ITU is a proud supporter of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign to raise awareness and increase political will and resources for preventing and ending all forms of violence against women and girls all over the world. Today, 25 November, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women which will be followed by 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence with the theme “Orange the World in 16 Days” #orangeurworld.
As the UN Specialized Agency for Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), ITU is already very actively engaged with gender and technology issues.
On the positive side, we know that technology can be a hugely empowering tool, providing women and girls with access to information, education and healthcare, as well as anytime, anywhere interaction with family, friends and business and social networks. Something as simple as a mobile phone can also greatly enhance women’s personal security and facilitate and promote community solidarity.
But we also know that there is a darker side. Today’s Internet can be a place where women and girls face hostility, verbal violence and even threats of physical attack. Sexting and the posting of explicit videos and texts over social media can be used to intimidate, and cyberbullying is a growing problem among teens, with some recent tragic cases of teenage suicide linked directly to online harassment.
I am proud to say that, as the organization ‘committed to connecting the world’ ITU was quick to recognize not just the positive influences, but also the potential risks. In 2008 we launched our Child Online Protection (COP) initiative, which laid out sets of guidelines for online safety, targeting parents, educators, the ICT industry – and of course young people themselves.
The COP initiative continues to gain momentum, with partnerships with key industry players contributing to the initiative and helping to expand our network and reach new audiences.
At the same time, we are active campaigners for online security through our social media platforms and our work with other key UN agencies, including UN Women, and now incorporate gender-awareness elements into all major ITU meetings to keep the issue high on the agendas of our 193 Member States.
In line with this one of our priority programmes is Girls and ICT which advocates strongly, working closely with governments and industry, to ensure that the ICT sector attracts and recognizes more girls and women. We believe it is important that young girls and women perceive the ICT sector as a viable career choice which can empower them both socially and economically and promote them as champions for greater gender balance in the industry.
Opposing violence against women is something we believe everyone needs to sign up to. Personally, I am very proud to be an ambassador for this year’s #orangeurworld in #16days initiative. #Iwearorange because I care about keeping women and girls safe online and I hope that millions of others around the world will be joining me to make the world a healthier and safer place for women and girls everywhere.
By Dr Hamadoun I. Touré
Dr Hamadoun I. Touré has been Secretary-General of the ITU since January 2007; he was re-elected for a second term in October 2010. He has wide professional experience in both the public and private sectors. A national of Mali, Dr Touré is committed to ITU as an innovative, forward-looking organization adapted to meeting the challenges created by the rapidly-changing ICT environment, and to continuing to spearhead ITU towards implementing the resolutions of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Dr Touré is married with four children and two grandchildren.