Tanzania: UN Women Advocates for Women-Led Tech and Innovation for Gender Equality

A UN Women partnership with the African Women Leaders’ Network (AWLN), Bright Jamii Initiative, and the Civil Society Advisory Group for UN Women (CSAG), recently organised a virtual Roundtable Dialogue titled: “Keeping the Momentum of the Generation Equality Campaign” with the Theme: Promoting Intergenerational Partnerships in Women-Led Technology and Innovation For a Gender-Equal Future.

The virtual roundtable brought together over 70 participants from women and adolescent girls’ innovators, actors in science and technology from government, civil society, and the private sector, women’s rights and Youth-led organisations, development partners and donors for gender equality, and male champions.

The main objective of the dialogue was to discuss the strengthening of intergenerational partnerships to create new opportunities for women and girls and to inspire them to become lead innovators and designers of new technology in Tanzania.

Key speakers included Dr Jim Yonazi, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology; the French Ambassador, His Excellency Frederic Clavier; the Finnish Ambassador, Her Excellency Riitta Swan; the UN Women Representative, Ms Hodan Addou; the UNICEF Representative, Ms Shalini Bahuguna; and Ms Diana Ninsiima who is a member of the Civil Society Advisory Group for UN Women.

The Platform also promoted the visibility of young women and girls; and male champions who are using science and tech-enabled innovation to accelerate gender equality in the country.

Six panelists shared their experiences on how they are providing solutions to address some gender concerns, as well as creating opportunities for employment and business for women and out-of-school adolescent girls.

During the discussion, there were strong indications of a strong appetite to see the Tech and Innovation sectors developing further in a way that can multiply opportunities for women and girls to champion the designing of new technology, and to transform ideas into tangible products and services.

In his remarks, Dr Jim Yonazi said the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology’s development trajectory was focusing on creating an enabling environment for women and girls to equally take on different roles in Tech and Innovation.

“This is a critical strategy we are using to drive gender equality and women’s empowerment. Some of our programmes, are providing Information and Communications Technology (ICT) trainings, equipment, and hosting ICT contests to identify and develop talent and skills for girls,” Dr Yonazi said.

These initiatives, he explained, have set a computing environment seeking to motivate and help women and girls to have more access to the ICT world and provide learning and business opportunities.

“In addition, plans are at an advanced stage to develop a new platform that will further strengthen knowledge transfer and promote expanded innovation initiatives to support incubation of ideas, development of products and services, and enable access to new opportunities and markets for women entrepreneurs,” he said.

The Roundtable Dialogue came at a time when the global community is gearing up for the Generation Equality Forum to be held both physically and virtually in Mexico City on 29 – 31 March. This will culminate in France from June 30 – 2 July this year.

The Forum is a global meeting convened by UN Women and co-chaired jointly by the Governments of France and Mexico, with the leadership and participation of the civil society. The French Ambassador, His Excellency, Frédéric Clavier told participants that partnership with UN Women demonstrates France’s commitment to gender equality.

“The Forum underscores the importance of multilateralism, with a call for urgent action and accountability on gender equality. If we don’t act now to address gender inequality, more women and girls will be left behind, particularly as the world becomes more digitised.”

According to some studies, Ambassador Clavier said, failure to address gender inequality may see an estimated 150 million more girls married in childhood and 27 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation by 2030. On her part, the UN Women Representative, Ms Hodan Addou emphasized shifting from business as usual to Tech and Innovation to ensure immediate and irreversible progress towards gender equality in the country.

She said the UN Women’s Innovation Facility is exploring and piloting new solutions that can respond to challenges faced by women and girls in the digital space. The initiatives cover Information and Technology Projects; Innovative Partnerships; Big Data; Behavioral Insights; and new ways of delivering services for women and girls.

“In Tanzania, some of our innovation interventions are focusing on supporting businesses led by out-of-school adolescent girls, for them to adapt to digital financial and marketing platforms; while through the Girls Can Code Initiative we aim to bridge the technological divide by increasing women and girls’ access to modern technology, and support their empowerment through education and employment,” Ms Addou said.