ZELA Press Statement: “DigitAll: Innovation, Technology for Gender Equality”
Date of Issue: 08 March 2023
Harare – The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day 2023 (IWD 2023) through recognizing and celebrating women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education.
This year’s theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” is aligned with the priority theme for the upcoming 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-67), “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”
As a priority achievement under Sustainable Development Goal 5, gender equality is a fundamental right that seeks to empower all women and girls. To further the empowerment of women, the Goal’s target asks for increased use of enabling technology, particularly information and communications technology.
The power of digital technologies is transformative in that it presents opportunities for women and girls in spaces from where they were previously excluded. Using digital technologies, women are breaking down educational and professional barriers, and finding access to resources and networks that were previously inaccessible.
Digital technologies are also advancing gender equality by offering women and girls platforms to share their own stories and become visible in matters of policy, advocacy and decision making. Thus, women are no longer bystanders of the conversation on gender equality but active participants who guarantee meaningful change.
However, there are several obstacles that prevent women in Africa, and particularly Zimbabwe, from using digital technologies. These obstacles frequently mirror the limitations that women encounter offline, including in relation to access to opportunities for education and employment or civic engagement.
When women and girls do have access to the Internet, they face online violence more often than men through a continuum of multiple, recurring, and interrelated forms of gender-based violence. Online Gender-Based Violence (OGBV) is deeply rooted in discriminatory social norms, gender inequality and often connected to offline violence. It is actively a barrier against women and girls’ freedom of speech and their involvement in the public agenda. Research has shown that OGBV undeniably widens the gender digital gap and ultimately is a threat against peaceful, sustainable and gender equal societies.
This is also evident in the context of sustainable environmental and natural resources management where advancing gender equality and protecting marginalized communities is curtailed by online violence against women and girls. Online GBV inhibits women and girls from participating in environmental governance issues and exercising their right to express their opinions on such issues as access to and benefiting from the use and management of the environment and natural resources. Ultimately, efforts to build community resilience and present sustainable solutions to environmental challenges are futile when women cannot participate freely in the digital space.
In June 2017, the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on ways to bridge the gender digital divide from a human rights perspective highlighted that online violence against women must be dealt with in the broader context of offline gender discrimination and violence, and that states should enact adequate legislative measures and ensure appropriate responses to address the phenomenon of violence against women online, including through investigation of and action against perpetrators, the provision of redress and reparations to victims, and training on the application of international human rights norms and standards for law enforcement and the judiciary.
The state has a duty to promote, protect and fulfil human rights. This includes the obligation to prevent violations, protect victims of human rights abuses, prosecute violations, punish perpetrators, and provide redress and reparation for victims. Thus, law creation or reform regarding the regulation of the internet must involve extensive consultation with women to ensure combined effect with other legislative developments responding to online GBV and to integrate a gendered awareness into potential measures to avoid any discriminatory effect.
In addition, it is also important to enhance the capacity of law enforcement agents and other relevant actors to take GBV seriously and react swiftly, through deepening their understanding of technology and how it can facilitate and exacerbate violence.
Therefore, responses to and prevention of online GBV should strive to create an enabling environment for women’s access to and enjoyment of ICT in terms of quality infrastructure, training in highly technical skills, and meaningful participation in internet governance.
With this context in mind, ZELA celebrates all women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education and calls on everyone to #EmbraceEquity.
For Further Information, Please Contact:
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association
26 B Seke Road, Hatfield,Harare,Zimbabwe
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