Western Balkans and Türkiye discuss women’s empowerment and digital innovation ahead of global intergovernmental meeting
24 February 2023 - The Government of Albania and UN Women hosted a sub-regional consultation for the Western Balkans and Türkiye, in preparation for the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67). The Commission will be convened at the UN Headquarters from 6 to 17 March under the theme “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”
The consultation provided an opportunity to discuss the gender gap in digital access, women's underrepresentation in certain professions, women’s entrepreneurship, decision-making in the digital transformation, as well as online discrimination and violence in the region.
Ms. Ogerta Manastirliu, Albania’s Minister of Health and Social Protection, in her keynote speech highlighted: “Digitalisation has the power to transform society and advance women's rights. From increasing access to education, to promoting entrepreneurship, Albania is committed to embrace technology and innovation as tools for equality and empowerment. Through rolling out the Digital Agenda and increasing the access to services through e-Albania platform, we are contributing to create a more equitable and inclusive society for women and girls.”
The online consultation was attended by gender equality mechanisms, members of parliament, civil society organizations, youth representatives, gender experts, and academia. Participants exchanged experiences on the CSW67 theme, including data and evidence on how digitalization and the development of new technologies are impacting women and girls in the region. It also addressed the multiple discrimination and education-related barriers that keep women from participating equally in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, accessing digital finance, and becoming digital leaders.
"We need to go beyond using digital technology as a source of connectivity and support women and young girls to play a more active role and become equal partners in the digital sector as innovators, developers and end-users,” said Alia El-Yassir, UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia.
Women comprise more than 40 percent of university graduates in STEM fields. However, women’s involvement in STEM in the Western Balkan countries does not translate in significant labour participation in technology sectors. In Albania, despite significantly higher numbers of women in higher education than men (60.4% vs 39.6 %), women continue to be more represented in humanities rather than scientific fields. Only 3.3% of female graduates completed their studies in ICT, compared to 10.2% of men.
The Albanian Minister of State for Service Standards, Mrs. Milva Ekonomi noted that ‘digital technologies can enhance women’s access to finance. “E-commerce and technology-based business offer women more flexibility. But factors like lack of funding, patriarchal attitudes and less specific training, should not impose barriers for women and e-commerce businesses owned by them”, Mrs Ekonomi said.
Participants also discussed how to ensure substantive and meaningful participation of women as agents of change in innovation and digitalization strategies, policies, and programmes. They shared best practices to empower women in the digital era, showcasing how technology is being used to promote gender equality in the region. They also highlighted women's unique contributions to innovation and productivity, bringing more diverse technology to address socio-economic issues in the Western Balkans and Türkiye.
A summary of actions identified in the consultations will feed into the discussions on the CSW agreed conclusions from its 67th session.