As countries around the world leaf through the pages of history to give flowers and pay special homage to the Girl Child, Liberia is of no exception in that marathon journey for girls’ freedom and dignity. The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Madam Williametta Saydee-Tarr is pushing for girls to acquire digital knowledge so as to grapple with present day realities and engage into meaningful ventures that will improve their lives.
Minister Saydee-Tarr stressed that as the world slowly but steadily recovers from the COVID-19 Pandemic which has wrecked some of the strongest and most organized systems on the planet, she is concerned about how learning opportunities can be increased, connectivity expanded to reduce poverty through the utilization of various digital platforms.
She said that in order to bridge the digital gap, governments should begin to provide opportunities for girls to acquire education in the digital sector by supporting programs in schools. According to Minister Tarr, without access to education, girls cannot get enlightened and their boundless potentials will not be fulfilled.
Speaking, Monday, October 11, 2021, on the historic Tenth edition of the observance of the International Day of the Girl Child, on the Somalia Drive in Paynesville, outside Monrovia, Minister Saydee-Tarr said that in Liberia, majority of school going girls are still yet to have seen or touched a computer and there is a demand for digital education at all level.
The Gender Boss mentioned that digital knowledge is now fundamental to the acquisition of jobs and the attainment of stability both in the public and private sectors.
She said, as a government – they are pleased with the growing number of technical schools that are strictly concentrated on providing primary and advanced digital education for citizenry.
On October 11, 2012, the United Nations declared October 11th every year to be internationally observed as International Day of the Girl.
The Day is being commemorated under the global theme,” Digital Generation, and the national theme is, “Bridging Digital Gap for Girls in Liberia.
Minister Tarr assured the gathering that the conversations being held will be elevated to the level of Cabinet, so as to ensure that the government increases the level of support to the digital sector. She also used the occasion to call on partners to make the digital revolution possible.
Touching on other issues, she said that girls continue to be subjected to discrimination, forced and early child marriage and victims of sexual and domestic violence, and it is important to emphasize that the empowerment of girls is central to economic growth and the eradication of global poverty.
Minister Saydee-Tarr indicated that It is not only imperative that governments continue to expand empowerment opportunities for girls but it is also mandatory for governments to ensure that girls take a front role seat on the table of decision making.
The Gender, Children and Social Protection Boss mentioned that by doing so, it will break the cycle of discrimination and violence against girls and promote the full and effective protection of girls’ human rights.
She urged girls to dream and stand up for their rights and garner the necessary abilities that will improve their living conditions thereby putting them on par with their colleagues globally.
“The story of the Liberian Girl Child is rife with challenges, but the Liberian Girl Child persists! Given the opportunity, she will continue to dare to conquer challenges in her life. All she needs is that booster from the adults around her, the Governments and partners who believe in her”, Minister Saydee-Tarr added.
Delivering the keynote address, Miss Mariah James, a member of the Adolescent Girls’ Advisory Panel (AGAP) said, digital gap is the difference between group with access to technology and those without.
She mentioned that in Liberia and many parts of the world, girls often have little or no access to technology and the internet as compared to boys and Girls in Liberia and that girls have to struggle for easy access to technology and the internet.
She noted that owing to such situation, it has made many to believe that technology and the internet is only reserved for the male counterpart in the country.
She believes that girls’ inability to understand the usage of technology serves as major stereotypes. Miss James stressed that if it is not addressed, young women will continue to be denied employment opportunities.
The Orator of the International Day of the Girl Child said that the ability to access and use technology has become paramount and technology provides great opportunity, particularly in developing countries, and has the potential to promote inclusion, providing greater access to information and services by reaching more people in more places.
The key note speaker noted that when principles of inclusion are not applied, technology risks perpetuating existing inequalities and further alienating underserved populations who cannot access, afford, or have the skills and education to use technology, exacerbating a digital divide.
According to her, when developing or promoting new technologies and digital solutions, governments need to consider these broader implications and address the critical barriers.
The Orator pointed out that technological advancements are rapid, and “90% of future jobs will require digital competencies” according to European Commission Report and this may result in a further increase of the gender gap that already exists in several spheres including education, politics, and income between boys and girls.
The Gender Advocate stressed that the message is a wakeup call to everyone, leaders, stakeholders, government officials, citizens, and humanitarians, and without equal access to technology and the internet, girls in Liberia will not participate in the digital world or global village.
“If Liberian girls are not provided the opportunity, it will affect their lives in different ways, it will cripple their voices and stop them from speaking on matters that concern them. Furthermore, if the girls of Liberia are not involved in creating digital tools and online contents, they cannot reach their full potentials and this may affect their future opportunities or space to perform in the job market”. The key note speaker stressed.
Also speaking, the Deputy Representative of the United Nations Children Educational Fund, ( UNICEF) to Liberia Amadou Alassane Cisse use the occasion to convey UNICEF’s thanks and appreciations to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the Adolescent Girls Working Group, other sister UN Agencies and development partners for organizing the event.
Mr. Cisse indicated that every year October 11 the International Day of Girl Child, UNICEF and partners work to amplify their voices and stand up for girls’ rights.
“We are reminded of our collective responsibilities as duty bearers to accelerate investment in the digital platform for learning, earning, and connecting people” the UNICEF Deputy Rep indicated.
For his part, Dr. Ufuoma Omo-Obi, Country Director, PLAN International, also extended Plan International appreciation for the high level of coordination from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
Ambassador Obi said with this year’s theme:” Digital Generation, Our Generation and the National Theme: Bridging Digital Gaps for Girls in Liberia, it is meant to support girl and young women around the world to amplify their voices rejecting all gender stereotypes dictating what they can do.
He said that Plan International stands with girls and young women in calling for transformative education to end gender stereotypes, so all children can be themselves and be safe no matter their identity, whether online or in the classrooms.
This year’s International Day of the Girl Child according to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection was supported by UNICEF, Medica Liberia, Plan International, International Rescue Committee (IRC), United Funding and Development for Underage Mothers (UFDUM), Liberia Association of Psychosocial Services (LAPS) and Defense for Children Liberia.