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Women’s protection through digital tech highlighted

By Our Correspondent
March 18, 2023

LAHORE:A consultation titled “Digital inclusion and safety of women” was organised at a hotel here Friday.

The consultation was designed to highlight the importance of digital inclusion and how technological-based interventions can be opted to ensure the protection of women. Representatives from Punjab Information Technology Board, Women Development Department, Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, Punjab Safe Cities Authority and various civil society organisations participated in the consultation while the panelists included renowned academicians, policy analyst, advocates, persons with disabilities/transgender and digital rights campaigners. After the welcome note by Raza Ali Director Peace & Justice Network, Chairperson, Aawaz II Provincial Forum Ms Khawar Mumtaz, in her opening remarks, highlighted the importance of digitalisation and shared that due to the gender stereotypes, women are denied access to education and digital tools. These tools in this changing world are gateways to women empowerment and limiting access to these tools amounts to discrimination; therefore, parallel to digital literacy we have to focus on behavioral change aspect to challenge gender stereotypes. Further, there is a need to consolidate the women helplines, multiple helplines are good but consolidated one will be even more beneficial.

Nadia Azhar, Secretary, Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, in her presentation said that enhanced accessibility of women to digital tools can address gender-based violence and online redress mechanisms would be much more effective if we managed to shrink the gender gap in accessing and owning the digital tools in the country.

Ms Roshatay Janat, a Policy Analyst at the Punjab Information Technology Board, said that government is fully cognizant of the importance of digitalisation and PITB has initiated many E programme specifically for women in Punjab. Baela Raza Jamil said there was a need to include the excluded so that all can get benefit by employing the digital skills on equal basis.

Sumaira Samad, Secretary, Women Development Department shared that literacy and access to technology were interlinked. In terms of access to digital instruments like cell phones and laptops, some women lag behind men. For example, in low-income families, men are more likely to have these gadgets than women. There is a need to include the marginalised especially PWD women in all digital literacy programmes. She said that inter-agency coordination is crucial since all stakeholders involved need to be on the same page to function humanely and in a just manner.

Rafat Yasmin, Sana Khurshid, Anoosha Shaigan, Faiza Farooq, Advocate, Fakhra Irshad, Sonia Naz and Mary James Gill also spoke.

At the closure of the session, Arshad Mahmood, Head of Programme Delivery, underscored the significance of establishing a secure virtual environment for women in observance of International Women's Day 2023. He advocated for the creation of an online space that is devoid of cyber harassment and gender-based violence, emphasising the urgent need for a safer digital space for women.