Speakers Highlight National Strategies to End Gender Divide in Media, Digital Decision-Making, as Women’s Commission Continues Sessions

WOM/2139
14 March 2018
Sixty-second Session, 6th & 7th Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers Highlight National Strategies to End Gender Divide in Media, Digital Decision-Making, as Women’s Commission Continues Sessions

Women’s leadership in media and digital decision-making would have a profound impact on economies around the world, with major implications for development targets and poverty reduction, said speakers today as the Commission on the Status of Women continued its sixty-second session.

Representatives of 12 countries delivered presentations on women’s participation in information and communications technology (ICT), as well as that sector’s potential to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment.  They also outlined national progress in implementing a set of specific recommendations on that topic — agreed to at the Commission’s 2003 session — with many describing a rapidly shifting digital landscape that presented both opportunities and risks.

Saudi Arabia’s Vice-Minister for Labour and Social Development, noting that a broad digital transformation was under way in her country, said the achievement of its overarching “Vision 2030” strategy would require a strong economic and technical infrastructure.  Outlining various initiatives aimed at bridging the digital divide between men and women — and between rural and urban areas — she spotlighted support for e-commerce; “technical education convoys” that were reaching women and girls in remote areas; and Government incentives for companies that hired Saudi women.

Delivering her country’s presentation, the Secretary-General of Belgium’s Association of Professional Journalists said women remained highly underrepresented in media and “practically disappeared” from the field as they aged, facing the choice between a journalism career and having a family.  As a result, she said, most editors and other high-level media professionals were men.  Among the tools developed to respond to that challenge were video-coaching programmes and awareness‑raising campaigns, she said, adding that gender-related issues were now being spotlighted in regulatory bodies that had historically been insensitive to them.

The representative of Denmark, serving as one of the responding “partner” countries leading today’s discussion, emphasized that girls and women must be part of the growing global ICT sector and the jobs they created.  Governments and enterprises should be more proactive in promoting women’s engagement in science, technology, engineering and math — known as the “STEM” fields — and enable their deeper engagement in the media sector.  For its part, Denmark had established an innovative “TechPlomacy” initiative and appointed the world’s first “tech ambassador”, and it was working with development partners to help bridge the digital gender divide around the world.

While speakers agreed that ICT had become an indispensable part of modern life, some also voiced concern about new threats emerging from them.  The Minister for Women of New Zealand, delivering her country’s presentation, focusing largely on the phenomenon of “digital harm” — especially online abuse and cyberbullying among young people.  Outlining the results of a study recently conducted by her Government, she said girls were more exposed to certain types of digital harm than boys.  However, both girls and boys had expressed a desire for tools to protect themselves online, she said, calling on States to engage in frank discussions with their young people and expand awareness of such concepts as consent.

Also delivering national presentations today were ministers, media professionals, academic experts and other officials from Sri Lanka, Colombia, Bulgaria, Kenya, Germany, Argentina, Sudan, Costa Rica and Nigeria.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 16 March, to hold interactive expert panels on several thematic topics.

Introduction of Report

CHRISTINE BRAUTIGAM, Director of the Intergovernmental Support Division of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women), presented the findings outlined in a report of the Secretary-General on “Review of the implementation of the agreed conclusions from the forty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women” (document E/CN.6/2018/4).  Noting that the gender equality and women’s empowerment landscape had changed significantly since that 2003 session — especially in the fields of media and information and communications technology (ICT) — she said those changes had provided new modes of engagement and access to people around the world.

They had enabled life-enhancing changes in health, education and employment, she said, underlining in particular the extraordinary and demand-driven spread of social media and its transformation of news dissemination.  However, that progress had not reached everyone equally and even posed new challenges, such as digital threats and violence against women.  Calling for more gender-responsive literacy training, as well as greater participation of women in ICT decision-making, she outlined some of the report’s recommendations, including improving women’s and girls’ access to and use of digital technologies.

National Presentations

The Commission then heard presentations from five countries on the theme “Participation in and access of women in the media and information and communication technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women”.

ALEXANDRA ADRIAENSSENS, Director of the Equal Opportunities Directorate, Ministry of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation of Belgium, delivering her country’s presentation, described Belgium’s efforts to evaluate and strengthen women’s participation in media and ICT.  Among those, she said, were several new partnerships with professional journalists’ associations, aimed at studying and evaluating the presence and representation of women and representation in the media.  She also outlined several new awareness-raising and training campaigns targeting students and female journalists.

