Today, October 11, is the International Day of the Girl. This year’s theme is Digital Generation. Our generation, focuses not only on internet access but also the ability to do so safely. In this, the second year of a global pandemic, there are notable differences in the ability for girls worldwide to access and use digital platforms for learning, earning and connecting.
According to the UN, the global internet user gender gap is growing, from 11 per cent in 2013 to 17 per cent in 2019, and widest in the world’s least developed countries at 43 per cent. 2.2 billion people below the age of 25 do not have internet access at home, with girls more likely to be cut off. Globally, the percentage of females among Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates is below 15 percent in over two-thirds of countries. Nearly 1 in 4 girls aged 15–19 globally are not in education, employment or training, compared to 1 in 10 boys. In middle and higher-income countries, only 14 per cent of girls who were top performers in science or mathematics expected to work in science and engineering compared to 26 per cent of top-performing boys.
There has also been a global rise in the online harassment of women and girls since the beginning of the pandemic. In the US, two out of every ten young women, aged 18-29, have been sexually harassed online and one in two say they have been sent unwarranted explicit images. Some groups of women, including human rights defenders, women in politics, journalists, bloggers, women belonging to ethnic minorities, indigenous women, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities are particularly targeted by internet-facilitated violence.
Malala Yousafzai rightly noted “We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back” – and that includes the ability to safely access and use the internet.