take many forms.

Across our global network, women report heightened levels of threats and violence for women activists – including domestic violence, death threats, rape, and murder. Equally worrying are threats and violence against women LGBTQI activists, particularly in Europe and Central Asia, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the criminalization of homosexuality in several countries has led to increased victimization.

The escalation of violence against women activists (or ‘women’s human rights defenders’) is an unacceptable violation. It also holds the potential to jeopardize and roll back women’s rights more broadly. As a result, support for women’s human rights defenders is a central priority of Global Fund for Women’s work.

Why it matters

Women’s human rights defenders are the reason that women’s rights movements are rising and advancing around the world. These women are on the streets and on the frontlines. They are meeting with policy makers, and standing up for the rights of some of the most marginalized people in the world. They are the women who are behind the boldest human rights wins, working tirelessly every day for gender equality and justice. When women like this are victimized and attacked, the rights of all us are compromised.

According to the International Human Rights Funders Group, less than 1% of all human rights funding in 2012 went directly toward protecting human rights defenders. Yet funding is urgently needed. We know that women under-report threats, violence, and human rights violations and that they rarely have access to psychological, medical, or support services. For these women, there is a lack of safety – at home, in the workplace, on the Internet, in the streets. Without even basic safety, they simply cannot do the work they live to do. And without the advocacy support to draw international attention to the abuses and threats they’re facing, women’s human rights defenders are being silenced.

What we’re doing to drive change

The world needs to know when a women’s human rights defender is killed. The world needs to speak out when the office of a grassroots women’s group working to advance LGBTQI rights receives bomb threats. The world needs to support – with money and attention – the people who are on the frontlines working to drive gender equality. Many women’s human rights defenders work in the parts of the world where it is most dangerous to be a woman, let alone one committed to advancing human rights.

Throughout Global Fund for Women’s history, we have stood in solidarity with women’s human rights defenders, and directed funds to where they are most needed to support their work. We know women leaders and activists do not only need support for the programs they run; they also need support when they come under attack for that work.

In 2016, we will launch a campaign to recognize women’s human rights defenders, elevate their critical work and their stories, and drive money and attention to their activism. Our aim – to make sure they can do their important work free from violence and threats. Together, let’s ensure we’re actively supporting women’s human rights defenders who are fighting for their rights and territories, and amplify their stories so the world knows what’s at stake.