The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) is a “once in a generation” opportunity to build a feminist digital future. This was the urgent message shared by speakers and attendants that participated in the Generation Equality high-level event hosted by UN Women, in collaboration with the United Nations Foundation and the Leaders of the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality.
The event “Open, Safe and Equal – Shaping a Feminist Digital Future” was held at the UN Secretariat in New York on Tuesday, March 7, and brought together leaders from across sectors, including governments, civil society organizations, women’s rights activists, UN agencies, and the private sector to highlight the critical role of multi-stakeholder partnerships in advancing gender equality in the digital world. The event was the first major public-facing moment for Generation Equality since its launch and presented a critical juncture to convey progress as well as action still needed by women and girls around the world.
Moderated by Ms. Sanda Ojiambo, Executive Director and CEO of the United Nations Global Compact, the event kicked off with the announcement of the Generation Equality Midpoint, to be co-hosted by UN Women and the government of Tanzania on 17 September 2023 during the high-level week of the UN General Assembly and the SDG Summit.
The opening panel, “Stronger together”, was facilitated by the Action Coalition Youth Leader Esther Mwema from Digital Grassroots, who opened the dialogue by stressing the pivotal importance of this CSW for the younger generation and for so many young girls who still struggle to access technologies and to become leaders in this sector.
Ms. Sima Bahous, UN Women Executive Director, highlighted that “we need to join forces so that technology and innovation can be reframed as a powerful accelerator for development, for human rights and for women’s rights”. The Generation Equality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation aims to coordinate action and strengthen knowledge exchange to create a better digital future for all women and girls. Ms. Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director, added that “we need to have girls in a situation where they can be co-creators and leaders of a digital ecosystem that really impacts their daily lives directly”.
All speakers highlighted the truly unique opportunity presented by CSW67 to place gender equality at the heart of the digital revolution, as well as the critical need for collaborations which combine political leadership, expertise, and capacity around feminist digital cooperation. “Measuring, reporting, and making sure that we are delivering through partnerships” are key to closing the digital gender gap, said Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Secretary General of the ITU.
Ms. Sanda Ojiambo opened the high-level panel, “Open, Safe and Equal – Shaping a Feminist Digital Future“, with the compelling admonition that “no agenda could be more timely or more needed than that of gender equality and digital technology”.
“More than ever, we need massive investment, strategic reforms of our systems, we need accountability to achieve gender equality after the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing world challenges”, said Ms. Jeanette Bayisenge, Minister of Gender and Family Promotion of the Government of Rwanda, who announced a Ministerial side event on this topic at the forthcoming Women Deliver Conference, which will take place from 17 to 20 July 2023. Ms. Bayisenge urged attendants to take part in the conference and to voice their ideas for the sake of a better, more inclusive society.
Marlène Schiappa, Secretary of State of the Government of France, drew attention to Generation Equality’s ability to bring together a wide variety of stakeholders in pursuit of a common vision, and how the Action Coalition has strengthened the foundations of feminist digital cooperation. “Together, we can put gender equality at the center of the digital revolution,” said Ms. Schiappa, who went on to announce that France will be joining the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Technology & Innovation for Gender Equality.
“Technology is much too important to be left just to technologists” observed Caitlin Kraft-Buchman, Co-Founder and Leader of <A+> Alliance. “It should be used to assist us to get to where we want to go and a new vision of where we want to be in the 21st century”. Ms. Kraft-Buchman emphasized the importance of working in collaboration with technologists to ensure the future they create mirrors the one we envision.In a video message, Ms. Bachelet, Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, emphasized the need to apply a human rights-based approach to digitalization. “What is at stake with this year’s CSW theme is the opportunity to achieve a paradigm shift, one that can harness the potential of tech and innovation to accelerate progress on the 2030 agenda and the sustainable development goals,” noted Ms. Bachelet.
The event was closed by Mr. Thomas Blomqvist, Minister of Nordic Cooperation and Equality of the Government of Finland, who expressed his pleasure that the Action Coalition’s blueprint was utilized to inform the substantive preparations for the report of the Secretary General on the CSW priority theme, as well as his hope for a suitably ambitious set of Agreed Conclusions. “This is only the beginning; the conclusions demand robust implementation together,” stressed Mr. Blomqvist. “Multi-stakeholder cooperation is required to assess and address the gaps in services, and this is especially urgent in preventing and eliminating tech-facilitated gender-based violence and discrimination”,
This CSW67 was the steppingstone of the Action Coalition on Technology & Innovation’s Year of Action, and it paved the way for a concerted push forward in 2023 that will be instrumental in shaping new global standards on gender and digital technologies and achieving concrete change for women and girls worldwide. The event highlighted the urgent need to disrupt patriarchal balances of power and realize the full empowerment of women and girls in every corner of the world.
The Leaders of the Action Coalition encouraged all attendants to endorse the Joint Statement and Call to Action to place gender equality at the heart of the Global Digital Compact. You can endorse the statement here: https://forum.generationequality.org/news/call-place-gender-equality-heart-global-digital-compact
If you missed this event, you can watch the full session here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnSYYitxhOc&t=1486s