By Chimezie Godfrey
The Initiative for Research, Innovation and Advocacy in Development (IRIAD) has called for the provision of access to the internet and digital devices for young girls to enable them be on the same level as their male counterparts.
The Executive Director, IRIAD, Princess Hamman-Obels made the call in commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child with the theme,”“Digital Generation. Our Generation”.
She revealed that IRIAD commemorates the International Day of the Girl Child 2021 by celebrating young girls around the world.
According to her, part of their efforts to advance the rights of the girl child include conducting research and advocacy to support the inclusion of women and girls in the political process.
She also, disclosed that IRIAD organises free trainings for women and young girls, conducts surveys to get the opinions of students, including young girls, on constitutional review, organises sensitisation campaigns in rural and marginalised communities to educate them on the causes and consequences of gender-based violence (GBV).
Hamman-Obels noted that girls in the 21st century are open to various possibilities that come with being in a digitalised generation and have shown great promise in the lead for digital transformation.
She however said that with this promise comes diverse digital realities facing the girl child which have to be understood if the girl child is to achieve maximum transformation.
She decried the fact that there exists a gorge in women and girls’ digital access and use in comparison to men and boys.
According to her, a study conducted by Girl Effect and Vodafone Foundation, boys are 1.5 times more likely than girls to have a telephone and 1.8 times more likely to have a smartphone than girls.
The Executive Director pointed out that roughly 46% of boys use the internet on their phones, compared to 27% of girls, adding that this indicates a huge gap in digital access and literacy between boys and girls.
She therefore called on the government and all stakeholders to promote safe and equal access to the internet and digital devices for girls, among other opportunities for the girl child globally.
“Something must be done if we are to achieve digital transformation for the girl child.
“The first step is to provide access to the internet and digital devices for young girls so that they can be on the same level as their male counterparts.
“The second step is to promote digital literacy among young girls. This is because even if young girls have digital access, without digital literacy they might participate poorly in digital life, lack critical and analytical skills, and even become vulnerable to online harassment.
“The next step is online safety. The Web Foundation reports that 52% of young women globally have experienced some form of digital harm, and 87% of them believe the problem is getting worse.
“According to a report by PLAN International, more than half of girls surveyed, from around the world, have been harassed and abused online, with one in four girls abused online feeling physically unsafe as a result. These statistics show that as much as we call for the digital access and literacy, priority should also be placed on security and safety of the girl child as she uses these digital tools.
“Therefore, the celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child this year is a call to promote safe and equal access to the internet and digital devices for girls, as well as generate increased opportunities for the girl child to access, use, lead, and design technology.
“As we commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child today, we urge stakeholders around the world to take meaningful steps to ensure that the girl child is empowered to partake in the digital transformation of our world,” she stated.
Celebrated on October 11 every year, the International Day of the Girl Child was established by the United Nations General Assembly on 19 December 2011 with the aim of recognising girls’ rights and the unique challenges facing girls around the world.