MARTINE SIMONIS, Secretary-General of Belgium’s Association of Professional Journalists, said women were highly underrepresented in journalistic training, and they “practically disappeared” from the field as they grew older.  After the age of 35, female journalists had to choose between a journalism career and having a family.  Noting a particular absence of women in sports journalism and in higher‑level editorial jobs, she said the loss of female journalists after age 35 also led to a situation in which most “experts” were men.  In response, the professional union of journalists had launched various studies to examine the challenges facing women in journalism and develop solutions to address them.  Some tools created so far included video-coaching programmes and awareness-raising campaigns, and work was also under way to bring the issue to the attention of regulatory bodies that had historically been insensitive to gender-related issues.

The representative of La Francophonie, serving as Belgium’s first responding partner, asked the representatives to provide more details on women’s representation in media.  She also described her own organization’s efforts to promote gender equality and the interests of women in media in its member countries.  She asked how media actors could work to make sure the principles of gender equality were respected, especially in the context of online hate speech and other modern-day challenges.

The representative of Tunisia, also serving as a partner, outlined various steps towards enhancing women’s engagement in media in his country.

The representative of Denmark stressed that girls and women needed to be part of the growing global ICT sector and the jobs they created.  Governments and enterprises should be more proactive in promoting women’s engagement in science, technology, engineering and math — known as the “STEM” fields — and enable their deeper engagement in the media sector.  Denmark had established an innovative “TechPlomacy” initiative to address those challenges and appointed the world’s first “tech ambassador”.  It also sought to engage with development partners to act as catalysts in bridging the global digital divide.

Ms. ADRIAENSSENS, responding to those questions and comments, expressed hope that while the barometer on women’s engagement in media had not yet moved much, it would improve in the future.  Her association examined the ICT participation of university students annually, also ensuring that they were exposed to issues related to gender and diversity.  An upcoming study would focus on attitudes about violence against women, she added.

CHANDRANI BANDARA, Minister for Women and Child Affairs of Sri Lanka, then delivered her country’s presentation, pointing to its near-100 per cent literacy rates and its universal provision of free education.  While Sri Lanka had undergone a dark era marked by terrorism, it was committed to its democratic values and continued to condemn all attacks against journalists.  The country had hosted a meeting of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the theme of ending impunity in crimes against journalists and was working to widen available information in each of its three official languages.  The Government was also making strides in ICT literacy and worked closely with civil society organizations in that regard.  Sri Lanka viewed access to high-quality Internet as a prerequisite to democratic engagement and had determined it to be every citizen’s right.  ICT’s potential to facilities women’s economic empowerment needed to be more deeply explored, she said, voicing her commitment to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and the empowerment of women, ending gender stereotyping and eradicating all forms of violence against women.

The representative of Nepal, noting that the Commission’s present session was focused on the empowerment of rural women, asked the Minister of Sri Lanka to share the concrete steps her Government was taking to support the inclusion of rural women in media and ICT and to ensure that they benefitted from their use.

The representative of Indonesia asked the Minister of Sri Lanka how her Government was addressing issues related to women’s financial identity, and how it was working to empower women entrepreneurs.

A representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, also serving as a responding partner, described several joint efforts of his organization and the Sri Lankan Government, including the event marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, held in Colombo.  He asked the Minister if there had been an increase in access to quality education for Sri Lanka’s rural women and girls, especially in the fields of media and ICT literacy.

MS. BANDARA, responding, said mobile phone ownership was around 42 per cent in Sri Lanka’s rural areas, and the Government was engaged in using ICT — especially through those mobile phones — to support entrepreneurship and media literacy initiatives for rural women.  To the question about education, she said Sri Lanka’s universal and free education policy had led to gender parity and nearly achieved Sustainable Development Goal, with 98 per cent primary school enrolment nationwide.  However, fewer women at higher levels were enrolled in engineering and other technology-related studies.  In response, the Government was putting in place initiatives to combat stereotypes and train teachers to address those challenges.

