Digital Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality Twitter Space

International Women’s Day is an International UN celebrated on March 8th as a focal point in the women’s rights movement, bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, violence and abuse against women. it celebrates progress made, calls for change, and celebrates courage and determination by ordinary women.

The United Nations theme of International Women’s Day (IWD 2023) is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” which will explore the impact of the digital gender gap on widening economic and social inequalities. It will also highlight the importance of protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and addressing online and ICT-facilitated gender-based violence.

It is against this background that the Power to Youth programme organised a pre-women’s day twitter space on 7th March under the theme Digital Innovation and Technology for gender equality which brought together technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and gender equality activists to highlight the role of all stakeholders in improving access to digital tools.

The event which had a participation of over 238 stakeholders, took the form of an interactive moderated intergenerational round table dialogue including a comment, question and answer segment with the audience.

The twitter space was hosted on the Power to Youth official Twitter page and was moderated by Daisy Kandole Youth officer Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU), and featured a 5-member panel of speakers with life and professional experience in the subject of sexual reproductive health and rights. The panelists include Aidah Babirye, communications officer RHU, George Tamale, workplace health specialist, Annet Kyarimpa, Manager Safe motherhood RHU, Mark Chris Kayizzi, Programs officer Reach A Hand Uganda and Faith Kukundakwe CEO Dokitar Medical.

The twitter space was a platform for a workplace health specialist, SRHR activists, partners and a young person to discuss digital innovation and technology for gender equality. The space drew on discussions that have to do with different digital innovations on the market that can help better women’s access to sexual and reproductive health.

The speakers discussed the key issues, challenges faced by women in the digital world and solutions below are some of the key highlights included, Social economic challenges where spouses restrict women’s use of technology, Policies around digital access that have gaps limit access to technology by and girls, poverty and high illiteracy levels especially among women and girls.

Some of the solutions suggested by the speakers included the need for policy makers need to understand issues faced by women at the grassroot level like access to education, early marriages which hinder their access to digital innovations, the need for empowerment of women in using different platforms like the women’s Sacco and associations, the need for creation of safe environments for women without them feeling stigmatized, the need for cyber safety and security and also the need to seek collaboration and donor support so that we can have our digital innovations funded and ready for market

The different speakers also highlighted some of the digital innovations and technology in the CSO space that are used to bridge gaps between vulnerable women and girls to access SRHR and these included:

Ask RHU is a digital innovation started up by RHU which is accessed throug Facebook whose aim is to provide SRHR information to the community and public at large. One of the key challenges faced by this digital innovation is that Facebook was burned in Uganda which makes it hard for the people at the grassroot level to access this information.

Reach A Hand Uganda also developed sauti plus media, a digital innovation and technology that helps to close the access to information and services gap. It features eco systems designed to reach young people in their various situations, allowing them to receive referrals to various clinics and healthcare services in
their neighborhoods.

The speakers emphasized ways in which we can bring everyone to embracing technology in a positive way. “ The world is changing, technology is here to stay and if we don’t pick up the pace we shall stay behind, if you stay behind you are staying behind at your own risk and we need to provide opportunities to support women so as they are not left behind. Digital empowerment is women empowerment.” said Annet Kyarimpa Manager Safe Motherhood RHU.

Kyarimpa added that there is need for support systems from the line ministries like the mother’s union group to teach women and girls on how to use technology.

Aidah Babirye a communications Officer at RHU suggested that there is need to have champions of technology who can use their devices to teach the community members how to use these applications. She added that this would empower more young girls and women in communities to access skills and knowledge on different digital innovations.

Digital innovations like the Dokitar app help young people to access services at their own time and this reduces stigma from the community members. Digital innovations break barriers that prevent women from taking up spaces and take up science courses.

Innovations are able to empower girls and women with information which helps them to bridge the gap in communities. Digital platforms enable young people to express their opinions and they are employment opportunities for women and girls.

There is need to embrace equity so as we can promote digital innovations and technology.

Faith Kukundakwe an innovator at Dokitor App concluded the space emphasizing the need to use our power to create the change we want to see especially to see women fulfill their potential. She said that there is need to use the available technology to pick up the voices of the young girls and women at the grassroot level so that it is and eye opener for them to use technology to access the different services and improve their lives.