How can digital technology support gender equality in the MENA region?

How can digital technology support gender equality in the MENA region?

NEW YORK CITY, 12 March 2019 – The exponential growth of digital technology creates new opportunities for women to engage in the digital economy, including e-commerce. This can enable access to new markets for imports and exports, thereby connecting women-led businesses to the rest of the world.  In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, these opportunities must be seized, even if at present women in most of the MENA countries generally have lower access to digital technology than men. Closing the skills gap by training women in leadership and developing women's business skills will facilitate the creation of start-up businesses and generate thousands of jobs that will transform the economy of the region.

On the occasion of the 63rd session on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), UNIDO, together with the Permanent Missions of Italy and Jordan, Morocco's Fédération des Technologies de l'Information, des Télécommunications et de l'Offshoring, FAO, ITU and UN Women, jointly hosted a side-event to address the question, “How can digital technology support gender equality in the MENA region?”

In her opening remarks, Sima Sami Bahous, the Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations, said, “Jordan believes that digitalization leads to justice, inclusion and equality. We also believe that our efforts are well-focused on bridging the divide between men and women in the digital divide. We also believe that good governance is important for our drive for social inclusion and human resource development. These are the major issues that we need to look at and to see how they could best serve gender equality.”

In a panel discussion that followed, participants considered the practices for supporting gender equality in the MENA region that can be leveraged by digital technology. There was an emphasis on the power of designing training tool-kits for women in order to facilitate an understanding of how technology can be used to run their businesses more effectively and sustainable. A wide range of practices were presented, from the use of blockchain technology to track the quality of agricultural supplies to reaching new markets for import and export by use of new digital platforms. There was agreement that women must be included in the design of ICT infrastructure to tackle challenges such as lack of access to cash, capital and to basic technology.

A new major trend to be considered is cyber security. Ninety percent of the future workforce will require cyber security training as a part of ICT training and this could become a major generator of jobs for women in the MENA region.

Another issue discussed was how ICT can facilitate women's empowerment in rural regions. The importance of strengthening the digital ecosystem was emphasized, in particular by boosting infrastructure in rural regions through enhanced gender-sensitive investments in digital infrastructure.

Mariangela Zappia, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, said, “For the Italian government, there is a growing awareness of how the digital economy can represent a powerful tool to transform the ways in which women live and work…Gender mainstreaming is an integral part of Italy’s development cooperation programme, especially in the Mediterranean and sub-Sahara regions, and in this regard, I would like to highlight the programme that we run together with UNIDO: Promoting Women Empowerment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development in the MENA region."

For more information, contact:

Monica Carcò,

Senior Industrial Development Officer, Rural Entrepreneurship, Job Creation and Human Security Division, UNIDO

Email

Opening remarks and panellists:

H.E. Ms. Sima Sami I. Bahous, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations

H.E. Ms. Mariangela Zappia, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations

Saloua Karkri-Belkeziz, President of APEBI (Fédération des Technologies de l'Information, des Télécommunications et de l'Offshoring), Rabat

Liat Shentser, Director of Systems Engineering Sales at Cisco Systems International B.V., Amsterdam

Ursula Wynhoven, ITU Representative to the United Nations, New York

Mohammad Naciri, Regional Director (Arab States and Asia Pacific), UN Women, Cairo

Susan Kaaria, Senior Gender Officer, Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division at FAO, Rome

Catherine Bosshart, Second Vice President, International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW International)

Moderator:

Monica Carcò, Senior Industrial Development Officer, Rural Entrepreneurship, Job Creation and Human Security Division, United Nation Industrial Development Organization, Vienna