Message for International Women’s Day 2019 by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Happy International Women’s Day!
At a time when innovation is changing the way people live in every part of the world, we have to make sure it is used positively impact the lives of women and girls. That means making sure that they are not only consumers of innovation, but they take their place as innovators.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change,” puts innovation at the centre of efforts to reflect the needs and viewpoints of women and girls and to resolve barriers to public services and opportunities. For example, we have seen how mobile money technology can deliver social benefits to vulnerable households, and how smart inventions like a drone designed by a 15-year-old Nigerian Eno Ekanem can ensure life-saving medication reaches patients in rural areas.
Women’s fresh, relevant thinking also brings transformative change to major physical infrastructure. Varanisese Maisamoa, President of the Rakiraki Market Vendors Association in Fiji, provided the key insights that led to the modernization and rebuilding of the market after the Tropical Cyclone Winston. Her contributions to the designs helped to address the varied needs of women who are the primary users of the market. We are also using technology to share important stories like this through innovative voice-enabled technologies like Alexa.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has the greatest potential to impact people in the most isolated areas because of far-reaching ubiquity of mobile phones. 80 percent of women in the world now own mobile phones – an increase of 250 million since 2014. Even though the digital gender gap still exists, this represents an opportunity to serve women even better.
Women and marginalized groups need to have an opportunity to create and provide feedback on what is created by others. In any of these scenarios, innovation and technology with a gender perspective is crucial.
Women and girls must have opportunities to help shape the policies, services and infrastructure that impact their lives. That is why we created the Gender Innovation Principles so that women in technology and innovative fields can be empowered also in the workplace.
When we put the focus on those who are least heard and least visible, we are tackling some of the deepest social problems that are holding us back from the progress we all want to see. We also must not forget the negative impacts of technology and its potential to exacerbate inequalities and affect women security.
This International Women’s Day, let us use technology and innovation to drive positive change for all women and girls of the world.