As part of its annual partner meeting on 21 September, EQUALS brought together youth representatives and partners to discuss how youth can be more engaged in EQUALS and its activities. The youth representatives participated in meaningful conversations with leaders of some of the partnership’s Steering Committee members including GSMA, ISOC, ITC, ITU and UN Women.
The discussion focused on two main questions:
What are the most effective channels for EQUALS to engage young women and men?
What are youth’s major skills gaps and how can EQUALS help fill these gaps?
Here are the top eight lessons I took away from the experience.
1. Increasing youth awareness is key. The digital gender divide gap is expanding among young people. EQUALS is trying to solve the problem with and for the youth. Therefore, it is crucial to raise awareness of the gaps that exist in access, skills and leadership opportunities among youth.
2. The importance of social media: Social media are not just helpful tools for the younger generation to communicate with each other, but are also platforms that foster engagement between decision makers and young people. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Reddit, these platforms allow users to reach wider audiences and build awareness of the digital gender divide.
3. Local communities need to get together. Not only it is important to reach a wide audience, it is just as essential to build local connections with youth at the grassroots level. Local communities can take actions to close the digital gender divide by providing access to technology to less privileged communities and teaching digital skills development lessons.
4. Role models are crucial. Establishing role models for young girls encourages their participation in STEM fields. The younger generation needs to see more female role models in STEM to influence and motivate them to uncover their true potential.
5. Parental participation is paramount. Parents play an important role when it comes to closing the digital gender gap. Many young girls around the world have to ask for parental permission before accessing the internet. So, it is important for parents to understand the significance of emerging technologies and how their children can benefit from STEM education. Without parents’ support, the road to closing the digital gender divide will only get longer.
6. Introduce digital empathy. Cyberbullying is another phenomenon that discourages girls from accessing the internet and pursuing STEM education. There needs to be more empathy in the digital sphere. Girls should be able to express their ideas and opinions freely just as boys are. Digital empathy should be promoted on social media among both men and women to create safe online community for girls who are interested in STEM and digital engagement.
7. Promote entrepreneurship opportunities for women. The digital sphere is enormous. It opens opportunities for people around the world, and women should take advantage of this opportunity. Framing digital training and business as mutually reinforcing and beneficial can help promote entrepreneurship for women. Technology allows women to change their worlds and the world around them.
8. Build youth-inclusive platforms. Young people need platforms that allows them to share their ideas. Incorporating youth expertise is a major step forward when it comes to solving youth problems, such as digital divide. Organizations who are working to solve problems relating to youth issues should incorporate youth’s opinions into their solutions. The “Voice of Youth” is an excellent example of a platform that provided youth representatives with the opportunity to come up with solutions to problems that they want to address. Incorporating perspectives from people of all ages allows us to come up with new solutions to closing the digital gender divide.
I’m glad that I had the opportunity to take part in this conversation. I was able to meet with representatives from around the world who are eager to make changes and who are passionate about the same issue as I am. I hope to continue the conversation with people around me to promote awareness and new find solutions to the digital gender divide.
About the Author
Qiying Wei is a digital media enthusiast studying at Fordham Gabelli School of Business. She is majoring in global business with a double concentration in digital media and technology and fintech, and a minor in computer science. Qiying is a firm believer of equal educational opportunities for people around the world, and that fighting against digital gender divide is just the first step towards that goal.
Photos via Qiying Wei