This year’s International Women’s Day-themed #EmbraceEquity highlighted the potential of digital technologies while calling for the inclusion of women in accessing technology. Empowered and healthy girls and women are the cornerstone of healthy societies. Provide girls and women access to health throughout their lives, and they will deliver a healthier and wealthier world. However, much more must be done to make ‘Leaving no one behind a reality.’
In the past, gender equality discussions envisioned realising girls’ and women’s empowerment through increased access to education and other services. Notably, this requires new solutions and hybrid approaches to achieve this. Evidently, the UNESCO Education for All 2014 Report highlighted that it would be 95 years before there’s parity in girls’ lower secondary education for the existing 20% of the poorest globally.
Notably, the integration of innovation, technology and broader participation in education by non -conventional players can contribute to catalysing the transformation and empowerment of girls, women and the socially marginalised.
Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic amplified the use of technology for learning, training and connecting. While the digital technology divide is distinguished by access to computers, tablets or mobile phones and the internet, a hybrid of analogue and digital technology can diminish the gap in access to information and education for the most marginalised.
Amref works with communities to help girls survive early childhood through adolescence by reducing inequalities, including female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage, and increasing access to good sanitation, menstrual hygiene and comprehensive sexuality education. Innovation and technology provide unprecedented opportunities to break trends, reach those most likely to be left, and meet the needs of women and girls.
Amref has partnered with various stakeholders to deliver primary and lifesaving education to communities to achieve this. This includes increasing access to comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents and youth through a WhatsApp chatbot; establishing an African-themed online platform that serves as a vehicle for social movement empowering young people to be healthy and active; implementing family planning, reproductive, maternal, child and adolescent health education programmes through local radio; use of digital devices that utilise audio instruction and blended learning to strengthen access to health literacy and soft skills. Radio remains an accessible and low–cost analogue messaging for achieving learning and health messaging at scale.
Empowered community health workers have proven to be a critical link in addressing the unmet needs for sexual and reproductive health and maternal and newborn health in the larger community. They disseminate information through home-based learning, reinforced by interactive audio instructions and home visits by peer educators and mentors.
Achieving this also calls for innovative solutions for disseminating data and improving community data collection, analysis and dissemination. These are the nexus between governments and communities providing timely, accurate, complete data. This information is critical to governments for effective and efficient allocations of health interventions and resources.
This is why we believe equitable access to critical health information and education is possible through integrating technology and innovative solutions. This will enhance opportunities to empower girls and women, including those in underserved communities.
To this end, Amref calls for the following:
- Leveraging data to improve market research, project planning, design, monitoring and evaluation of innovative solutions and technology.
- Targeted investments in technology-driven innovative solutions that meet the needs of girls and women.
- Integrating gender issues within innovation and technology
- Officially recognise learning outside schools and invest in pathways that promote blended learning approaches
- Development partners to invest together wisely in innovation and technology.