Just imagine what girls could do If they would only be given the possibility to fulfil their full potential and the opportunities, skill and space to thrive.
Girls are one of the largest excluded groups in the world. They face discrimination and abuse simply for being young and female. Millions of girls are disproportionately disadvantaged in education, health, work, and family life – particularly in the world’s poorest countries. These challenges become more even more severe where factors such as poverty, ethnicity or disability overlap.
The way we talk to girls is different from the way we talk to boys. Similarly, we talk differently about girls and boys. Both of these phenomena have real impacts on how girls’ perceive themselves and their abilities.
Discriminatory language and gender stereotyping have a profound impact on girls’ confidence, agency and expectations for the future. Revolutionary new apps, uses of information and communication technology smashes the stereotypes that hold girls back.
Girls deserve the full protection of their governments, and support from their families and communities. When a girl can grow up safe, happy and healthy with full enjoyment of her right, she can grow up to reach her full potential.
As a leading advocate of Technology for Good, we believe in the transformative potential of ICT in Bangladesh. Knowing that the internet provides us with instant access to a global repository of information, it is shocking to see how a lot of girls still don’t have proper access in ICT with equipment and infrastructures.
One of the many reasons girls drop out of school is because schools are located long distances away from their homes leading parents to fear for their daughter’s safety. Men are twice as likely as women to own a mobile phone in Bangladesh and this is just one example of how girls still lag behind boys in terms of access to information and communication technology (ICT). In marginalized communities, barriers such as gender discrimination, lack of confidence, language difficulties, low literacy and lack of money prevent girls and young women from taking full advantage of technology.
Bangladesh is in a good place with a huge percentage of its population being youths who have incredible potential. Whereas, our last year survey shows that women account for only 10 percent of the total workforce in information and communication technology sector in Bangladesh. Education would not only equip girls with the required skills for them to participate in the labour market, but it would advance whole families because when girls are educated, they lift up their families, their local communities, and eventually the entire society.
The use of information and communication technology (ICT) for educational and career purposes is a relatively new phenomenon but one with great potential for improving education delivery.
The fast-changing ICT landscape in Bangladesh, especially the increasing functionality of ICT presents an opportunity for girls to increase the efficiency of the education and career service delivery as ICT are becoming an integral part of people’s lives, facilitating real time development.
For instance, Plan International Bangladesh in collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh launched the mobile technology based ‘SMS system’ to stop child marriage. Undoubtedly, this SMS system has created a massive awareness across the country; people are much more informed than any other time in the past. And child marriages are getting stopped gradually through age checking, and if anyone try to hide their age, it will be identified. So people now a days are not trying hard to collect fake birth certificate and other documents.
A study by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) shows that the economic impacts of child marriage will cost the world $4tn by 2030; the study also suggests that ending child marriage would save governments and donors hundreds of billion annually, rein in population growth and improve lives, while enabling girls to complete their education and get better jobs.
The most important and integral part of engaging girls in ICT will ensure gender equality, employment opportunity, protection of and mitigation of girl’s sexual violence and reduce vulnerability. And this could only be ensured by comprehensive and inclusive manner though mainstreaming girls from remote area and their accessibility in ICT sector.
Bangladesh earned nearly $800 million last year exporting locally made software, and providing ICT-related services like outsourced and freelance work, (Daily Star: 17 Nov-2017) and there is huge potential to double this figure through engaging girls in ICT sector
The effort of ‘International Girls in ICT Day’ will presumably create an enabling environment to encourage empower girls and young women to consider studies and careers in the growing fields of information and communication technologies (ICT). Encouraging girls and women to pursue ICT careers can fosters a more dynamic technology sector, achieving extensive benefits for companies and contribute to the country.
The writer is a Communication Specialist at Plan International Bangladesh.