MARTHA ORDOÑEZ, Minister for Gender Equality of Colombia, delivering her country’s presentation, said 81 per cent of women in Colombia had access to the Internet.  A programme known as “Government Online” — which offered free Internet hotspots all over the country — was aimed at empowering its citizens and facilitating their effective enjoyment of rights through ICT.  Citing statistics outlining women’s use of various social media platforms and other mobile applications, she said a ministry for ICT had been established which was working closely with other ministries that focused on education and poverty eradication.  Those collaborations, aimed at encouraging women to enter ICT-related professions, had led some 332,000 women to register for ICT-related courses in 2017.  Thousands had also obtained professional certificates.  Other initiatives included one known as “Digital Citizenship”, several which focused on volunteerism, and some that employed ICT to make online content accessible to persons with disabilities.  Colombia also had a zero-tolerance policy with regards to online child pornography and other abuses of minors on the Internet.

The representative of Norway, one of Colombia’s respondent partners, said the conflict in that country had had a disproportionate impact on women.  However, the Government was working to address those challenges, and Norway supported Colombia’s efforts to use ICT and the media to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women.  Requesting more detailed information about the role of women journalists in Colombia, he underscored the need to protect them, prosecute those who perpetrated attacks against them and combat impunity crimes against journalists.

The representative of Mexico asked for more information about how Colombia was working to combat gender stereotypes.

Ms. ORDOÑEZ, responding, said she came from a journalism background herself.  While more remained to be done, progress had been made in combating stereotypes and images of violence against women and girls in the media.  The Government took a cross-cutting approach to that issue, she said, also describing efforts to ensure that all civil servants and technical experts on the front lines understood the importance of women’s equal access to technology.  It was critical to pay attention to the language being used in reference to women and girls — especially on television and in other media — which could contribute to perpetuating stereotypes or normalizing violence.

TAMADER ALRAMMAH, Vice-Minister for Labour and Social Development of Saudi Arabia, delivered her country’s presentation after playing a related video clip.  Describing Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” — which she said would require a broad digital transformation as well as strong economic and technical infrastructure – she outlined several of her Government’s strategic goals to that end.  Those included the application of human capital to reduce the gap between digital supply and demand; the development and activation of “smart Government transactions”; the provision of broadband services to all regions; support for e-commerce; bridging the digital divide; and increasing the ICT sector’s contribution to Saudi Arabia’s non-oil gross domestic product (GDP).  New digital infrastructure across the country was now reaching women and girls in remote and rural areas, she said, adding that innovative “technical education convoys” toured the country to teach thousands of people digital skills.  However, such challenges as gender stereotyping and lack of social choices still hindered the professional progress of some Saudi women.

The representative of Bahrain, serving as a partner respondent, cited the low participation of women in digital media across the Gulf region.  In that context, she asked for detailed information on how Saudi Arabia was encouraging women to bridge that gap and how it was helping rural women to benefit from the programmes she had outlined.

The representative of Singapore, noting that her country was also undergoing a major digital transformation, asked how Saudi Arabia planned to continue to encourage the enrolment of women in ICT courses in universities and transfer that expertise to the labour market.  She also asked if the incentives offered to companies who hired women had been successful, and what efforts were in place to retain women workers across their various life stages.

Ms. ALRAMMAH, responding, said a point system was used to reward companies that hired Saudi women.  Other incentives included the Government’s offer to pay social security fees associated with hiring women.

Her colleague, a representative of Saudi Arabia’s academic sector, took the floor to address some education-related questions.  Noting that Saudi women’s interest in joining ICT fields was high compared to those of other Gulf nations, she outlined strategies to encourage women in technical fields from the earliest ages of primary education.  Saudi Arabia’s 41 universities were located all over the country, allowing even women from rural areas to train in technical fields.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) also took the floor, emphasizing that his country was currently seeing a “golden age in the empowerment of women”.  That empowerment was not merely symbolic, but was opening new doors and opportunities to women in areas that used to be exclusive to men.  Women’s participation in the labour market was increasing and would enhance women’s position in the framework of their cultural and religious traditions.  Saudi Arabia was responding to the needs of the modern world in line with its Islamic values, he stressed.

JULIE ANNE GENTER, Minister for Women of New Zealand, delivered her country’s presentation, focusing largely on the emerging threats posed by digital abuse and bullying.  Pointing out that such abuse could quickly go viral, causing serious emotional harm, and that young people were often the first to suffer from them, she urged all nations to listen and learn from their youth.  Outlining the results of a related study recently conducted by her Government, she said young women were more likely than boys to use platforms such as Instagram to curate their online identities.  Girls reported being more invested in their online lives, and were therefore more exposed to harm.  While they were less likely to engage in “roasting” behaviours, girls were more often sent explicit images and experienced aggression from boys online.  Boys and girls had all expressed a desire for more tools to protect themselves online and support each other, she said, underlining prevention as a critical step.  Awareness of such concepts as consent must be broadened.  More research would be needed as the field continued to evolve.

