By Olubunmi Adeniyi
Lagos. April 24, 2012. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has urged its members states to open ICTs opportunities for girls and women as part of strategies to end gender inequality across the globe.
Nigeria is one of the 193 Member States of the influential UN specialised agency that coordinates the global telecoms industry and also brings together more than 700 Sector Members and Associates from industry, international and regional organizations as well as academia.
Secretary-General, ITU, Hamadoun Toure, encouraged all members to host events where girls and young women are invited to ICT companies and government agencies to appreciate the opportunities the ICT sector holds for their future.
As part of its efforts, the Union declared that the 2012 World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD-2012) will be held on the theme “Women and Girls in ICT”.
ITU has also declared that ‘Girl in ICT Day’ should be marked and celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of April by all member states in their own countries.
ITU therefore, encouraged all member states to organize activities in their own countries to mark WTISD-2012 and advise them to involve all sections of the society to formulate awareness and consensus on the issues underlying the theme.
Also, with the idea of creating a global environment that will empower and encourage girls and young women to consider careers in the field of ICTs, the Union proposed to mark international “Girls in ICT Day’ this year on April 26, 2012 in line with ITU Plenipotentiary Resolution 70.
Toure says the theme of this year’s WTISD, aims to ensure that this vulnerable female half of the world’s population will march forward as equals.
According to him, “the theme will also influence our work not only on the Day but throughout the year and in the future as well.”
According to Toure, as the leading specialised agency of the United Nations for ICTs, ITU looks towards its members to harness the catalytic role of ICTs in creating far-reaching opportunities for women and girls by elimination gender disparities and empowering them to meet their goals and aspiration.
He calls on all stakeholders including policy makers, regulators, operators and the industry to adopt policies and strategies that will promote ICT opportunities for women and girls.
‘Let us resolve to use ICTs to provide new digital opportunities to women and girls in every corner of the world,” he said.
To address the situation, Toure encouraged all member states to develop and implement national policies to restructure current education systems and infrastructure with the objective of integrating science and ICT-related subjects with mainstream curricula to better respond to present industry needs and standards as well as future ICT workforce requirements.
He also advises them to develop broadband connectivity and inclusion for all, in particular women and girls, through broadband backhaul, wireless or wireline including satellite communications.
This effort with ICTs must begin not only from the cradle, but from antenatal health care, reaching out to the remotest communities with every mother, every girl and every woman guaranteed her birthright, he adds.
He also calls on the ICT sector to pave the way by providing avenues of advancement to professional women at the highest levels of decision making and by encouraging young women to seek new opportunities within the sector.
While lamenting over the issue of gender inequality, the Secretary-General notes that, “women are bedrock of our societies, they are the pillars of strength in every family and community. Yet gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched.”
According to him, “women and girls are denied access to basic health care and education and to equal opportunities at work. They face segregation in economic, political and social decision-making and often suffer violence and discrimination” while observing that, “this situation is unacceptable and must be addresses with all the means available to us.”
According to him, the growing demand for a range of ICT skills around the globe present a unique window of opportunity to properly position girls and women in the industry and provide them with the tools necessary to succeed.
Gender equality is a basic human right enshrined in the UN Charter, and it is one of the main objectives of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), he adds.
He says that the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) declared a global commitment to ensuring women empowerment and full participation in the information society and to use ICTs as a tool to mainstream a gender equality perspective.
National governments, private sector, donors, civil society and education actors need to acknowledge and support the central role professional women can play in further developing and servicing a dynamic and competitive ICT sector, Toure adds.