Two refugee girls in Mali take a cell phone photo.
In today’s world, technology plays a bigger role than ever — but women and girls are being left behind. That is why United Methodist Women is actively investing in educating and supporting girls and women in technology.
To address this digital divide, UN Women, the World Wide Web Foundation and other organizations held the first African Summit on Women and Girls in Technology on Sept. 13-14 in Accra, Ghana. The United Methodist Church participated in the summit, which discussed ways to make sure African women and girls have access to technology.
United Methodist Women Regional Missionaries Elmira Sellu and Finda Quiwa, along with Executive Secretary for International Ministries, Carol Van Gorp, offered important perspectives on the summit, connecting the digital divide directly to economic inequity and maternal and child health.
Today’s digital divide — the gender gap between women and girls and boys and men who study or work in technology — will only increase as more boys than girls are able to learn about technology and more men than women are hired to work in the field. Those in poverty with little access to new technology are especially affected, and economic disparity will only increase.
To close this divide, United Methodist Women has set priorities and taken concrete action.
Among the most important priorities for closing the digital divide is for girls to receive the same education as boys. Increasing the number of girls who go to school and receive adequate education in all subjects will increase their capability to use technology and to work in that field.
But in order for girls to be able to go to school, other basic needs must first be met. Their families need food and the means to prepare it, safe shelter, clothing and clean water before they are ready to address educational and development needs. The digital divide can only be closed when more women are economically empowered, so that they and their children are able to gain crucial technology skills.
United Methodist Women has supported women and technology training efforts and projects since 2000, with support for a United Methodist Women Regional Missionary to use her skills and leadership at a computer training center in Nairobi, Kenya.
In 2015, United Methodist Women supported 21 international technology grants with $365,000 in grant funding. The same amount was also dispersed among 31 U.S. based mission institutions. All grants supported technology projects for women, children and youth.
International grants include supporting the Amity Foundation in China to build an online platform to connect young women, establishing a computer training center in Haiti, and offering computer training to young women at the YWCA in Palestine, East Jerusalem.
These projects, along with many more, have connected United Methodist Women to the international effort to close the digital divide around the world and right next-door.
For more information about the African Summit on Women and Girls in Technology, please read the article "Summit addresses technology barriers for African women" by Priscilla Muzerengwa, on umc.org.