Using the new information technologies for enhancing women’s employability

The NGO experience, Jivka Marinova
Thursday 30 December 2004
article translations български, français

I come from Bulgaria and I represent a small NGO – Gender Education, Research and Technologies, but at this forum I am proud to identify myself with Eastern Europe. Women in my country and in my region used to have a high level of education and long lasting traditions of participation in the labor market.

But things have been changing and the reports of the WB show that this is the only region where the activity rate of women decreased in the last decade. The potential of the highly educated women and their skills remain unused and instead of contributing to the economic growth of the county women are joining the group of discouraged workers.

The issue of technological empowerment of women has been qualified as an emerging issue. I think that this is an issue that rather has been recognized only recently.

New technologies and especially ICTs offer immense possibilities for achieving women`s rights, eliminating poverty, overcoming women`s isolation, giving women a voice, improving governance and advancing gender equality. This potential will only be realized if all factors, which contribute to the current gender digital divide are recognized and addressed.

We are living in an information society, where all women and men should have the right to access and effectively use the information and knowledge they need to address their development concerns. But the rights and their fulfillment are two different things.

The skills to use information and communication technologies are becoming a necessity for survival. And women need critically to get more access and opportunities to use them and take advantage of them and integrate themselves to the knowledge economy. The facts show that:

  • Girls are a small percentage of the kids using the Internet;
  • Many young women are not interested in technical studies -less than 20% are enrolling in engineering faculties. This is not a natural choice but a stereotype, that persists and deprives women from the opportunities that look so natural for men;
  • State run programs for qualification and reintegration to the labor market targeting women rarely involve appropriation of skills connected to the new and high technologies. Actually there is only one in my country.
  • Community communication centers do not exist and electronic commerce still sounds strange to women.

That is why NGO initiatives for encouraging women to use ICTs and to appropriate them for giving more visibility to their economic initiatives are so important. That is where we put all our forces and our hearts.

GERT foundation is trying to raise the interest and the awareness of girls and women on the benefit of using the new information and communication technologies, to open the world for women to exchange their experience, their products and their aspirations and to make them independent of trade agreements and transnational corporations that kill the small initiatives.

We are participating in an international initiative, started by the feminist network “Les Penelopes”, which gives economic alternatives to women. It consists of training women who carry out economic initiatives, how to use a new free software in order to create their own websites and give them more visibility outside their own communities; to go beyond the obstacles, to increase the innovative effects by breaking with the paralyzing isolation and to exchange experiences and knowledge with other practitioners, in other countries, overcoming the digital divide.

Becoming familiar and easy going with new technologies will undoubtedly increase women’s employability, flexibility and will decrease their vulnerability to all kinds of abuse and give them self confidence.

Therefore we advocate for more lifelong education opportunities for women on how to effectively and safely use and shape ICTs.

We insist on the importance that every woman and girl has the right to communicate freely in safe and secure online spaces;

We stress on the necessity to ensure that all ICT initiatives, policies and programs incorporate a gender perspective and indicators for gender equality;

We underline the need of empowering women of all ages, not only young girls, to generate, to own, to develop, to use and to adapt ICTs;

In the same time we are fully aware of the negative sides and threats, associated with the global network: the fact that it could spread exploitative and stereotypical images that only harm women, but this should not be used to enforce censorship and surveillance and limit the access to information. On the contrary – knowledge and skills in the field of ICTs will enhance their strength and opportunities.

This is the future and we cannot allow ourselves to stay and to live in the past.