The representative of Australia, echoing those concerns, said 1 in 10 Australians had experience image-based abuse, and many women had had their nude images shared online without their consent.  Australia was responding to such challenges through the provision of support services while also considering legislative changes to penalize those that used digital platforms to commit acts of online harassment or abuse.

The representative of Canada said that while the Internet had become indispensable in the modern world, its benefits were being undermined by cyberviolence directed disproportionately against women and girls as well as other marginalized groups, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.  Cyberstalking, “mobbing” and the propagation of sexist and misogynist content undermined efforts to achieve gender equality, he said, adding that such activities could contribute to serious human rights abuses.  Canada, therefore, advocated for a multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance that included women’s voices.

The representative of Lebanon asked how ICT could be used to combat stereotypes of women’s images and social roles.

Ms. GENTER responded that young people, as primary users of many ICT platforms, could help to drive challenges to gender stereotypes.  Online campaigns could quickly go viral — as had recently been seen in the global “#MeToo” movement — and could be used to proactively address stereotypes.  Open and frank conversations between parents and children about the risks of digital harm were also critical, she said.

The representative of Samoa asked how New Zealand was working to address the issue of digital harm in indigenous communities.

Ms. GENTER said Maori youth were being considered in all her Government’s studies of online harm, and underscored the need to encourage all young people — including those from indigenous communities — to speak out about online abuse they experienced. 

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria) delivered his country’s presentation, sharing some of the progress achieved in implementing the Commission’s Agreed Conclusions at the national level.  The Government had adopted special laws to protect against discrimination and domestic violence, and was mainstreaming a gender perspective to guarantee the equal treatment of women and men as a State policy.  Describing efforts to facilitate an enabling environment for gender equality across Bulgaria and bolster women’s engagement in decision-making, he said the share of women professionals in the country’s ICT sector currently stood at 34 per cent.  The Government was working to provide equal opportunities for training, skills upgrading and digital literacy, while putting in place measures to help women balance their careers and private lives.

GENOVEVA TISHEVA, Managing Director of the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation, provided a civil society perspective of those issues, noting that education systems around the world faced challenges in promoting technical training among women.  She outlined several initiatives to address those issues, including the pan-European programme known as “SAME World”, which aimed at achieving all the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as projects that provided digital training to parents and teachers across Bulgaria.  Special services such as counselling and job placement were also being provided to women from marginalized communities, including migrant women.

The representative of Italy, one of Bulgaria’s partner countries, cited the underrepresentation of women in science fields and decision-making and outlined some of Italy’s own efforts to combat those challenges.  In that context, she asked how Bulgaria’s partnership with civil society was being realized in practice.

The representative of Armenia, also outlining his country’s efforts to enhance women’s participation in decision-making, said the share of women in Parliament had reached nearly 20 per cent.  Noting that educational innovation was critical to translating skills into wealth generation, he called for inclusive, public and “bottom-up” approaches to building the capacity of women and girls, and asked for more information on how Bulgaria planned to expand its educational programmes.

Mr. PANAYOTOV said the Government was working closely with civil society partners to fulfil its human rights obligations, including those related to gender.  Women’s education must be supported not only in youth but across their life course, he said.

Ms. TISHEVA agreed that Bulgaria’s civil society was closely engaged in reforming the country’s laws in line with international human rights treaties.  Its project seeking to establish a digital platform for women’s engagement in sustainable development would first be implemented at the national level, with its further expansion considered at a future date.

RACHEL SHEBESH, Chief Administrative Secretary at the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs of Kenya, summarized achievements and challenges, noting that advances in innovations were broadening women’s access to sectors.  Legislation had addressed issues including accessing broadband and tackling stereotypes in social media.  Expanded online services spanned banking, farming and health care to reach women across the country.  ICT had also helped women join markets across the country, continent and world.  In education, digital learning devices had been distributed to more than 14,000 schools in every rural area.  The Government had also established the Huduma programme, opening nationwide service centres and was now working on implementing a national identification “smart” card.  Challenges included strengthening public-private partnerships.

