gender, girls rights, United Nations, Women's rights

empowering marginalized adolescent girls through ICTs

Check out an article by Linda Raftree and myself on integrating ICTs into C4D work with marginalized adolescent girls, which is based on a UNICEF report that we wrote a while back. It was posted in the Guardian today for International Day of the Girl, and it links our research from the report with the issue of ‘innovation for girls education’. You can read the article here and you can access the full UNICEF report here.

below is a short summary of the report:

UNICEF report

Social, cultural, economic and political traditions and systems that prevent girls, especially the most marginalized, from fully achieving their rights present a formidable challenge. The integration of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to the Communication for Development (C4D) toolbox offers an additional means for challenging unequal power relations and increasing participation of marginalized girls in social transformation.

Especially during puberty, various forms of discrimination and exclusion intersect to increase adolescent girl’s marginalization. At the same time, interventions aimed at adolescent girls have the most transformative potential as they can significantly alter a trajectory of vulnerability by reducing the prevalence of various forms of discrimination such as early marriage and early pregnancy.

The report shows how  ICTs can play a role both in empowering adolescent girls and in reaching or engaging those around them to create enabling environments for girls.

In the report we examine ways that ICTs can strengthen C4D programming by:

  • enhancing girls’ connections, engagement and agency;
  • helping girls access knowledge; and
  • supporting improved governance and service delivery efforts.

We reflect and build on the views of adolescent girls from 13 developing countries who participated in a unique discussion for this paper, and we then provide recommendations to support the integration of ICTs in C4D work with marginalized adolescent girls, including:

  • Girls as active participants in program design. Practitioners should understand local context and ensure that programs use communication channels that are accessible to girls. This will often require multi-channel and multiple platform approaches that reach more marginalized girls who may not have access to or use of ICTs. Programs should be community driven, and real-time feedback from girls should be incorporated to adjust programs to their needs and preferences. Mentoring is a key component of programming with girls, and holistic programs designed together with girls tend towards being more successful.
  • Privacy and protection. Every program should conduct a thorough risk analysis of proposed approaches to ensure that girls are not placed at risk by participating, sharing and consuming information, or publicly holding others to account. Girls should also be supported to make their own informed choices about their online presence and use of ICT devices and platforms. A broader set of stakeholders should be engaged and influenced to help mitigate systemic and structural risks to girls.
  • Research and documentation. The evidence base for use of ICTs in C4D programming with marginalized adolescent girls is quite scarce. Better documentation would improve understanding of what programs are the most effective, and what the real added value of ICTs are in these efforts.
  • Capacity building. Because the integration of ICTs into C4D work is a relatively new area that lacks a consistent methodological framework, organizations should support a comprehensive training process for staff to cover areas such as program design, effective use of new ICT tools in combination with existing tools and methods, and close attention to privacy and risk mitigation.
  • Policy. Programs should use free and open source software. In addition, child protection policies, measures and guidelines should be updated to reflect changes in technology, platforms and information sharing.
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