For a second year in a row, GSMA participated at the Reykjavik Global Forum for Women Leaders: the pre-eminent event for female leadership drawing around 500 internationally recognized female leaders from across governments, civil society, the private sector, academia, media and multilateral organisations to discuss and share ideas and solutions on how to further advance society.
VP and Head of GSMA Europe, Afke Schaart, featured as a leading conversationalist at the UN Women session titled “Generation Equality” focusing on the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action next year: the visionary agenda endorsed by 189 governments for the human rights of women and girls everywhere. UN Women’s “Generation Equality” campaign demands equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end to sexual harassment and violence against women and girls, health care services that respond to their needs, and their equal participation in political life and in decision-making in all areas of life. The discussions during the session considered the progress made since 1995 and the work that still needs to be done.
Schaart’s interventions focused on the importance of female empowerment through digital inclusion and drew on key research and initiatives championed by GSMA in this regard.
“The 2019 GSMA Global Gender Gap Report estimates that in low and middle-income countries women are 10% less likely to have a mobile phone than men and 23% less likely to use the Internet compared to men. At the same time, there is also a considerable gender gap in digital skills (both basic and advanced) and ICT leadership, which further reaffirms the inherent biases and sociocultural norms which curtail women and girls’ ability to benefit fully from the opportunities offered by digital transformation. It is therefore clear that more needs to be done by policymakers and companies alike to bridge the widening global digital gender gap at all levels” she said.
In her remarks, Schaart also stressed that GSMA Director General, Mats Granryd, led the mobile industry to become the first sector to broadly commit to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and as of June this year to the newly established UN Women Empowerment Principles. Subtitled Equality Means Business, the Principles emphasize the business case for corporate action to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
“The role that the mobile industry can play in bridging the digital gender gap is crucial and one that GSMA recognized early on by leading the industry in becoming the first to commit to the Sustainable Development Goals in 2016, as well as co-founding the EQUALS global partnership for digital gender equality. GSMA’s commitment to driving digital inclusion for all women and girls is manifested through its Connected Women programme and Women 4Tech and Tech4Girls initiatives, which have become a leading source of data and best practice in addressing the barriers to women’s full participation and inclusion in the digital economy” Schaart added.
Participants at the Generation Equality session debated the importance of economic empowerment given its profound influence on women and the need for public investment in gender equality through gender-responsive financing.
Some of the key conclusions pointed to the fact that attitudes, norms, mindset and culture need to be addressed for change to occur and this can only happen through early educational efforts and political will. Discussants also agreed that mobile technology has helped women tremendously especially by driving access to mobile money and therefore ensuring adequate technological literacy for the purpose of empowering women and girls around the world is key.
Other conversationalists included Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive, Director of UN Women, Patricia Milligan, Senior Partner and Global Leader of When Women Thrive and Multinational Client Group, Mercer and Catherine Gotani Hara, Speaker of the Parliament, Malawi.
The Reykjavik Global Forum is co-hosted on an annual basis by Women Political Leaders (WPL), and the Government and Parliament of Iceland, under the heading Power Together.
The GSMA delegation consisted of Afke Schaart, VP and Head of Europe, Kiki Walravens, Director for EU Institutional Relations and Tamara Dancheva, International Relations Manager.