In this report, WONDER Foundation sheds light on the challenges facing women and girls’ education as a result of the gender digital divide and the ongoing pandemic.
The impact of COVID-19 on women’s education
As an education charity, we were deeply concerned about women’s exclusion from online learning as classrooms closed for 90% of all students worldwide (1.57 billion students in total) during the pandemic. Our partners’ schools and projects have been shut down at various times, and they have worked – and continue to work – creatively and innovatively to keep women and girls learning.
Throughout the pandemic, WONDER has been engaged in dialogue with our partners in an attempt to understand COVID’s impact on organisations, staff, students and alumni. We have used this dialogue to look for resources for our partners ranging from emergency food, to technological devices, to training for staff. As the pandemic evolves, our work is still continuing.
What is the gender digital divide?
Looking at results from our partner projects across the world, whether in London, Nigeria or the Philippines, it is clear that women and girls are struggling to learn remotely. This is due to many factors, but exacerbated by their gender.
The gender digital divide refers to the differences in women’s resources and capabilities to access, and effectively utilise, information and communication technologies when compared to men. This occurs because women and girls often have less access to technology and the internet, both due to the costs associated with them, and the stereotypes of technology being viewed as masculine. Read more about WONDER’s work bridging the gender digital divide here.
While there are many root causes, the divide’s continued aggravation of existing inequalities related to education, employment, protection from different forms of cyber-violence, and ultimately quality of life, demonstrates its significance. This report provides concrete examples of how the most marginalised women are being left behind as we increasingly rely on digital resources.
Understanding the report: women’s opportunities for the digital future
This report highlights stories from our partners in Nigeria and the UK, along with insights from our projects in the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Kazakhstan and Kenya.
Throughout the world, vulnerable women and girls have struggled to move their learning online during COVID. Access to digital technology can no longer seen as a luxury, but a necessity for all. We believe that with the appropriate action on the part of funders, policy-makers and government leaders, women and girls can move from disconnection to connection.
On the one hand, the digital divide can exacerbate existing social inequalities, becoming an extra barrier for women and girls’ empowerment. However, greater access and use of digital technology can help correct existing gender inequalities in education, employment, and other areas.
Our partners show that the students continue to have a willingness to learn, and that teachers and staff are working flexibly and creatively to provide the best solutions for their students. We hope that they will inspire you to think about the effects of digital exclusion during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, and most importantly, what can be done to build more resilience through quality education for the future.
For more information, explore our webinar on the topic from last year.