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Our era of digital generation, let’s protect the Girl Child in the cyberspace

Introduction

International Day of the Girl Child was first achieved by the Beijing Declaration in 1995 at the world conference on women in Beijing. It was the first-ever event to have identified the need for addressing issues faced by adolescent girls around the world. This day focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girl’s face and to promote girl’s empowerment and fulfillment of their human rights. Empowering the girl child and contributing towards their growth is the aim of International Day of the Girl Child. The theme for the 2021 International Day of the Girl Child is “Digital generation. Our generation”.

Digital Generation

There is no doubt that digital generation has several definitions according to the perspective of the scholars involved. As a singular view, a digital generation can be considered as encompassing only people who were born into or raised in the digital era, meaning with wide-spread of access to modern-age technology such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and digital information like the internet. By this, we can say that every person today can be considered part of a digital generation, because – no matter how much we engage with technology – we are living in a digital-first world. Of course, the degree to which each person is comfortable and willing to embrace technology also depends on when they entered the world. One can therefore argue to a greater or lesser extent that technological change affects us all, adults included. Yet the consequences of technology depend crucially on how we use technology, and what we use it for; and these things are subject to a considerable degree of social variation within age groups as well as between them.

Challenges girls and women face with regards to STEM

Globally, the percentage of females among Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates is below 15 per cent in over two-thirds of countries, which is a serious point that needs to be looked into. The theme promotes equal opportunity for girls in accessing technologies (UN data, 2019).

The World Economic Forum In Africa published a 2016 report showing that 30 percent of male students were graduating from STEM programs; however, only 16 percent of female students were graduating. Girls’ performance in STEM subjects are not responsible for this disparity. Instead, factors that may contribute to this gender gap in STEM programs in Africa include women’s self-efficacy, stereotypes and social norms surrounding what fields are considered “masculine” or “feminine.” Furthermore, women in Africa also face barriers outside of academics. For example, pregnancy, nursing, and childcare make earning a STEM education difficult and sometimes unachievable.

Gender and Digitization Agenda in Ghana

African governments have also worked toward closing this gender gap in STEM programs in Africa. During the 2018 Pan African Conference on Education in Nairobi, Kenya, African Ministers of Education adopted the Gender Equality Strategy for CESA 16-25. The CESA 16-25 outlines how African governments can close the gender gap in STEM programs in Africa. Strategies include using education and training to create and develop a mindset of creative confidence in technology for girls and boys. One way to generate confidence in girls is by connecting them with successful mentors in the industry.

One key policy the government of Ghana to increase girls’ access to quality education including STEM is the Free Senior High School policy. As digitization champion, Vice President H.E Alhaji Doctor Mahamudu Bawumia has initiated a lot of digital platforms to reduced time and cost of doing business in Ghana as well as increasing comfort and convenience among the Ghanaian people. The outbreak of COVID19 also gave the ministry of education, Ghana Education Service, and other actors in the education sector to resort to virtual platforms for conducting teaching and learning. Working from home or working remotely also became a common phenomenon within the corporate world.

The Worrying Situation

As the access to digital space in Ghana is increasing, the internet especially has good aspects as well as negative aspects. This digital generation is our generation, but cyberbullying is increasing day in day out and girls suffer this the most.

Majority of cyberbullying victims have been suffering from psychological, physical, sexual, and even academic effects.

The cases of cyberbullying unreported in our Ghanaian society far outweighs those that are reported. This makes perpetrators go unpunished and are highly likely to repeat the act. Some of those who don’t report are not well sensitized on cyberbullying and where or how to report abusers.

Appeal to government, CSOs and Private sector

As a network of more than 1,200 members, the Girls Advocacy Network – Ghana is appealing to government to strengthen laws and policies that protect girls from cyberbullying and enhance the capacities of law enforcers to understand the dynamics of cyberbullying.

We also appeal to civil society organizations to draw programmes and strategies that will enable them work closely with the media to sensitize and provide adequate information about cyberbullying, where and how to report cases.

We also appeal to the private sector to complement government’s efforts by increasing and sustaining their investment into fighting cyberbullying in Ghana. This will help bridge the resource gap government needs to properly combat cyberbullying.

Article written by:

Sualisu Faizatu

(Regional Coordinator, Girls Advocacy Network)

Girls Advocacy Network – Ghana is a membership-based organization led by young women who work towards mobilizing the hearts and minds of relevant stakeholders to create opportunities for girls to reach their potentials. The organization has membership across 6 regions of Ghana with the national advocacy office in Accra.

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