The representative of Rwanda, commending Kenya for its many accomplishments, recommended increased gender disaggregated data, which would facilitate monitoring progress.

The representative of South Africa underlined the importance of protecting boys and girls from harmful online content through preventive mechanisms, including effective legislation.

A representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Kenya’s accomplishments included strong tools for empowering women.  However, rural women in developing and least developed countries often found themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide, she said, noting that nearly 60 per cent of women in rural areas did not have a mobile phone.  Congratulating the Government of Kenya for implementing innovative programmes and strategies, she offered several recommendations, including that ICT applications should be in local languages and efforts must address social cultural norms that hindered access to technology.

Ms. SHEBESH, first addressing the protection of children from online content, said Parliament was currently considered a cybercrime bill.

ELKE FERNER, Vice-Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth of Germany, said narrowing the digital gender gap was the goal of a range of efforts, including a programme on e-skills for girls and an initiative that broadened access to the Internet for women from developing countries.  In Germany, efforts were addressing women’s under-representation in the media and film and programmes were also combating digital violence.

A representative of Discover Football, contributing to the national presentation, described her non-governmental organization’s initiative, which aimed at raising awareness of women’s rights worldwide, particularly gender stereotypes and disparities in sports media and film industries.

The representative of Namibia asked whether efforts to increase women’s presence in film would cover an inclusion rider.

The representative of China asked how Germany attracted more women to work in the media industry and other sectors.

Ms. FERNER said targeted programmes for girls demonstrated that females could pursue any field and provided them with role models.  Efforts were also addressing the large gender gap in the film industry.  However, without quotas, there would be no success, she said.

FABIANA TŨNEZ, Executive Director of the National Women’s Institute of Argentina, said ICT provided key tools for women’s empowerment.  Argentina had adopted a national plan, passed laws related to data in public offices and had developed training programmes and other initiatives to narrow gender gaps in related fields.

HELENA ESTRADA of the Centre for Women’s Economic Development of Argentina, adding to the presentation, said a national mass media advertisement campaign, “Plan 111000”, aimed at breaking stereotypes in the ICT fields.  Efforts were also being made in improving the legal framework and simplifying export processes for small producers.  Training courses had reached thousands of women, however many did not complete the curriculum.  Efforts were now being made to find solutions to increase the number of women in ICT fields.

PAMELA MARTIN GARCIA of the Centre for Women’s Development of Argentina, also delivering part of the presentation from a civil society perspective, said women from various groups had participated in Government meetings, including a recent gathering that focused on goals and actions.  Civil society groups could also access governmental budget information and could participate in processes that worked towards guaranteeing women’s rights.

The representative of Paraguay said “Plan 111000” sounded interesting and asked what further actions would be taken to encourage women’s participation in the technology field.

The representative of Brazil said violence against women, as portrayed on television, had raised awareness of very important issues.  To address those and related cybercrime issues, Brazil had launched a national programme with public and private partners, she said, asking Argentina’s representative what her Government was doing about those issues.

The representative of Mexico said an urgent response was needed from Member States that resolutions to be adopted at the end of the session must go beyond using ICT as economic tools.  Efforts must be made to combat violence against women, on and offline.

Ms. TŨNEZ said Argentina had taken a number of steps to address crime on the Internet, including a law adopted in 2013 to protect children from predators online.

Ms. ESTRADA said that, after examining the results of the technology classes, organizers had noted that enrolment had climbed when participants were invited to bring a friend to classes.  Efforts were now being made to improve ways to attract women to take training courses.

Ms. MARTIN GARCIA said a national plan was being designed, with the participation of civil society.

NAWAL AHMED MUKTAR (Sudan) said that, in her country, where women made up more than half of the total population of 41 million, national efforts were targeting education and job sectors.  A national data centre connected the federal and state-level authorities and the Government also provided a portal for citizens to access certain services and laws had been adopted with regard to telecommunications and online crime.

FARIDA HASSAN, Minister for Security and Social Development of Sudan, said that, in the education sector, efforts included literacy campaigns in coordination with UNESCO.  Since 2014, progress had been made in literacy and in terms of girls’ enrolment in primary school.  Community development centres and higher education institutes had been established.  Women’s access to the Internet had also increased, as had their ownership of mobile phones.  Women were also making strides in being employed in the media field, with more graduating from journalism school.  Programmes targeting rural women were also seeing results and improving their living standards.

