UNDP Assistant Resident Representative - Governanace and Gender - Gregory Saili

 

Honourable Minister of Transport and Communications, Dr Brian Mushimba

Honourable Minister of Gender, Ms Elizabeth Phiri

Director General, Zambia Information and Communications Technologies (ZICTA), Mr Patrick Mutimushi

Invited Dignitaries

Ladies and Gentlemen

(I bring your greetings from Mr. Israel Dessalegne, UNDP Zambia’s Resident Representative ad interim who recently arrived in the country and is currently going through the diplomatic protocols – Its an honor to deliver this speech on his behalf).

It is with great pleasure that I join you today at the Girls in ICT Indaba, which is a global innovation of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) being implemented at local levels. I am pleased to see that Zambia, like the rest of the world, has embraced the initiative but has gone further to optimizing this conference as an opportunity to show-case youthful innovations and educate young women on how they can become part of the trending information society.

 

I would like to therefore thank the Minister of Transport and Communications, Honourable Brian Mushimba, for making time today to witness the many innovations that young Zambian women are involved in and also for being part of this indaba that intends to inspire the many young women those present and in other parts of Zambia.

I would like to also thank the Minister of Gender, Honourable Elizabeth Phiri for embracing new information and communication technologies as vehicles for empowering young women, who are indeed the future. The Ministry’s commitment is evidenced by bringing together over 200 young women from various schools across the country. To the co-conveners and partners, thank you for your strong commitment to technological innovations, gender equality and sustainable development, which I believe will be addressed in this meeting through the various speakers.

 

Honourable Minister, this conference is an important opportunity that show-cases the relevance of using technology for the social and economic empowerment of women and girls. As the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), we are always keen on partnerships that embrace sustainable development and, in this case, partnerships that foster women’s well-being and importantly bridge the digital divide between men and women. We believe that this conference and the follow-up actions are important steps to introducing young women to the world of ICTs and a means of attaining our gender strategic goals of empowering women and ensuring gender equality.

This event is part of a global movement to inspire girls and young women to learn more about the amazing opportunities and careers offered by the ICT sector. Technology developments are creating new opportunities, and most of our girls present today will be in jobs in the future which do not even exist today. It is for this reason that UNDP believes that digital skills will be an essential requirement regardless of the profession or career one takes.

An important element of the conference is to highlight how successful women can be, and have been, in the ICT sector. Through this conference we look forward with excitement the privilege of witnessing and hear from inspiring women who, in male-dominated careers, have excelled in the ICTs sphere; women who are successfully using ICTs to empower themselves out of poverty. Our hope is that this gathering serves as a platform for encouraging young women take up careers in the width of ICTs  - from programming to coding, cyber-security to computer networking and a whole range of ICT functionalities. The role models who are here today are important too. From their testimonies of challenges and opportunities they have encountered, we hope that we will see young female ICT champions emerge from this conference to spearhead campaigns on the inclusion of more women in the ICT industry. This I believe will contribute to improving gender balance in the ICT sector and more broadly in society.

I believe that opportunities such as this exciting conference today will stimulate many more girls to become critical thinkers and creators of the technologies which are important to address the most pressing issues we face today as a country – from poverty to health, we will be able to resolve some of our challenges through the lens of ICTs.

The rallying cry for us in the United Nations System is to leave no one behind.  As UNDP and in collaboration with our partners, we are determined to ensure that actions from this conference reach further to rural communities in Chief Chamuka, Chief Muwezya and Chief Nkomeshya. Proudly some of our vibrant participants today, the young women, are in this conference.  In these targeted locations, we want to establish ICT hubs that these girls will use as information centres and therefore be able to access training and mentoring. The chiefdoms are female-led whilst Chief Chamuka is a renowned HeforShe Champion.

 

As UNDP Zambia, we applaud Government’s commitment in the area of ICTs. We know that the policy framework on ICTs of 2007 inspired the enactment of a law on ICTs in Zambia, which places a thrust on gender and ICTs. Through this, we have seen how the Ministry of Education has embraced ICTs by introducing it in all schools as a compulsory subject of study. It is a highly commendable approach to empowering young people with latest means of communication and ensuring that as the country pushes ahead to attain national development, we leave no-one behind. However, there is so much more that can be done to ensure that girls, specifically, are not left behind.

 

Honourable Minister, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets out an ambitious vision for people, planet and prosperity. The agenda aims to address the key development challenges of our time, from poverty and inequalities to hunger and disease to violence and conflict to climate change and disaster risks. It also aims to leave no one behind so that we can build sustainable, inclusive, and peaceful societies. For UNDP, supporting innovation is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The agenda specifically recognizes the youth as “critical agents of change”.  To ensure the success of the 2030 Agenda, we need all young people on board - all of you, young activists, innovators, disruptors and trailblazers. Your generation is also far better connected than previous ones. Our vision is therefore to see that girls like women are part of this inclusive, trailblazing and innovative society. Whilst the gender digital gap is one that presents us with a challenge of how to leave no-one behind, we are hopeful that ICTs may be the answer to resolving this. These challenges are important to all of us, but especially to the young people who make up more than half of the world’s population today. The young women that I see here today are part of this important age group!

 

If gender inequality at all levels is to be attained, there is need for greater response by all actors. Despite adequate policies and laws existing in the country to reduce the gender gaps in development spheres, women and girls continue to lag behind in the area of ICTs. UNDP remains open to building strategic partnerships with local communities, traditional leaders, private sector, civil society and of course government institutions. This conference is a step in the right direction as it provides opportunities to network and identify opportunities for strategic synergies and partnerships with potential to addressing gender inequality. It is for this reason that your every contribution today through the conference proceedings, views and factual insights, should ultimately be critical inputs into the Gender and ICT Strategy, which is being developed by various partners.

 

Innovative initiatives, such as this conference and indeed the ICT Hubs are all means of ending discrimination and marginalization, discouraging barriers in accessing human rights, ending high levels of poverty, and limited access to health and education services.  As a leader in supporting youth and innovation, particularly in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, UNDP has supported various such initiatives globally. We believe in the enormous contributions that young people can make to development progress around the world.

To the girls, I wish you every success with your careers and I hope that today will inspire you to contribute to the success of our digital future because with digital skills, the future is yours to create.

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