One of the many gaps the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted is the gender gap, globally. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with the world now in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to focus on global movements for gender equality is now more urgent.
UNICEF says that the pandemic, while accelerating the use of digital platforms for learning, earning, and connecting, has brought into focus the simple fact that girls are more likely to be cut off from the advantages of a digital world. “The gender gap for global internet users grew from 11 per cent in 2013 to 17 per cent in 2019. In the world’s least developed countries, it hovers around 43 per cent,” UNICEF says, adding that this gender divide is about more than just connectivity: “Girls are also less likely than boys to use and own devices, and gain access to tech-related skills and jobs.”
So, it is now more important than ever to empower girls and increase their access to the digital world so that their voices can be amplified. Once this barrier is overcome, girls and women from around the world will be able to unite better to fight the everyday injustices and dangers that they face. Some young girls have already been able to overcome this barrier though.
These are exceptional, inspiring young women who have found their voice and are using the digital world to amplify it and reach out to girls across the globe, as well as policymakers who can bring about the change that we all need. Here are seven such women you need to know more about.
Latifatou CompaoreFemale genital mutilation (FGM) is a practice that poses a huge danger to the physical and mental health of millions of girls. Compaore, who comes from Burkina Faso, was born to a brave mother who underwent FGM, saw a friend die because of it, and swore to never let it be done to her daughter. Taking up from her mother’s activism, Compaore now uses her beautiful singing voice to raise awareness about FGM in order to eliminate it completely.
Malala YousafzaiYousafzai’s story is quite well known. This Pakistani activist was shot by the Taliban in 2012, after she publicly spoke out in support of her right to education. Far from stopping her, the incident led to Yousafzai taking up the clarion call to get all girls from all over the world not just a right to education, but equal rights in all its forms. In 2014, she also became the youngest Nobel Laureate after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
Samaira Mehta“Anyone—a child, a girl, could come up with an amazing idea that could revolutionize the world,” Mehta wrote for UN Women in 2020. And this Indian-American proves this herself by being the founder and CEO of Coderbunnyz and Coderminz, and a STEM activist, at the young age of 12 years! The two board games created by Mehta introduce children to the concepts of computer programming and artificial intelligence. Her other initiative, “Yes, One Billion Kids Can Code”, not only helps more children to gain access to coding tools, but also works to close the gender gap in STEM.
Julieta MartinezYou might have heard of Greta Thunberg, but have you heard of Martinez? As a member of the UN Women’s Generation Equality Youth Task Force, this Chilean climate and gender activist is doing a lot that should get your attention. Martinez founded the Tremendas Collaborative Platform, an organisation that empowers girls and young people to create social impact within their communities regarding everything from climate action and education to gender parity and inclusion.
NehaThis young activist from Nepal, who is known globally just by her first name, grew up in the slums of Kathmandu, where she began actively participating in community clubs to advocate for girls’ rights and gender equality. Neha is not only a grassroots campaigner for the Kathmandu-based Mahila Ekta Samaj Girls Network, but also a Plan International Global Young Influencer and UN Women member. She also has a radio programme where she raises awareness about online sexual harassment and the exploitation of girls.
Sofia ScarlatScarlat, popularly known as the founder of Romania’s first gender equality organisation, Girl Up (yes, a play on “man up”), is also a member of the UN Women’s Generation Equality Youth Task Force. Scarlat’s organisation works to eliminate domestic violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking—all in order to advance the agenda of gender equality. She is also an advocate for in-depth sexual education for all children and also helps underage victims of gender-based violence get legal assistance.
Jakomba JabbieA strong advocate for gender equality, girls’ education and women in STEM, Jabbie’s activism started in school and as a STEM student herself. She started a robotics club in school after she saw that girls in Gambia weren’t being encouraged to pursue courses and careers in STEM. An aspiring aerospace engineer, Jabbie shared her inspiring story at the 2019 UN Women session on the Commission on the Status of Women, where she spoke up about women and girls getting equal rights by law, globally.