The Honourabe Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, OFR, has expressed disappointment on two issues at the National Women Conference held at the NAF Centre, Abuja on 4th April, 2023:
The first was the low number of women that scaled through the recent elections in Nigeria and the second was the disappointing few numbers of women participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and cutting-edge fields like artificial intelligence.
Dame Tallen revealed that of the 3 billion people that are not connected to digital space, majority of them, she said are women and girls from developing countries.
She also disclosed that less than one-third of the work force across science, technology, engineering and mathematics and in cutting edge fields like artificial intelligence are women.
The National Women Conference climaxed various activities lined-up to commemorate the 2023 International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration marked annually on the 8th of March. The 2023 IWD was flagged-off earlier on the 2nd of March with a media briefing.
This year’s IWD is with the theme, “Inclusive Technology and Digital Education for Gender Equality and Women Empowerment” and it coincided with the United Nations 67th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW67) held in New York, USA.
Tallen submitted that this theme is apt as it focuses on how innovation and technology contribute in shaping the digital space and gender inequality in our society. She therefore called on Nigerian women and girls to exploit the benefits that abound in the ICT.
She informed the gathering that the Ministry has partnered with EU/UN Spotlight initiative to strengthen the fight on sexual violence against women and girls through digital innovations and also, promoted inclusion of Women with Disabilities through the Enabling Technology Room equipped with facilities, such as Braille Printer, Computer Systems with Job Access with Speech (JAWS) installed, Speakers etc, to train persons with Visual Impairment on various computer courses at the National Centre for Women Development.
She said as innovation and technology has become the new norm and also, “It is redefining our social norms with the just concluded elections and present monetary policy in Nigeria; women and girls must be part of this phenomenon in order for them not be left behind in digital space where information and communication technology (ICT) sector has contributed 18.44% to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022 and it is projected to experience more leap in the future.
According to her, it is sad that ICT is still being dominated by men as only few women have the opportunity to participate in the ecosystem; adding that only about 30% of 93 surveyed technology companies in Nigeria are owned by women and more than third of them employed no woman at all.
Just like she did for girls and women access to digital technologies, Tallen also called on the incoming political administration in Nigeria to redress women’s access to political decision table through appointments, given the disappointing election outings for women in the 2023 general elections.
Earlier in his welcome address, Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Aliyu Shehu Shinkafi reiterated the importance of ICT to the advancement of women and girls in promoting gender equality and urged the stakeholders to come out with a robust outcome that will adequately mainstream marginalized women into digital ecosystem.
In her message, the UN Women Country Representative in Nigeria and ECOWAS – Ms. Beatrice Eyong called on more investment in innovation and technology to bridge the digital divide.
She added that UN Women has contributed in this regard through trainings, program to upskill ICT proficiency of women and girls, provide access to technology to support women and girls’ life experiences and digital inclusion, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Before the event went into panel session, a lead paper titled “Inclusive Technology and Digital Education, Essentials for Gender Equality” was presented by Prof. Hauwa’u Evelyn Yusuf, the Director, Centre for Gender Studies, Kaduna State University.
She submitted that for digital divide to be closed, there should be policy change as well as institutional and structural problems inhibiting the realization of digital access of girls and women, must be removed.
Goodwill messages came from representative Tor Tiv and Head of Tiv Traditional Council James Ortese Iorzua Ayatse and Religious leaders including from Temitope Fashola (Country Director, Christian Aid), Moise Lobito Makuta (Country Director, Action Against Hunger), Ukot Ekott (Country Rep of CUSO International), Charles Usie (Country Director, PLAN International), Dr. Vincent Okeke (OXFAM International) as well as the DG of NITDA represented by Iklima Musa, Nigerian Armed Forces, Federal Fire Service, Nigeria Police, Civil Defence Corps, CSOs), NGOs among others.
The highpoint of the event was the conferment of various awards on deserving recipients; particularly, the “Commendation and Recognition Award” bestowed on Kemi Bolarinwa who invented the Smart Bra for early detection of cancer, using nano technology by the Honourable Minister.