Remarks from Resident Coordinator Vincent Sweeney on International Women's Day 2023
I bring you greetings on behalf of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and the United Nations Country Team in Jamaica.
Good Morning/ Protocol
Today, on this International Women’s Day, we celebrate women's social, economic, cultural and political achievements and reiterate the calls for gender equality and women's rights.
This year, as you have heard it said, the theme for International Women's Day is Digit-ALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality. The coined phrase, ‘Digit-ALL’ is in itself a call to global action to close the gender gaps in technology and innovation. As technology races ahead, women and girls cannot and should not be left behind.
Minister, we are pleased that Jamaica has embraced the global theme and is recognizing women who have positively cracked the code to the digital and tech industry.
Theme and Contextual Value
Technology is advancing by the second. Still, Three billion people are still unconnected to the internet, the majority of them women and girls in developing countries like ours.
The Secretary-General said it best this week, when he said, “The math is simple: without the insights and creativity of half the world, science and technology will fulfil just half their potential.”
Technology transforms lives, allowing the under-served to gain greater access to information and opportunities for growth. According to the United Nations (in 2018), over 90% of jobs worldwide have a digital component, which reiterates the importance of women's access to digital tools and resources.
In this regard, we also recognize the efforts of the Government of Jamaica - from its focus in schools and universities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM), to the emphasis on universal access to the internet in rural towns and squares. There is more to be done, but the work has begun.
At last year’s Commonwealth Business Forum, Prime Minister Andrew Holness emphasised "We must push for STEM programmes in our schools that provide the necessary support for the next generation of designers, coders, and software developers."
This push, to make Jamaica the tech hub of the region, will require strategic and targeted investments that leave no one behind - especially women and girls, who are often pushed to the back of STEM because of outdated gender norms.
Tribute to Jamaica Women
A number of Jamaican women have made their own seats at the technological motherboard while also creating space for other women to do the same.
We laud and celebrate the contribution of these women in science and technological innovation who continue to do the groundwork in demystifying the gender-bias narrative surrounding STEM. Women championing STEM also serve as an impetus for other women and girls interested in these sectors to pursue it passionately and further close the gender gap surrounding digital inclusion.
- Women such as Monique Powell, the founder and CEO of Quick Plate, an e-commerce and logistics provider heavily focused on food delivery.
- And Dr Stacey-Ann Wilson, political scientist, tech enthusiast, and social entrepreneur focusing on issues relating to political economy, identity and culture, community development, and technology and development; Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus; co-founder of Junksion X Labs (Jamaica) and XLabs North (Canada); strategist for Toronto-based invention startup, Cam-Raw Inc; and technology and business development advisor to Canadian Cannabis startup, Dymes.
- Then there is Marguerite Orane, who is dedicated to changing how people live and work using Digital Media and is the first Caribbean blogger to turn a blog into a best-selling book.
- In addition, Lorna Green, Chairman of premier animation firm Reel Rock GSW and a Caribbean tech industry pioneer, founded Digital Transect, a 26-year-old software firm whose core market is the civil aviation sector and the largest software company in the Caribbean headed by women.
- And Lianne McNaughton, the only Certified Gallup Strengths Coach and IC Agile Member Organization in Jamaica; she is COO of One-on-One Education Services Limited, an EdTech Company, and founder and executive director of Youth Can Do It (YCDI), a youth empowerment organisation.
These women, and others, remain at the frontline of women's inclusion in digital sectors, bridging gaps and breaking negative gender stereotypes.
The MSDCF and Leave No One Behind
As the world becomes more digital, all stakeholders and sectors must come together to ensure that the critical principle of Leaving No One Behind becomes a reality - especially within this technological era.
The United Nations Multicountry Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework - the UN roadmap for regional and national development partnerships - recognizes technology as a driver for sustainable economic development. The UN in Jamaica will therefore continue to be an advocate for digital justice and equality.
When we exclude women and girls due to gender stereotypes – it further perpetuates the notion that women should not be involved in particular jobs and industries considered male-centric, and limits their ability to add value and participate in nation-building. What this does is slow our socio-economic growth progress. Jamaica’s economic potential requires and demands all hands on deck.
Through robust policymaking and inclusion, women should have a voice in the conversation towards sustainable development. Additionally, while building on the framework of making digital access inclusive, irrespective of gender, we must safeguard these spaces to eliminate online and ICT-facilitated gender-based violence. This can be achieved through expanded education around cyber legislation and online etiquette and providing strict penalties when persons abuse the digital space, thereby reducing barriers to women’s inclusion.
Today calls us to push the clock forward for every woman and girl in advancing gender equality. We must eliminate the digital gender divide to facilitate our achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Jamaica Vision 2030.
Let's take bold and decisive actions to include and protect women's voices in technological spaces, for a more inclusive digital Jamaica and digital world.
We can take these steps, knowing that the benefits are a more wholesome Jamaica for all Jamaicans.
Happy Women's Day – Let's get 'DigitALL!'