African Jesuits AIDS Network celebrates this year’s International Women’s Day 2023 in recognition of women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative digital technology.
This year’s theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” highlights the role of innovative technology in promoting gender equality and meeting the health and developmental needs of women and girls. The theme chosen by the United Nations for the Day 2023, is in line with the priority theme of the 67th session of the UN Commission which takes place from 6 to 17 March 2023, focusing on “Innovation and technological change and education in the digital age to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”
Worldwide, the proportion of women using the Internet is 12 percent lower than that of men. This digital gender divide has been closing in most regions of the world, but surprisingly, it is widening in Africa. As of 2017, the proportion of women using the Internet in Africa is 25 percent lower than that of men, a 5 percent increase since 2013 (Source).
While on the other hand the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Africa still lags, as out of the 57 countries in the world suffering from a critical shortage of health personnel, 36 are in Africa, which has 0.21 doctors for every 1,000 people. Africa has just 1.3 percent of healthcare workers, yet it bears 25 percent of the global disease burden.
Information and communication technologies are important tools for advancing gender equality, women, and girl’s empowerment. If we can invest in girls and young women so that they can dream, while at the same time providing them with the capacity to do so, then digital health can circumvent inefficiencies in the traditional healthcare system and address challenges such as limited access to in-person medical consultations, and poor access to skilled birth attendants and health promotion activities. These benefits notwithstanding, digital health can be exclusionary.
AJAN has been working over the years in support of the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated to walk with individuals and communities that are vulnerable, excluded, marginalized, and humanly impoverished, in a mission of reconciliation and justice (UAP II). AJAN youth-for-youth Initiative project in 2022/23 dubbed “Through My Own Lens” being undertaken by the Jesuits Youth office in Zimbabwe, Integral youth development will incorporate the trained youth in the production of a documentary that will celebrate Women in the Creative Industry in the Month of March. The documentary will highlight Industry and the challenges women are facing based on gender discrimination which is in line with the mission of mainstreaming gender in our work.
Fr. Ismael Matambura SJ. AJAN director during his visit to Centre Arrupe (the Arrupe Social Center), Madagascar in October 2022, spoke candidly about taking care of the family, the basis of society to advance the mission of Christ (to take care of each being) and to have more impact on the ground and to achieve its objectives, among other things, to strengthen the formation and accompaniment of families, couples and young people; to combat all forms of violence against girls and women; to raise awareness for an effective and inclusive health system, particularly in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Convinced of this reality and wanting to give flesh to its deep religious beliefs, since its opening 17 years ago, Centre Arrupe–Madagascar has focused first on the family through the Health and Family Program (Programme Santé et Famille (PSF)). The latter has “the mission to raise awareness, protect, promote, and transmit the values of a healthy and harmonious woman. It looks to families, parents, young people, and men and women to share and bring to life a vision of mutual respect, common commitments, and a spirit of dialogue.” the PSF has integrated into its action plan the fight against violence, particularly violence against girls and women (VAW). It is also a response to Christ’s call “whatever you do to one of the least of these least who are my brothers and sisters, you do to me” (Mt 25:40) https://centre-arrupe-madagascar.com/programme-sante-et-famille/
Students at Ocer Campion Jesuit College in Gulu Uganda celebrated the International Women’s Day 2023 by partaking in modelling and dancing activities.
Digital technology can open new doors for the global empowerment of women, girls, and other marginalized groups. From gender-responsive digital learning to tech-facilitated sexual and reproductive healthcare, the digital age represents an unprecedented opportunity to eliminate all forms of disparity and inequality an opportunity for the development of African health systems.
This month of March as we celebrate our women, we are calling on the faith-based organizations, stakeholders, and private sector alike to power on in their efforts to make the digital world safer, more inclusive, and more equitable, to create a better future not just for women and girls, but for all humanity and all life on Earth. Join us!!
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