As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark 2021 International Day of the Girl Child, Mercy Corps Nigeria has stressed the need to empower and equip girls to leverage powerful technology tools to counter negative campaigns and accelerate the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5) for gender equality.
Mercy Corps Nigeria, through the USAID funded Community Initiatives to Promote Peace (CIPP) program, marked this year’s International Day of the Girl Child in collaboration with WeGirls Development Foundation.
The organisation provided a unique platform for adolescent girls to join their peers around the world to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child, with the global theme, “Digital generation. Our generation” at Katsina Tourist lodge conference hall, Katsina state.
It stated that the initiative was designed to facilitate actions towards advancing gender equality and addressing barriers that girls face; the inclusion of girls in digital transformation; and catching them young for early warning and early response as well as to strengthen their engagement in addressing hate and false speeches, promote peace through campaigns and outreaches on digital platforms to sustain peace.
In Nigeria, females make up 49.2 per cent of the entire population and the country has one of the youngest populations in the world. Thus, without providing enabling environment for females who are half of the population to exercise their fundamental rights, inclusive peace and sustainable development cannot be achieved.
“Although, the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated digital platforms for learning, connecting and interacting, some 2.2 billion people below the age of 25 still do not have internet access at home. More worrisome, is the fact that girls are less likely than boys to gain access to or use digital technologies.
Research shows that the gender gap for internet users in least developed countries grew to 43 per cent in 2019 and “The weaponisation of social media is shifting peace and conflicts in the world’s fragile states’, the organisation notes.
Speaking on the importance of girls education, the country director, Mercy Corps Nigeria, Ndubisi Anyanwu,
said, “As an organisation, Mercy Corps strive to address and mitigate gender dynamics that perpetuate and exacerbate conflict by engaging with men, women, boys and girls in all aspects of our work to alleviate poverty, suffering and address root causes of violent conflicts.
“It is critical to empower and equip girls to leverage powerful technology tools to counter negative campaigns including hate speech and misinformation that can potentially fuel violent conflict and accelerate the achievement of SDG 5 for Gender Equality.”
Adding to digital innovations implemented by the organsation, the deputy chief of party, Sani Suleiman noted, “There is a recognition of the significance of the use of digital technology as a tool for peacebuilding and amplifying voices that challenge harmful practices such as gender-based violence and discrimination.
“Therefore, the digital gender divide in poor and rural communities is a threat to the advancement of gender equality and girls’ meaningful participation in decisions that affect their lives,” he said.
“More than ever, there is a need to promote digital inclusion and literacy by working together with diverse stakeholders and mobilising resources to support girls to stay connected and empowered in the growing digitalised world,” Ndubisi added.