By Goodluck Ikiebe
Mercy Corps Nigeria through the USAID funded Community Initiatives to Promote Peace (CIPP) program has commemorated this year 2021’s International Day of the Girl Child in collaboration with WeGirls
A statement by the group in Abuja said that Mercy Corps provided a
unique platform for adolescent girls to join their peers around the world to
celebrate this year’s International Day of the Girl Child, with the global
theme, “Digital generation.
Our generation” at Katsina
Tourist lodge conference hall, Katsina state.
According to the statement, the initiative was designed to facilitate actions towards advancing gender equality and addressing barriers that girls face; the inclusion of girls in digital transformation; and catching them young for early warning and early response as well as to strengthen their engagement in addressing hate and false speeches, promote peace through campaigns and outreaches on digital platforms to sustain peace.
“In Nigeria, females make up 49.2% of the entire population and the country has one of the youngest populations in the world. Thus, without providing enabling environment for females who are half of the population to exercise their fundamental rights, inclusive peace and sustainable development cannot be achieved.
Although, the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated digital platforms
for learning, connecting and interacting, some 2.2 billion people below the age
of 25 still do not have internet access at home”
More worrisome, is the fact that girls are less likely than boys to gain access to or use digital technologies. Research shows that the gender gap for internet users in least developed countries grew to 43 per cent in 2019 and “The weaponization of social media is shifting peace and conflicts in the world’s fragile states’.
Speaking on the importance of girls education, Ndubisi Anyanwu, the Country Director, Mercy Corps Nigeria, said, “As an organization, Mercy Corps strives to address and mitigate gender dynamics that perpetuate and exacerbate conflict by engaging with men, women, boys and girls in all aspects of our work to alleviate poverty, suffering and address root causes of violent conflicts.
“It is critical to empower and equip girls to leverage powerful technology tools to counter negative campaigns including hate speech and misinformation that can potentially fuel violent conflict and accelerate the achievement of SDG 5 for Gender Equality.”
Adding to digital innovations implemented by the organization, the Deputy Chief of Party, Sani Suleiman, noted, “There is a recognition of the significance of the use of digital technology as a tool for peacebuilding and amplifying voices that challenge harmful practices such as gender-based violence and discrimination.
“Therefore, the digital gender divide in poor and rural communities is a threat to the advancement of gender equality and girls’ meaningful participation in decisions that affect their lives,” he said.
“More than ever, there is a need to promote digital inclusion
and literacy by working together with diverse stakeholders and mobilizing
resources to support girls to stay connected and empowered in the growing
digitalized world,” Ndubisi added.
“This is a call to action for strategic actions to be taken to bridge the digital gender divide and ensure inclusive digital transformation. This will not only ensure that girls are able to access tech-related jobs and earning, but also enable their access to digital technology in a safe and secure manner”
The time to push for a digital revolution for all to harness the untapped potentials of girls in promoting peace and building bridges along ethno-religious divides through their active participation in digital platforms is now. Girls are leaders and should be supported to fully engage in digital spaces and use technological innovations to promote gender responsive peace and security.
Community Initiatives to Promote Peace (CIPP) is
a peacebuilding program that seeks to improve local capacity and skills to
manage disputes, strengthen women’s capacities to prevent and resolve conflict,
increase collaboration among communities with government agencies, CSOs, and
local leaders to address root causes of conflict, and develop strengthened and
more sustainable Early Warning and Early Response mechanisms. CIPP is being
implemented across six states in North Central and Northwest (Benue, Kaduna,
Kano, Katsina, Kogi and Plateau states).