Ms. MUKTAR, citing examples of how ICT programmes in the health sector were addressing concerns, such as a massive influx of refugees and high levels of poverty, said a mobile medical project in Gezira State was reaching families in need.  Online consultations were providing medical attention and in the first year of operation, it had inscribed more than 100,000 new patients.  In addition, the Government was undertaking gender-sensitive reform efforts.

The representative of Morocco, commending Sudan’s effort to continue to empower women, asked if there was a specific plan to reach rural women and ensure their participation.  Asking also about the Government’s partnerships with civil society, she wondered what type of programmes were now being implemented.

The representative of Ethiopia commended Sudan for efforts to break through traditional barriers, which affected many women in the region, through partnerships.  Sharing the same challenges, she asked for advice on how best to overcome them and for examples on what measures Sudan would take to ensure further progress.

The representative of Sudan, responding to those questions, said policies and strategies were being implemented to advance women’s rights.  Citing a range of initiatives, she said efforts were also under way to reach women with opportunities for economic advancement and a rural development project had similar goals.  Awareness-raising programmes aimed at challenging traditional barriers.

ALEJANDRA MORA MORA, Minister for the Status of Women Affairs and Social Development of Costa Rica, said ICT and women’s access to it offered them a path towards economic empowerment.  Gender stereotypes must be broken and the digital gap between the sexes must be narrowed in science, technology and mathematics fields.  Among a range of actions, Costa Rica had worked on public policies to narrow those gaps, including with the participation of civil society groups.  The Government had also adopted national policies on gender equality that included training in the fields of science and technology.  Noting that there was no significant gap between the sexes in terms of access to the Internet, she outlined several communications efforts.  One programme had reached 43,000 families with Internet access and another had established public service-provider centres in remote areas to serve marginalized communities.

The representative of El Salvador said those and similar policies would be beneficial to other countries.  She wondered what the main challenges were in various stages of women’s lives.

The representative of Panama asked about the role of public-private partnerships in bridging the digital gap.

Ms. MORA MORA said addressing the various phases in women’s lives was important, from early infancy onwards.  Working with girls from their early years, programmes should include science and technology in a way that was dynamic to both genders.  Removing stereotypes must also be dismantled.  Partnerships among women were also important.

AISHA JUMMAI AL-HASSAN, Minister for Women’s Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria, described some of the major areas where the use of ICT had advanced women’s empowerment in her country.  In terms of legislation, laws had been passed to ensure protection and the empowerment of women and girls, especially in rural areas.  Research on the increased use of disaggregated data had led to the creation of several programmes for rural women.  Technology applied in the health field had led to more skills training.  Legislative reviews, prevention and ending impunity for offenders were among other steps Nigeria was taking, she said, adding that a national action plan was adopted in 2017 to address those issues, as well as the security situation in parts of the country.  Efforts were also being made to improve school enrolment for girls.  Major achievements included media advocacy for national gender policies and the establishment of funds and programmes to support ICT projects, such as maternal health services in rural areas and applications that connect more than 1 million women farmers to vendors.  Turning to the security situation, she said women’s participation in addressing those issues was essential.  Challenges existed, but Government efforts were mainstreaming the needs of women and girls into broader programmes.

The representative of Morocco, noting Nigeria’s many efforts, asked what approach had been adopted to empower women in line with current statistics, particularly in terms of the very low school enrolment rate for girls.  She wondered if any steps were being taken to support the education of girls in rural areas, such as the use of boarding schools, and asked for details on programmes targeting the marginalized that could be used in other countries.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the global Sustainable Development Goals would not be achieved by 2030 unless girls’ rights were protected and respected.  Nigeria’s efforts had an important role to play in that regard, as technology could empower girls, including with information on health, financial services, education and employment.  She asked how the enrolment rate could climb even higher and what barriers existed to reach that goal.

Ms. AL-HASSAN said Nigeria was a federation of autonomous states and effective collaboration among local governments aimed to empower women, including through skills training.  School enrolment had already increased tremendously, thanks to meal programmes and other efforts.  While 40 per cent of girls had not attended school in 2004, today that number was much lower due to projects, such as free public school for all and cash-transfer schemes for families in need.

For information media. Not an official record.