To mark the 2018 International Women’s Day (IWD 2018) FAO, IFAD and WFP will organize this year’s annual event on how media and ICT can empower rural women and girls to transform their lives, as a central element in the efforts to eliminate poverty and hunger, and build inclusive and sustainable rural societies.
Following this year’s theme of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) "Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls" and the review theme "Participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women" , the Rome-based Agencies’ (RBA) will draw attention to achieving gender equality and empowering rural women and girls, building on the pledge to “leave no one behind”, which is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The IWD 2018 event will explore the role of media and ICTs in supporting rural women's economic empowerment, voice and status. In particular, it will highlight innovative practices (including specific examples of the Rome-based agencies’ work) on how ICTs and media have expanded rural women's opportunities in value chains and enterprise development, increased their sources for education and information, as well as broad impact on gender roles in rural societies. Moreover, the event will provide an occasion to discuss policies, enabling legal frameworks or conducive environments that can facilitate access and good use of ICTs in rural development interventions, particularly for rural women.
The event will focus on the integration of ICT and media in rural development strategies for the benefit of women and girls, identifying synergies and positive results stemming from the activities of the RBAs. Improved economic opportunities, social gains, equitable governance system and new opportunities, have the potential to advance rural women's empowerment and promote sustainable and inclusive rural transformation – advancing the 2030 agenda and the achievement of the SDGs 1,2,5 and 17 . Among others, these aspects will be addressed.
- The role of ICTs as a tool for development have been widely recognized. Still, there has been limited consideration of their potential implications for gender equality and women's empowerment in rural areas. Although there are few gender-specific dimensions of ICTs and media in terms of access and use, capacity-building opportunities, employment and potential for empowerment, they can be a powerful catalyst for political and social empowerment of women, and the promotion of gender equality if rightly designed.
- ICTs have boosted economic opportunities for women's in rural areas. Easy-to-access information through mobiles and smartphones can enable women to access real-time information on prices in different markets, reduce information asymmetries and allow more informed choices about where and when it is more convenient to buy and sell. Thanks to ICTs, rural woman can overcome exclusion patterns and actively participate in the economy
- Greater flow of information also enables rural women to gauge business opportunities and reach out distant markets, sometimes even stretching to international ones. It offers opportunities for producers to link directly with consumers and vice-versa.
- Access to mobile-based financial services, remittances, information services on agricultural production, weather forecast and climate change adaptation also have direct consequences on women's ability to produce more and better, while helping them to overcome mobility restrictions and save on transportation costs.
- Internet access can increases everybody's ability join and develop virtual fora, communities and networks that respond to specific needs, interest and linguistic abilities. This can allow voice and networking capacity also to those segments of the society that traditionally did not have this possibility, in particular rural women and girls in remote areas, with restricted mobility, affected by social bias or inability to understand a language different than the local one. Internet and ICT open up opportunities for more equitable governance at local and national level, as well as women's inclusion in decision-making processes through the ability to network and lobby for their interest. Setting up a favourable policy environment and enabling measures is paramount to accrue these benefits.
- New technologies can offer the potential to reduce the education and literacy divide that still persist among women and men. Universities and development organizations worldwide (such as Harvard and XX) are heavily investing in distance education programmes and online courses that can potentially reach out to a multitude of women in rural areas and cater to their specific needs.
- Public services and social protection safety nets are gradually evolving, becoming accessible digitally. While this is an opportunity, it also runs the risk to exclude women and girls in rural areas that are less literate or who don't owe/can access mobile phones or digital equipment.
- Digital technology also enables to apply the power of digital data sources (“big data”) in the field of international development and policy engagement. The enormous amounts of information that can be gathered, processed and analysed using new ICTs can enable development actors to better address the needs of rural women and men, ensuring that no one really is left behind.
Structure of the event and participants
The event will take place on the morning of 8 of March 2018. It will be organized as follows.
- Welcome by IFAD (host agency). The role of Master of ceremony will be played by Cornelia Richter, IFAD VP (TBC)
- Opening remarks by FAO and WFP Senior Management
- A keynote statement delivered in a dynamic way (Ted Talk style) by a prominent speaker from the ICT and social media area. He/she will set the broader scene on ICTs and social media in rural development, talk about how they are improving rural women and girls livelihoods and future scenarios.
- Panel of experts/ resource people from the field will present their stories and experiences, discussing the opportunities and challenges in the use of ICTs and social media for women’s empowerment and gender equality. The Panel Discussion will be moderated by the Communication expert Joanne Levitan, who successfully moderated also the RWEE donor meeting in 2017.
- Q&A with the audience, including virtual audience following online,
- Closing remarks by WFP, the Agency hosting the IWD in 2019
The event will try as much as possible to pursue an interactive and dynamic style by avoiding long solo-statements and favouring interaction among panellists and with the audience.