By Temitope Ponle
Women’s Forum of the ECOWAS Court of Justice has described gender balance as not an issue concerning the woman, but an economic one.
President of the forum, Mrs Frances Ibanga, said this at the Women’s Forum of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration which was held on March 8.
She identified advocacy, inclusive mindset, and tangible action as elements needed from all at the sub-regional level.
“Framework for the protection and promotion of the rights of women are provided for the ECOWAS vice treaty and annex protocols and convention,” she said.
She also said the day was a global one to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.
“This day provides a useful opportunity to reinforce the fact that everyone has a role to play in forging a more gender-balanced world and the importance of treating women fairly and equally, without any bias or prejudice.”
The theme of the 2023 IWD is “Digit All: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality”.
She said the theme was carefully selected to celebrate the women who were championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education.
“This theme – exploring the impact of the digital gender gap widening economic and social inequalities – aims to highlight the importance of protecting the rights of women in digital spaces and the need to address ICT gender-based violence.
“Furthermore, technology and innovation are part of our everyday life.
“We needed to tackle our daily humanitarian challenges in every sphere of life be it business, education, or entertainment.
“As technology advances, we see the wide digital divide between genders, and the divide has become the new face of gender inequality,” she added.
Ibanga, however, said the growing inequalities were becoming increasingly evident in the context of digital skills and access to technologies.
She said the United Nations 2020 data revealed that seven per cent of women did not use the internet and were also grossly underrepresented in tech-related fields.
She said the report showed only 22 per cent of positions in artificial intelligence held by women.
She also said 2023 IWD was the day to take the campaign to the next level, “re-emphasing gender equality is basically creating the same opportunities to the human perspective agenda”.
“Let us, therefore, speak in one voice and ask in unison to protect the rights of women and girls in digital spaces as technology empowers women to capitalise on opportunities and express their opinions,” she said.
Also speaking, Mrs Pauline Tallen, Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development said the aim of the IWD celebration at the court was to discuss and raise awareness.
Tallen said the awareness raised was on how to improve access to digital tools for achieving gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.
“A gender-responsive approach to innovation in digital education can increase the awareness of women and girls regarding rights and civic engagement.
“Advancements in technology offer different opportunities, address development, and humanitarian challenges and achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.”
The minister, however, said growing inequalities were becoming increasingly evident in the context of digital skills and access to technologies, with women being left behind.
She said the need for inclusive and transformative technology, and digital education was crucial for a sustainable future.
Also, Beatrice Eyong, United Nations Women Representative to Nigeria said the 2023 IWD theme was allied with the theme of the ongoing 67th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York.
“The theme for the CSW 67 is innovation and technology, technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women.
“DigitAll also is a call is a clarion call from all stakeholders for the need to invest more in digital solutions and this theme is also reminding us of the importance of innovation and technology for gender equality.”
Eyong said there were many studies that had shown the importance of gender equality.
The UN representative, however, said the world women’s levels of internet connectivity were low due to a number of gender-specific barriers, which create a digital gender gap.
“Women with internet access are around twice as likely to recall that they were able to find products at a good price.
“They were able to open a bank account and they were able to find people to hire to do work for them.
“Such examples show the transformative potential of internet access and inclusion in digital technology for women, which contribute to closing the gender gap, advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.
“Failing to do so brings significant political, social and cultural costs and in particular economic costs.”
She also said there was a digital platform, developed by UN women globally, that enabled women to access information in real-time about the climate of the market of inputs and enabled agricultural extension officers to train women online to monitor farms.