March 8th is International Women’s Day. This day was intended to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. But progress in gender parity has been slowed in many places across the world, especially in developing countries.
To mark the date, the One Campaign has shared a research report called “Poverty is Sexist,” that documents how extreme poverty hurts girls and women harder and in different ways than it does boys and men, and to demand targeted action to support girls and women. Being born in a poor country and being born female amount to a double whammy for girls and women: they are significantly worse off than their counterparts in richer countries, and in every sphere they are hit harder by poverty than men.
In 2016 half a billion women still cannot read, 62 million girls are denied the right to education and 155 countries still have laws that differentiate between men and women. It is an outrage that girls account for 74% of all new HIV infections among adolescents in Africa, and 40% of women on the continent suffer from anemia which results in 20% of maternal deaths. 2016 is the year that real money and reforms must start to right these wrongs.
The One Campaign has launched an open letter signed by 86 leading voices for women around the world. The open letter, to which people can add their own signature at one.org/letter, will be delivered to President Obama and other world leaders is intended to draw attention to the need for more investment in women and girls around the world. In addition, ONE members will also be on Capitol Hill on Tuesday meeting with lawmakers to advocate for specific policies that would address these problems.
We need more better policies to address gender parity and more programs that build the capacity of nonprofits and the tech skills of women and girls in the development world. Here’s two programs that use technology to support women and girls and are an inspiration.
The Tech Girls of Dharavi
Early last year my colleague Noel Dickover and his co-workers at PeaceTech Lab organized a workshop in Mumbai, India to help activists use technology and media to prevent gender based violence. At the workshop they met a group of fantastic young women – girls, really – who are teaching themselves to design mobile apps to address community problems like sexual violence. These young girls are growing up in the Dharavi neighborhood of Mumbai India, one of the largest slums in the world.
At the ages of 12-13, these girls, who came from nothing, are going to school and teaching themselves to use technology to improve themselves and change their communities. In 2015, Noel helped them to publish their mobile app, Women Fight Back, on the Google Play store. He says,”They are the friendliest, sweetest people you’ll ever meet.”
In January there was a fire in Dharavi that destroyed 40 homes, including many of those of our friends! Their studies, work with technology, and their lives have been disrupted. Many of the girls and their families are sleeping on the streets or in the open air. Noel is has a crowd funding campaign to help raise money to rebuild after the devastating fire. You can make a donation here. I did.
Tech2Empower: Helping Women in Cambodia
I’ve been committed to working on technology capacity building for organizations serving Women and Girls empowerment. I’m an advisor and trainer for Wake: Women’s Alliance for Knowledge Exchange which has the following mission:
WAKE links high-impact, women’s organizations to technology tools and expert Advisors from leading companies to accelerate their impact and scale their work for women and girls. We work closely with our private sector partners to provide tools, products, advisors and resources.
Last year, I was honored to work on an amazing project that brought me to the Ukraine along with a delegation of women technologists to work with local women’s groups on building technology skills. This work helped strengthen organizations that reach more than 38,000 women across Ukraine, connecting women and their families with resources and services for a better life.
Wake’s Tech2Empower (T2E) is a professional development opportunity through which women working in a range of fields can use their skills and expertise to contribute to advancing women’s empowerment and security globally. Each T2E program focuses on one or more critical issues facing women and girls. For T2E Cambodia, the focus is human trafficking. T2E Cambodia will support and amplify the efforts of organizations (NGOs) in Cambodia working to combat trafficking of women and girls by building stronger technology skills for organizations.
In May 2016, a team of Tech2Empower Advisors will travel to Cambodia to learn about anti-trafficking efforts and programs that support survivors. Advisors will help conduct “Tech2Empower” interactive workshops for leaders of anti-trafficking NGOs and women and girls. Advisors will contribute to related volunteer projects and will meet with gender experts and local organizations to learn and share resources and information.
Want to join our trip as an advisor? Here’s the application and more information.
These are just two small efforts, we need a lot more to really support women and girls in the developing world.