Empowering girls through tech is the way to progress: PECN
PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Education Champions Network (PECN) on International Women’s Day 2023 called upon the authorities for empowering girls through technology for learning and better career prospects in Pakistan.
The PECN shared a recent study by Malala Fund, according to which both girls and boys have struggled to access and use government-provided forms of learning during the lockdown in the last few years, however, girls were found to be overcoming odds to spend time studying due to social pressures around how they spent their time and lower access to some forms of technology than boys.
During the pandemic, the government’s support for distance learning mainly relied on TV, radio and e-learning, but these methods did not seem to be reaching students. The study revealed that although the majority of respondents (67%) said that they had a TV at home and around one-third had a radio, only 20% of girls and boys were spending time on educational TV and just 2% on educational radio.
Furthermore, access to smartphones was relatively high (60%), but three-quarters of those with access reported only being able to afford data intermittently. Fewer girls (59%) than boys (68%) reported being able to access smartphones, with girls being almost 40% more likely than boys to say that they never have access to a mobile device, and their most frequently cited reason for not accessing a phone was being afraid to ask. Shockingly, less than 1% of students were using edtech for distance learning.
The findings of the study suggest that potential gender disparities in digital access, including at home, should be considered when designing edtech interventions. Acknowledging system-level factors such as social norms, online discrimination or violence that can influence the extent to which girls are allowed to use edtech is also important to implement equitable edtech. Tackling inequalities and disparities in digital literacy, which girls are often more likely to have lower levels of than their male counterparts, is also needed to enable girls and boys to equally make use of edtech.
Qamar Naseem, Co-Convener of PECN said, “On this International Women’s Day, let us commit to empowering girls through technology in Pakistan. Let us ensure that our interventions are participatory, aligned with local and contextualized needs, and inclusive. Let us work towards a Pakistan where girls have equal access to technology and can harness it to unlock their full potential.”