Nyeneokpon Ekanem – Nigeria
Connecting The Unconnected
As the global community strives towards achieving the Sustainable Developments Goals, Africa must make renewed efforts towards promoting inclusive growth by ensuring that all its human or material resources are gainfully harnessed. Accordingly, women/girls constituting half the continent’s population must be connected to opportunities that will increase their relevance to Africa’s development.
Unfortunately, due to institutional inadequacy and negative cultural practices in most African societies, most of the continent’s women are not well-positioned to contribute to the continent’s advancement. Many African girls and women are denied education and ownership of land, capital etc. They witness untold gender-based discrimination at workplace, with very little participation in the formal sector. They suffer Female Genital Mutilation; domestic violence; restrictive stereotypes; forced under-aged marriage that stifle educational prospects; unpaid labour; child prostitution; sexual harassment etc. which ruin them psychologically, making them feel like second-class citizens.
Indeed, for Africa to become developed and achieve Planet 50:50 by 2030, this situation must change. A strategy that will cause this transformation must not only empower women educationally, but also eliminate the repressive cultural structure that hamper girl-child education women empowerment and concurrently connect women across different African communities together to share ideas/experiences and form common fronts against gender-based discrimination.
First, to get all African girls educated, we must deploy virtual learning technology that will take formal education to their homes. This will not only help leapfrog the prohibitive infrastructural cost associated with the traditional teacher-classroom educational delivery model, but also make education more convenient and accessible even to African girls in remote communities engaged in activities such as farming, trading, household chores etc.
This ICT-enabled learning could also spark girls’ interest in uptake of STEM disciplines, thus closing the gender gap in STEM fields.
Secondly, to build political or social pressure against gender-based discrimination, African leaders must invest in promoting platforms that will enable our girls learn from women in other societies with appreciable gender parity reduction and build feminist networks that advocate women issues, assist victims of abuse and contribute to gender responsive pro-women policy formulation.
Thirdly, to increase women participation in politics and formal economic sectors, African leaders must promote technologies that will enable women to effortlessly mobilize support for their political aspirations; access/utilize business development opportunities and build skills which will enable them land better jobs.
Finally, many ills persist in Africa because of lack of verifiable data to guide interventions. Therefore, our leaders must promote technologies that will enable easy collation of reliable real-time information on anti-women practices that can propel/guide international interventions.
One powerful technology that can enable these is the Social Media. Unfortunately, this is not only inaccessible in many African communities due to low device and broadband penetration, but is yet to be fully adapted to Africa content-wise. Therefore, One Big Idea African leaders should implement to maximally harness women’s potential for Africa’s transformation is development of social media access by extending internet access to remote communities; increasing access to internet-enabled devices through strategic collaboration with device manufacturers and encouraging social entrepreneurs to design more relevant educational content.