VSO at the Commission on the Status of Women: Part two

Helen Asfaw, project coordinator at the Federal Civil Service Agency
Polly Kirby
By Polly Kirby: March 3rd, 2011

Gender-based violence, and the powerful role that technology can play in education and empowering girls and women were two strong themes that emerged in the 55th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

I attended a participatory forum where young people were exploring issues of domestic violence and gang violence. We discussed how the media and popular culture can reinforce negative images, and the critical role that education can play in challenging these images and stereotypes through reforming curriculum and empowering teacher training. Unfortunately in many countries schools are places of oppression and fear. Parents are reluctant to send their daughters to school, fearing for their safety and the threat of sexual harassment and rape.

I attended an interesting session on empowering women and girls through science. We heard examples of how it’s critical for girls to embrace science and technology, and move beyond the stereotypes of girls not being scientifically competent. Many forms of technology can be used to initiate dialogue around issues that affect girls; for example, girls making their own mini-documentaries/radio broadcasts within their communities on issues such as early marriage, sexual violence in schools and so on.

While a massive rural/urban divide still exists in terms of access to technology, in many cases community radio and mobile phones are the most useful technologies to tap into as many people even in the most remote rural areas now have access to one or both of these.

In the end, we highlighted that teachers are critical to bringing technology more to the fore within education. Teachers need to be trained and empowered to use these tools,  share knowledge for their own professional development and challenge perceptions of girls’ capabilities relating to science and technology.

Linda Raftree from Plan pointed out that in the classroom: ‘a good quality teacher is still more important than a computer’! VSO has many good examples of where we’re supporting ICT programmes particularly within teacher training, for example in Tanzania. But this is an area that we need to be engaging in more strategically as it is a rapidly changing area globally; I hope to meet with Plan to look at possible areas of collaboration.

Polly Kirby, Education Programme Development Adviser


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