2015 was an important year for gender equality. We celebrated the 20 year anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, and the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals recognized women’s empowerment as a central goal with ICTs emphasized as a key means of to achieve this. The GEM-TECH awards can play an important role in highlighting what works and where initiatives can be scaled. Moreover, they showcase the tremendous talent and determination of women to ensure that technology and its application are relevant and responsive to their needs.
The awards were launched in 2014 to celebrate the diversity and scope of work being done around the world to improve women’s lives through information and communication technology (ICT). Co-organized by ITU and UN Women, the awards recognize the tremendous power of ICTs to transform women’s lives by providing them with better access to education, information, employment opportunities, avenues for political participation, and devices and apps that can improve personal safety.
“Such a positive atmosphere in this room – I think it bodes very well for driving forward this objective that we all share on ensuring that we have gender equality in ICTs. The positive sprit in this room will drive us forward.” Malcolm Johnson, ITU Deputy-Secretary General.
(UN Women’s focus) “is on something that the 21st Century is going to really harness for gender equality and women’s empowerment, and that’s technology and ICT – so we are celebrating all of this and the coming together of these two force multipliers and game changers for sustainable development.” Lakshmi Puri, UN Women Deputy Executive Director
This year’s awards focus on three categories: promoting women in the technology sector; applying technology for women’s empowerment; developing gender responsive ICT governance, policy and access. There were close to 150 nominations from 55 countries representing a wide range of projects and advocacy work linked to harnessing ICTs for women’s empowerment from government, private sector, academia and civil society.
The Technovation Challenge program has engaged thousands of girls between the ages of 10-18 in 64 countries in a mobile app entrepreneurship competition and three month online curriculum program to develop apps and business plans that address local challenges such as access to clean water, early marriage, education and employment, and health care. The program simultaneously offers professional development opportunities for female professionals to serve as mentors.
Anar Simpson, Technovation Challenge program
The Research Center of Communication and Development Knowledge Management (CCDKM) has trained 100,000 marginalised women and girls from Thailand in digital literacy, helping them to access healthcare services, benefit from educational programs, and become financially independent and competitive in the labour market. Based on its success, CCDKM’s work has been expanded throughout ASEAN countries.
Dr. Kamolrat Intaratat, Research Centre of Communication and Development Knowledge Management
The Senegal Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications has instituted a broad programme designed to reduce the gender digital divide, and created a policy environment and investments that support digital equality. This includes the establishment of a Gender Unit; digital skills, entrepreneurship and leadership training; and programmes focusing on e-business, health and reproductive rights.
Bitilokho Ndiaye, Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, Senegal
ITU and UN Women also recognized the work of three GEM-TECH Global Achievers: H.E. Anusha Rehman Khan, Minister of State for IT and Telecommunications, Pakistan; H.E. Pamela Hamamoto, Ambassador, US Mission in Geneva; and Dr Nancy Hafkin, Senior Associate, Women in Global Science and Technology, USA.
“We have found, wherever we go, it’s clear from the Tech Showcase here, there’s talent, there’s hunger and there’s dedication to learning, to innovation everywhere, as a trait of the human species. And so, we find that women are eager, are interested – given opportunities, take them up and can do things that are quite remarkable.” Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman of Mozilla
“It’s important to celebrate women in tech and promote the equal participation of women in the tech ecosystem.” Minerva Tantoco, CTO of the City of New York
Attendees were invited to a networking event after the awards ceremony which hosted a Tech Showcase featuring young women technology developers and entrepreneurs.
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