DAW Roundtable at the Global Forum on Youth and ICT for Development
Geneva, Switzerland, 2.30 – 4.00 PM, 26 September 2007

“ICT as an instrument for the empowerment of young women and girls”

The Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) organized the Global Forum on Youth and ICT for Development: "Youth and ICT as Agents of Change", from 24 to 26 September 2007 in Geneva, Switzerland. The Forum was aimed at helping to harness the creativity and dynamism that the youth has in exploring and exploiting ICT for their own benefit and for the benefit of their peers and communities in advancement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Forum aimed at actively engaging youth in debates and discussions with their peer representatives, policy makers, private sector, technology and thought leaders and others in exploring ways to empower the community and to participate more fully in society through the appropriate and responsible use of ICT.

As part of this Forum, the Division for the Advancement of Women organized a roundtable on the theme of "ICT as an instrument for the empowerment of young women and girls", in partnership with the Women’s Networking Support Programme of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC/WNSP) and the International Women’s Tribune Centre (IWTC), to ensure attention to the needs, priorities and contributions of girls and young women, as well as boys and young men, at the Forum.

Objectives of the roundtable
Roundtable participants and speeches
Final report of the roundtable


The Beijing Platform for Action calls on governments to promote women’s full and equal participation in, and access to education, training, employment, programming and management, in all areas and levels of media, including ICT. 

The Plan of Action, adopted at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), called for the removal of gender barriers to ICT education and training and provision of equal training opportunities in ICT-related fields for women and girls. Early intervention programmes in science and technology should target young girls with the aim of increasing the number of women in ICT careers.

At the 51st session of the Commission on the Status of Women, it was agreed that, work must be done to promote and support increased access of girls to ICT, particularly girls living in poverty, girls living in rural and remote areas and in disadvantaged situations.


While the potential of ICT for stimulating economic growth, socio-economic development and effective governance is well recognized, the benefits of ICT have been unevenly distributed within and between countries.  In the context of the “digital divide” - the differences in resources and capabilities to access and effectively utilize ICT for development that exist within and between countries, regions, sectors and socio-economic groups - a “gender divide” has been identified.  The capacity of young women and girls to exploit the potential of new ICT as tools for empowerment is constrained in different ways.

Young women and girls need ICT for the same reasons as men and boys; to access information of importance for their personal development, educational achievements, employment opportunities, roles in the community and other contexts, and as a means to obtain  additional resources. Access to ICT can enable women and girls to gain a stronger voice in their communities, their Government and at the global level. ICT also offers flexibility in time and space, which can be of particular value to young women and girls who may face social isolation, particularly in developing countries. It can also be effectively utilized for the peer networking which is critical to empowerment of adolescent girls.

In addition to physical access to the technology and the ability to utilize it, access also refers to the ability to make use of the information and the resources provided. The factors identified as constraints to access and use, i.e. poverty, illiteracy, including computer illiteracy, and language barriers are particularly acute for young women and girls. Most poor young women and girls in developing countries are further removed from the information age than the young men and boys in similar situations. Socially constructed gender roles and relationships play a key role in determining the capacity of women and men to participate on equal terms in the information society. 

While ICT is being increasingly applied in education in both developed and developing countries, continuing gender gaps in education, due to domestic responsibilities, lack of mobility and socio-cultural practices that downplay the importance of education of girls, restrict their access to basic computer literacy.  In addition, ICT implementation policies and resource allocations in education are often gender-blind and, as a result, the special needs and priorities of girls are neglected.  Even where public access spaces, such as cybercafés and telecentres, have been created for easy access to ICT, the location of and arrangements around public access centres are decided without considering the constraints for young women, such as inappropriate opening times (including evenings), security issues and lack of transport. 

Even when physical and technical access is secured, it is important to ensure that the content available through ICT meets the priorities and needs of young women and girls.   Repackaging and augmenting content (downloading, simplifying, adapting information to local contexts and translating into local languages), and documenting and uploading local-origin information, are critical steps for enhancing the relevance and use of ICT for girls and young women. 

Objectives of the roundtable

This roundtable will explore the “gender divide” and the options available for working to ensure that access to ICT, and the ability to make productive use of ICT for development, is equally available to both young women and young men.  It will provides concrete examples of initiatives taken to specifically address the constraints faced by young women and girls and to proactively use ICT as an instrument of empowerment. It will outline some of the key challenges which need to be effectively addressed.

