Mrs Cecelia Abena Dapaah, Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources

Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources Cecelia Abena Dapaah has appealed to gender advocates to be conscious of the special needs of the girl-child in the growing digital world.

Equal opportunities for girls, she said, need to be created for the educational advancement in the sciences, information technology, engineering and mathematical fields to ensure as citizens they also benefit fully from the digital revolution.

According to her, promoting citizenship in the digital world requires girls to be taught to use technology in a safe and appropriate way.

Delivering the keynote address on Monday during the celebration of this year’s International Day of the Girl Child in Accra, Mrs Dapaah, who is now the caretaker Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, averred that it is the responsibility of teachers, parents, community leaders and all other stakeholders to ensure the safe use of technology and bridge the gap between boys and girls.

“The world seems to be moving progressively in the digital space but we have noticed girls are lagging behind. Data show that the majority of women and girls are stuck in the past and closed off to life-changing opportunities around them.”

“For example, the global internet use shows that gender gap has grown from 11% from 2013 to 17% in 2019 and has widened in the world’s list-developed countries at 43%; and also 2.2 billion people below the age of 25 do not have internet access at home with more girls likely to be captured,” she stated.

According to her, more parents also find it easier to send sons to holiday computer classes or buy them laptops and smartphones than doing the same for daughters.

“Even though we claim to be in the digital age, these actions have ensured large sections of the population made up of mostly girls have not had their world changed by these advancements,” she added.

She called for the celebration to draw the attention of parents to the need to show gender equality in the opportunities provided for their children in technology, especially the girls in the STEM field.

She appealed to stakeholders to also use the celebration to call for increased investment in closing the gender digital divide, access to devices, connectivity, skills and safe use of the internet and paying particular attention to girls.

The world, she said, is full of opportunities and urged girls to explore these opportunities and appealed for the removal of all barriers facing girls’ access to the digital space.

Chief Director of the Gender Ministry, Dr. Afisah Zakaria, in the welcome address, observed that barriers preventing girls from entering the technological field are many, some of which start from childhood.

Girls, she said, mostly lack access to digital skills and tools compared to their male counterparts in many parts of the world with Ghana included and stressed COVID-19 has further widened the gender gap in all sectors but especially the digital space.

She cautioned, however, that Ghana as a country needs to be concerned about the alarming rate of sexual and gender-based violence including teenage pregnancies and online-related abuses and harassment.

According to her, online abuses and harassment of girls is fast becoming a major crisis with the limited online safety measures and appealed to partners and stakeholders to advocate for increased investment towards closing the gender gap of the digital divide by improving access to devices, connectivity, skills and safety for girls.

The Mamfe Methodist Girls High School robotics team that recently won the 2020 World Robotic Competition in the United States was the highlight of the programme.

The team demonstrated some of its inventions that include a smart rubbish bin that automatically opens up for trash to be dropped in.