oday, 2.2 billion people below the age of 25 still do not have internet access at home and girls are more likely to be cut off. Even if the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically accelerated the use of digital platforms for learning, earning and connecting people, many children are still suffering from that digital gap. Girls in particular are less likely than boys to have access to digital devices and gain tech-related skills and jobs.
On the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child, millions of girls are coming together with organisations like UNICEF to call to close this digital gap and accelerate opportunities for girls. This is an essential step to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Closing the digital divide
Egypt has achieved great progress in closing the gender gap in education. However, many girls remain deprived of full access to services or skills development. They are also too often lack adequate opportunities to speak out and participate in society and community debates.
Girls do not have enough access to information and communication technology (ICT), limiting their access to a rich source of knowledge, professional and educational opportunities, and a forum of self-expression and creativity. On average, males aged 4 years and above are 8% more likely to use these technologies than females.
As digital literacy is a highly demanded skill, it can improve women’s employability. UNICEF focuses on increasing girls’ access to ICT, promoting their participation in this specific area and giving them access to the information and training they need.
While digital solutions provide huge opportunities for sustaining and promoting children’s rights, these same tools may also increase children’s exposure to online risks. To avoid exposing children to online risks, UNICEF is also sharing age-appropriate and gender-sensitive awareness material and tools for girls and boys. Our children are best protected online when they can understand the risks and be aware of how to avoid them. This is why UNICEF is supporting the National partners on raising the awareness of children, parents, caregivers, and educators on internet safety.
The role of innovation
Digital literacy is undoubtedly a key aspect of the future of young Egyptians, boys and girls. In addition, innovation is another aspect of the future of Egyptian youth. Egyptian start-ups have attracted investments valued at $400m during 2021. This shows how investors have more and more confidence in Egyptian entrepreneurs and their technological innovations.
To match this important trend, UNICEF is leveraging the long-lasting partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports to establish the first of its kind innovation lab model in youth centres. The model will provide youth centres with a well-equipped space for innovation and creativity, with a special focus on girls. The model aims at providing in-depth support to young people to become innovators and be equipped with the skills needed to support their readiness to penetrate the start-up ecosystem. This is done through a package of social innovation and social entrepreneurship skills to promote a culture of self-employment and innovation among young people.
Fostering girl’s empowerment
The Government of Egypt has exerted enormous efforts in prioritizing gender equality demonstrated in the National Strategy for the Empowerment of Egyptian Women 2030, and UNICEF and partners affirm their continuous support on this front. Together we contribute to enabling over 20 million girls under 20 years old (10 million 10 – 19) to engage in the ongoing empowerment journey to fulfil their aspirations and full potential.
UNICEF is supporting the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood and the National Council for Women-led National Girls’ Empowerment Initiative, Dawwie, that is at the centre of the efforts to overcome social barriers hindering gender equality especially among most vulnerable girls, with online and off-line learning opportunity that engaged over 30,000 young girls and boys since it was launched in 2019.
UNICEF remains committed to make sure that all girls’ in Egypt, especially the most vulnerable, can have access to adequate knowledge, skills, services and opportunities. It is equally important for those girls to be heard. This is a fundamental step towards achieving their full potential, and decreasing this digital gap will benefit everyone in Egypt. Jeremy Hopkins is the UNICEF Representative in Egypt