Monday, October 11, was International Day of the Girl Child! This year’s theme recognizes how the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted girls in unequal ways regarding access to digital technologies.
But the digital gender divide is not new. The gender gap for internet use grew globally, from 11% in 2013 to 17% in 2019. In the world’s least developed countries, it hovers around 43%. (Source: UNICEF)
Girls are less connected online, have less access to digital devices, and have less access to tech-related skills and jobs. This was already the case, and COVID only made it much more visible.
How Girls in Our Programs Were Affected
One of our students, Jaeng, expressed how she was personally impacted:
It is also harder to study online because we can’t ask questions in person or at the moment. So I have to do a lot more investigating on my own. Our schedule has also changed, and some of my professors are asking us to study at times that are different from usual, and at those times I’m not free. Sometimes when we ask questions or comment they don’t see our comments. Sometimes if we aren’t available when they do a Zoom or Facebook Live for class, that means I miss out on points for my grades. I have to ask my professors to change the time for class, and if they can’t, then I have to go back to work and ask for different hours, and my work has already decreased a lot, so sometimes they can’t change it, and then I have to find someone to replace me at work and I already am missing out on so much money.
While another student, Cat, had an easier time, she could also see the impact on her friends:
I also had some classes online, where my professor took the video and would put it into Google classroom. It is hard for students who don’t have internet, because you have to have internet. Because you are not in the class, when you have questions, you have to wait for the professor to respond. In the classroom you get an immediate response. I am lucky to have internet and my teachers’ Facebook so I can talk to them. For some of my friends, they live in the villages in the mountains, so when they have to study they have to go to the school nearby their house, and they have to stay there all day to wait for the answer to their questions.
There is a call for a digital revolution to enhance the freedom and wellbeing of girls by erasing the digital gender divide.
Our Response So Far
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been reaching out to vulnerable students. Here are some of the ways we’ve helped:
- Our staff called families to make sure they had access to childcare–a duty that falls disproportionately on women, taking a toll on their ability to work. We helped to ensure there was someone at home to keep children safe.
- Video calls to check in with how people were coping
- We’ve supplied many of the girls and young women in our program with internet access
- We provided access to digital devices
- With the support of OOCA, we were able to provide access to free online counseling services
- Information disseminated in multiple languages to keep people connected and informed
- Training on online safety
- And other resources to ensure they continue their education, even online!
This support was made possible by our community of generous donors. We’re so thankful for all you do!