Sister, Can You Spare $100 Million for Women and Girls?February 10, 2011
The Washington Post estimates that Arianna Huffington’s “rough cut” of the new AOL and Huffington Post merger is worth $100 million. What do you do with that kind of money? I don’t begrudge anyone capitalizing on her or his business savvy and harnessing technology in new and important ways.(OK, maybe I do, just a little.)But it does make me think about the inequities faced by women and girls around the world and how technology has created incredible opportunities to enhance women’s lives globally—if somebody or some government (read: me, you, theirs, and ours) would just pay for it.
The 2010 report Bridging the Gender Divide: How Technology Can Advance Women Economically, published by the International Center for Research on Women, clearly articulates the many ways women’s lives could be enhanced through technology. Women in developing countries lag behind men in so many uses of technology — from cellphones to computers. On the most basic level, considering that rural women and girls spend between one and six hours per day collecting firewood or fetching water, they are “deprived of the basic benefits of technology such as efficient household energy for cooking, heating, and lighting,” according to the report. Just think how much easier lives could be made with access to efficient fuel, cookstoves, and clean water — not to mention receiving critical health information via cellphone.
In a few weeks, the United Nations will convene the 55th Commission on the Status of Women(CSW) in New York from February 22 to March 4. It’s an opportunity “to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards, and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.” U.N. member states present the efforts, policies, and progress made in their countries to address gender inequity. It’s a bit like giving countries credit for policies that they should be adopting anyway to support women’s human rights and gender equality.
This year’s primary theme, quite appropriately, is “access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science, and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.”AAUW will participate in many CSW events at the United Nations and at parallel events (more than 20 per day) held nearby by nongovernmental organizations from around the world at the simultaneous NGO Committee on the Status of Women. We will host a workshop on gender equity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and present on several other panels relating to the theme.
The creation of U.N. Women last year will hopefully provide a strong global voice for women and girls and address the many challenges the United Nations faces in its efforts to promote gender equality, especially funding. We need a dynamic and strong champion for women and girls that provides us all with a powerful voice at the global, regional, and local levels.
And we sure could use some of that $100 million.