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Government makes strides in bridging gender digital divide – Minister

Story by Colette Musanyera

The second republic has made strides in bridging the gender digital divide, with efforts being made to increase women’s participation in digital spaces.

This was revealed at a high-level breakfast meeting to celebrate women’s month, hosted by an international development organisation, HIVOS in Harare this Thursday.

The need to empower women and girls through the provision of meaningful access to the internet and digital technologies was topical at the meeting, which provided a platform for the Second Republic to reflect on initiatives which have seen more women participating in digital spaces.

The Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa said, “I wish to applaud the strides made by the Second Republic in bridging the gender digital divide although more needs to be done. The Chinese say “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step” and as Zimbabwe, I believe we are on the right trajectory, as we head towards achieving the 2030 Agenda and Vision of an Upper Middle-Income Economy by 2030 by leaving no one and no place behind.

“Government through the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ) has through the Universal Service Fund, launched a skills development initiative in 2019 which saw over 11000 citizens in rural areas trained on digital literacy and these included women and girls. I am sure POTRAZ will inform participants of the statistics to date on this initiative. In addition, Government has made efforts in promoting the education of more girls in the Science and Technology fields through scholarships and training programs under the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) programme as part of national initiatives to develop digital skills.”

She said the Government has also enhanced access to digital technology in communities through the establishment of Communication Information Centres in both rural and urban centres.

“This is critical as the success of the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) is dependent on digital technology access and use. With the current Education 5.0 initiative under the Second Republic, it is envisaged that as institutions develop more innovations, Zimbabwe will be able to manufacture its own gadgets which will be affordable to the ordinary Zimbabwean to engage with digital technology. My Ministry has a great interest in digital technology as its mandate is to ensure the accessibility of information by all. Without bridging the digital gender gap, women and girls will be left behind,” she noted.

Minister Mutsvangwa added that various stakeholders should come on board to complement government efforts in bridging the digital gender divide.

“I wish to emphasise that bridging the gender digital divide requires a multi-stakeholder approach to come up with concrete interventions to close the gap. It is time that the private sector, NGOs and CSOs complement Government efforts and work together towards the empowerment of our women especially in rural areas because they suffer the brunt of the gender digital divide.”

She also urged Parliamentarians to perform their oversight function well in bridging the digital gender divide through motions and questions during question time in order to keep the government on its toes in addressing the digital gender gap, adding bridging the digital gender gap is not only right but smart economics that will raise the country’s GDP as women will engage and participate more in the global economy.

Other participants also put forward their submissions.

“Our NDS1 speaks about universal access so we want all women to have digital literacy, including those in the rural areas because we are leaving no one behind. We also have a robust infrastructure rollout programme where we are connecting the underserved and under-connected areas. We also have the Cyber and Data Protection Act which criminalises cyber bullies. According to research women are the main victims of cyberbullying,” noted the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services, Dr Beaula Chirume.

“As Parliament, we have to make sure that we protect women against cyberbullying. We also feel there is a need for the Ministry of ICT to ensure that there are no language barriers when it comes to training on ICT. We have to demystify ICTs, we need to break it down for every woman to be involved in ICT,” the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Youth Caucus, Honourable Tatenda Mavetera said.

HIVOS Southern Africa Regional Director, Ms Nana Zulu highlighted some of the areas which need to be addressed as far as bridging the digital gender gap.

“There is a need to encourage organisations working with women to provide comprehensive social media training. This empowers women to use social media as a tool for development. It’s important that digital dissemination in local languages is encouraged on all social platforms so that no one is left behind. Government should toughen laws on online abusers to ensure the safety and security of women when they participate on digital platforms,” she said.

The event which was meant to celebrate women’s month was held under the theme: ‘Realising gender equality through digital technology.’

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