International Day of the Girl Child 2020: Access to Technology
The world today is witnessing a recent clamour for the empowerment of girls and women in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, popularly referred to as STEM. This is because of the direction which development is taking globally considering new breakthroughs in the use of science and technology. In the past, women were completely excluded from this form of knowledge because society has historically confined the female gender to the role of a domestic labourer. However, with the push for gender equality and the human right to education regardless of gender, young girls and women in many parts of the world are slowly being empowered and provided with access to technology and education/training in this field. Young girls across the globe still have less access to education, technology, and resources like the internet, than boys. Thus, they are falling behind in gaining employable skills, especially in STEM1, and so there is still much work to be done.
Access to Technology Statistics in Nigeria: Girls and Women
Across the developing world, nearly 25% fewer women than men have access to the Internet, and the gender gap soars to nearly 45% in regions like sub- Saharan Africa.2
In Nigeria, female enrolment in the STEM subjects peaks at an average of 20% according to data from the National University Commission.3
Factors Affecting Access to Technology for Girls and Women in Nigeria
Nigeria remains far behind in promoting the improvement of access to technology for girls and women and the reasons for this are numerous but can be summarised in the deeply entrenched social, gender and cultural norms that place this obstacle against them. The effect of this is a devasting gender gap which further reinforces gender discrimination against girls and women and perpetuates their oppression.
Lack of Financial Independence and Agency: Barriers such as poverty, illiteracy, and discrimination leave girls and women financially incapable of taking part of the rapid growth in internet access in Africa. Thus, girls and women are widely underrepresented in technology and we are witnessing the rise of a second digital divide.4 For example, the rise of cyber cafes has benefited men more than women because boys and men have more freedom of movement to get to the cafes and have more access to make and spend money at them.5
Education: Due to archaic norms prevalent in society, the girl child is commonly excluded from education in general as her importance is tied to her domestic abilities and wifely and motherly duties. Educating the girl child is not a priority for a lot of families and therefore, her access to technology is vastly restricted. With recent developments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of technology in education is more relevant than ever. Educational institutions are now being even more pressured to rely on digitization to teach students remotely to maintain social distancing. Therefore, lack of access to technology for girls also negatively affects their education.
Gender Stereotypes: Career paths in technology are still dominated by men because women were regarded as incapable of performing well in this field. In schools and in society, girls are not commonly encouraged to pursue career paths in technology, and this is conditioned through the current state of the society which reflects an extremely low percentage of women in STEM. However, it has been well documented that women’s natural inclination and affinity for critical thinking and problem solving make them valuable contributors to technological innovations and developments. Thus, it is important for girls to be engaged in technical subjects at an early age while in primary school level because that is when their interests and dispositions to methods of learning are formed.
Improving Access to Technology for Girls and Women in Nigeria
Technology significantly advances the social, environmental, and economic development of a country, so it is pertinent that the direction taken towards Nigeria’s development is in response to this fact. Seeing as women and girls make up about 50% of the nation’s population, it is necessary that the girl child is included in this wave of society.
Gender Mainstreaming Activities: Efforts that encourage the growth of networks and mentoring in technology must be encouraged through the establishment of committees for women in STEM to oversee the promotion of female participation.6
Mobilization of Resources: Encouraging more girls to take up interests in technology by empowering them with resources and funds that grant them access to it at all levels must be made a priority in order to tackle the existing gender stereotypes and cultural biases in the STEM fields.
Encouraging Free and Compulsory Education: One of the major factors impeding girls’ access to technology in Nigeria is poor education. The government must take serious steps in policies and implementation to ensure that girls gain technical knowledge and understanding through education.
The use and development of technology in the present day has fundamentally impacted every field of work as well as the cultural direction of society, thus necessitating the access to resources such as the internet and education in the field of technology for all. Therefore, the inadequate access to technology that girls in Nigeria face greatly mars their ability for survival and self-development.