Statement by the Director-General, Ms Jan Beagle
As we have continued our efforts towards advancing the rights of women and girls, a recurring and inevitable fact has emerged: in times of crisis gender inequality worsens.
Human rights are under pressure from a combination of overlapping and linked challenges – the lingering Covid pandemic, increasing conflict, and the effects of climate change. And women and girls are disproportionately affected.
UN Women and UN DESA have estimated that it will take another 286 years to close the gender gap in legal protection, and 140 years to achieve women’s equal representation in leadership. As alarming as these figures already are, these timeframes could increase further as the risk of gender equality backsliding intensifies amid ongoing crises.
The LDC5 Conference, which I attended last week in Doha, served as a stark reminder that the effects of these global crises are further compounded in Least Developed Countries, jeopardizing the hard-won gains that they have achieved over the past years. This is even further exacerbated for vulnerable groups, particularly women and girls.
Madam Chair, the need to invest in women is now more urgent than ever.
As the only global intergovernmental organization exclusively devoted to promoting justice as an enabler of peace and sustainable development, IDLO sees the rule of law as a powerful tool to protect women's human rights and dignity.
We work in the most insecure and fragile regions of the world to champion justice for women and girls, through the elimination of discriminatory laws, the creation of survivor-centred responses to gender-based violence, and support for women justice professionals.
IDLO welcomes this year’s CSW priority theme on Innovation, technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality.
We must harness the potential of new technologies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. That is why digital innovation is at the heart of IDLO’s Strategic Plan.
But we must ensure that the digital divide does not become the new face of gender inequality.
As the Secretary-General said, “As technology races ahead, women and girls are being left behind.”
Of the 2.9 billion people who remain unconnected - the majority are women and girls. The digital gender divide is particularly acute in LDCs where only 1 in 5 women have access to the internet. This digital exclusion is even greater in humanitarian settings where the ability to connect is often a tool to survive.
IDLO works top-down with governments and institutions, and bottom-up with civil society, including women’s organizations, to promote new technologies to strengthen judicial systems, empower women justice seekers, support good governance, and transform institutions to make them work for people.
In countries in all regions, IDLO has been supporting the modernization of justice sector operations, through digital innovation, facilitating online legal aid, scaling technology use for public administration, and developing transparent, accountable and user-friendly services.
These efforts contribute to ensuring that safe and relevant digital services can be accessed and used by women and girls.
From our work in some of the most gender unequal contexts in the world, we know that major challenges persist, and we have learned some lessons. Let me share three:
First, It is essential to invest in robust, gender-transformative laws and policies to guide all aspects of innovation and technology;
Second, We need to foster a survivor-centred approach to gender-based violence, including in preventing and combatting technology-facilitated gender-based violence;
Third, We must ensure the participation and leadership of women and girls in all digital spaces, including women in the justice sector.
It is crucial that the rights of women and girls are protected in both online and offline spaces, and that a people-centred and feminist approach informs the development and use of technology.
IDLO agrees with the Executive Director of UN Women that “digital rights are women's rights”.
IDLO stands ready to work with partners to close gender gaps in technology and innovation, and to close the gender justice gap, to empower women and girls everywhere.