Roundtable participants

Moderator: Mr. Sarbuland Khan - Executive Coordinator, United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development.

1.         Ms Itir Akdogan (Turkey)
Text of the speech
Ms Akdogan started her youth activities in civil society in her high school days. She became a youth activist at a leading youth NGO in Turkey, Youth for Habitat, Turkey while she was studying journalism and communication at the Galatasaray University in Istanbul. She volunteered in several multistakeholder projects for youth capacity building (with ICT) and local democracy in national level. She has participated widely in various international conferences, seminars and forums on youth policies and the World Summit on Information Society. During her master studies at Université Libre de Bruxelles, she began research on e-democracy and e-participation. Currently Ms Akdogan is a PhD candidate at the University of Helsinki where she is researching on the future of e-governance. She also teaches information society and e-citizenship.

2.         Ms Mridula Swamy (India)
Ms Swamy is a Research Associate at IT for Change, a non-profit organization in India, where she is currently engaged in analysing existing ICTD interventions in India, from a gender equality perspective. She participates in a research project that examines telecentre initiatives across the country, to develop a model that is grounded in the development priorities of local communities and that contributes towards their greater inclusion and participation in governance structures. Ms Swamy has contributed to the WSIS Gender Caucus-IDRC project – An Empowerment Approach to Gender Equality in the Information Society – as the author of the South Asia chapter, titled “Moving beyond the Market: An Empowerment Approach to Gender and ICTs.” She has written a handbook on women’s empowerment through ICT-based initiatives. Ms Swamy is a graduate from American University, Washington D.C., with a Masters degree in International Development and specialisation in gender and development policy.

3.         Ms Dayana Torrico (Bolivia)
Ms Torrico is a Technology coordinator in FAUTAPO, a non-profit foundation involved in ICT education and development. She works with young women and men professionals in ICT with particular interest in establishing an electronic network system for schools and governmental institutions to allow better social interaction and transparency in their activities. She has been an advocate for young Bolivian women’s participation in ICT. She has encouraged young women to be leaders in projects, groups or teams in their communities. She is also a strong advocate of and expert in open-source software, which aims to promote the democratization of knowledge, which is today threatened by costly commercial licenses and patents. Ms Torrico has a degree in Computer Engineering from the Universidad Autónoma Juan Misael Saracho, in Tarija, Bolivia.

4.         Ms Lerato Legoabe (South Africa)
Ms Legoabe is currently the Project Coordinator for Girls'Net (a Women'sNet initiative that promotes the use of ICTs by South African girls to produce and disseminate their own information, in their own voices and for their own development). Ms Legoabe has extensive experience as a youth and gender activist and has held numerous leadership positions in student politics and Young Women's Networks nationally. She has participated in national and international conferences that focus on the intersecting dynamics of youth, women and ICTs, including delivering a key note address at the "Fill the Gap", Youth and ICT Conference in Amsterdam in 2004, and the Forum on Women's Activism in Constitutional and Democratic Reform in Canada in 2006. Ms Legoabe has a background in the Natural Sciences, and studied at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa.

5.         Mr Jesenko Osmanagić (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Text of the speech
As manager of several projects run by NGOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina , Mr. Osmanagić has been actively involved in youth capacity building, as well as improvement in access to ICT within the public education sector in the country. Mr. Osmanagić managed projects that provided young women and girls with ICT infrastructure and ICT education resources for their personal and career development. Mr. Osmanagić was also involved in implementation of the programme “Parent School Partnership” that aimed to improve the ICT infrastructure inside primary and secondary schools within Bosnia and Herzegovina. Projects such as “Youth Stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, “Youth Lens: Advocacy Video for Youth Policy” and “Youth Network for Cooperation with Government” empowered youth female activists to use ICT for graphic design and video production to advocate governmental representatives for systematic investment in ICT.

Rapporteur: Ms. Mavic Cabrera Balleza
Ms Cabrera-Balleza is a Senior Programme Associate at the International Women’s Tribune Centre, an international NGO that promotes the use of ICTs for women’s human rights advocacy and peace building. She is also the Vice President of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters representing the Women’s International Network. Concurrently, she is a board member of the Asian Communication Network. Ms Cabrera-Balleza was an active participant in the World Summits on the Information Society and the Internet Governance Forum, advocating for gender equality in ICT.