Statement by Ms. Tekea Tesfamichael during the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women
Statement by Ms. Tekea Tesfamichael, President of the National Union of Eritrean Women during the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women New York 13 March 2023
It is an honor to address this distinguished audience and speak on behalf of Eritrean women whose struggle for gender equality and empowerment is unmatched.
The theme of our Commission this year, “innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls,” is timely and critical as the world recovers from the health and socioeconomic disruption induced by COVID-19.
The advancement in digital technologies is profoundly transforming our societies. It presents us with endless possibilities for sustainable development, education, and inclusion. However, with the advancements in technology come new risks—exacerbation of violence against women, amplification of hate speech, and exposure of women and children to transnational organized crimes, including trafficking in persons.
The digital divide between developing and developed countries poses a significant challenge to women’s participation in technology. The COVID-19 pandemic and its associated school closure have highlighted how our global digital gap exacerbates the divisions between the haves and the have-nots. The uneven access to technology resulted in an ever-expanding gap between poor and rich countries, as well as between different social groups, particularly women and girls. This has further polarized societies and hindered progress toward achieving gender equality.
Eritrea recognizes the need to prepare students with the necessary skills and knowledge to leverage the rapid advancement in technology. The government recognizes the importance of investing in STEM education to empower youth, giving them the tools they need to make positive changes in their societies. Moreover, our National Education Gender Policy and Strategic Framework of Action recognize the importance of equal participation of girls in education for sustainable development.
Eritrea is committed to expanding digital access to education for all and has partnered with international organizations to provide training to teachers on the effective use of technology in the classroom. The growing coverage of mobile networks and digital projects such as the RORA digital library program has provided open access to academia and research materials, making it easier for girls to pursue education and participate in fields such as science and technology.
Furthermore, investing in green technology such as solar electricity and clean cook-stoves has contributed to reducing time spent collecting firewood and cooking, allowing women to engage in pursuing their education and income-generating opportunities.
Despite the efforts made to increase the use and access to digital tools in Eritrea, many challenges remain, including high costs associated with access to technology, lack of infrastructural development, skills and digital literacy, as well as decades-long regional instability and sanctions, further compounding and hampering the country’s developmental objectives.
Women’s access to technology is affected and reinforced by the existing inequality between the sexes and the digital divide between developing and developed countries. My delegation would like to stress on the following three brief points towards bridging those gaps:
First: Dismantling Unequal Global Power Structures: there is a need to establish a global power structure that benefits everyone and eliminate the unequal global power structures which manifest itself in different forms, from exploitative economic relationships between developing and developed countries to dominant political influence that induces conflicts and instabilities, imposition of sanctions and political pressures, hindering the ability of the global south to rapidly progress.
Second: Ensuring Technology Transfer: any political commitment to bridge the existing gap in technology must include a commitment to technology transfer, sharing knowledge, building capacity, skills development, and vocational training based on the needs and priorities of developing countries. Meaningful international partnerships are crucial to transfer technology and skills. Any political commitment to bridge the existing gap in technology must include a commitment to technology transfer, knowledge sharing, capacity building, skills development, and vocational training based on the needs and priorities of developing countries and tailored to respond to the social and development context.
Third: Dismantling Patriarchal Norms: there is an ever-growing impact of patriarchal norms, including in Artificial Intelligence, further entrenching gender inequality, sexism, and racism. AI is being programmed to make decisions with little regard for women’s experiences and reality. Additionally, social media is reinforcing discrimination, hate, and harmful content, especially against women and girls, further polarizing societies. A collective effort is required to develop an inclusive algorithm by involving and giving due regard to the perspectives of women and people from diverse geographical regions.
In conclusion, investing in education and digital technology is essential for achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls. Access to education, including digital education, is a fundamental human right. It is important to foster partnerships and avoid policies that hinder the right of people to progress and restricts access to digital technology-such as unilateral sanctions and undue barriers to the transfer of technology and skills.
On its part, Eritrea commits to work with all partners to ensure technology is utilized to leapfrog development, contain its negative effects, and ensure that the developing countries will be beneficiaries of the advancement.
I thank you.