#RealiTalk: International Day of the Girl Child with Pauline De Guzman

This year’s International Day of the Girl Child aims to celebrate adolescent girls who are making waves in the tech and digital world while emphasizing the need to close the gender digital divide.

 
In line with this, this month’s Realitalk features our conversation with Pinoy Climate Reality Leader Pauline De Guzman about the urgent need to provide young Filipino girls, specifically those in low-income areas, equal access to technology, connectivity, and digital skills.
 

Pauline, who works currently works at the United Nations Children’s Fund, delved into how digital connectivity and access to technology could further empower girls to have agency and control in building a brighter future and in participating in climate change adaptation and mitigation initiatives.

How can digital inclusion and literacy widen pathways for adolescent girls to live their full potential?

 

Pauline: Digital technologies have made people more connected than ever before. They allow people to engage in a more in-depth and collective conversation about global issues and crises and they bridge connections across cultures and ideas. When it comes to young women and girls, digital technologies bring them a whole new world of possibilities—from more access to learning and education to improved career opportunities, and even as a political space where they can express their concerns openly and freely.

Girls and young women can leverage digital technology to build networks and relationships, as well as to amplify their voices and advocate for causes that matter to them. It has the potential to become an empowering tool for them to communicate, share ideas, and collaborate on real-world challenges, such as gender inequality and climate change.

Hence, ensuring inclusion of adoloscent young girls in digital literacy and providing them with equal opportunities to develop and improve their digital knowledge and skills is critical. More so, recognizing that they are not simply users of digital technologies but also creators of digital technologies and content opens a world of possibilities for them to realize their full potential.

How can education, powered by digital connectivity and access to technology, address inequalities that increase girls’ vulnerability to climate change?

 

Pauline: Climate change is the greatest threat to our generation and future generations. It affects everyone but it disproportionately affects the most vulnerable people, such as children. Young women and girls are particularly susceptible as a result of the societal, political, and economic inequalities they currently face. There are several strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change, but none of those will suffice if girls and young women are not educated.

Educating children, particularly women and girls, about climate change and the risks they will face is an important step in building a more resilient community. Education is critical for developing the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors essential for girls and young women to adapt to climate change. Education is also crucial for instilling in girls and young women the confidence to participate in and engage in climate policy dialogue, as well as to live a sustainable lifestyle that prioritizes environmental stewardship. By educating girls and young women about the dangers of climate change, we empower them to take action and discover ways to mitigate its impacts. 

 
"The COVID-19 pandemic brings to light the bleak state of the Philippines' digital development and information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure. My recent fieldwork in the Visayas region has opened my eyes to the vast discrepancy between urban and rural development, especially in relation to digital technology."
PAULINE DE GUZMAN

What can you say about the status of the gender digital divide in the Philippines? How about the status of girls’ education on climate change?

 

Golda: The COVID-19 pandemic brings to light the bleak state of the Philippines’ digital development and information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure.

My recent fieldwork in the Visayas region has opened my eyes to the vast discrepancy between urban and rural development, especially in relation to digital technology. While urban and city centers have digital technologies readily available, this isn’t the situation in rural areas. Internet and phone signal is limited in remote communities. In some areas, signals in business centers and municipal capitals are also intermittent.

In addition to undeveloped ICT infrastructure, the existing socio-economic inequalities also intensify the digital divide. Even though many low-income families have phones, they aren’t well-equipped to go online. In certain cases, poor families cannot afford to pay for a phone or even load and communication allowances for their children because of their financial situation.

The gender digital divide is significantly more complicated due to the compounded inequalities with which girls and young women face. Boys and men frequently dominate the realm of ICT, rather than women and girls. In many countries, such as the Philippines, men are urged and favored to enroll in computer courses over women. While it’s good to see many programs aimed at educating Filipino girls and young women about digital literacy, more must be done to help and encourage them to take an active role in this domain.

Climate change education is gaining traction in the Philippines as a result of the Department of Education’s initiative to incorporate it into the school curriculum. The difficulty, however, is that not everyone has access to quality education, especially now that we are facing the COVID-19 pandemic. Children are now compelled to attend school online due to the shift in delivery methods from face-to-face to online or modular. They are lagging, however, since they lack access to cutting-edge digital technologies and high-speed internet connections. Young women and girls are disproportionately affected, as they are less engaged in digital literacy and are discouraged from developing digitals skills prior to the pandemic.

Additionally, a gap must be bridged between what children learn in school and their climate activities. While women and girls are becoming more educated about climate change, they need opportunities and platforms to do climate action in their communities. This includes offering a seat at the decision-making table for girls and young women, as well as a safe space for them to speak up and discuss climate solutions.

"We should inspire more young girls and women to participate and influence climate policy dialogue by creating digital materials and content that emphasize the efforts of women climate leaders from local to international scale."
PAULINE DE GUZMAN

How can we give young Filipino girls, specifically those in low-income areas, equal access to technology, connectivity, and digital skills? How can we further empower them to have agency and control to build a brighter future?

 

Pauline: To provide equal access to technology, connectivity, and digital skills for young Filipino girls, we must first create and enhance ICT infrastructure in places with no phone service and slow internet connections. Improving our ICT infrastructure would address not only the gender digital divide but also the socioeconomic inequalities between affluent and poor.

Improving ICT infrastructure also entails ensuring the safety of girls and young women when using digital technologies and the internet. Sufficient cybersecurity precautions should be in place to safeguard young women and girls against online harassment and bullying. 

Additionally, we should continue to push for and support girls’ participation in ICT. We need to dispel the misconception that boys are more adept at computer and digital technology than girls. Boys and girls are equal in this domain, and as such, should have equal access to and use of digital knowledge and abilities.

We should consequently promote the participation of girls and young women in digital literacy training and capacity building and empower them to influence the development of digital technologies and digital content. We should acknowledge, recognize, and celebrate them as creators of digital technologies and information, not just as end-users. 

What can we do to deepen young girls’ understanding of and gain skills related to climate change adaptation and sustainability using the power of technology and digital platforms?

 

Pauline: In addition to continued capacity building and training on digital technologies for young women and girls, girls’ involvement and participation in climate change solutions through the use of digital technology will increase their understanding of climate change and their role in it. Encouraging them to innovate and create climate change solutions through the use of digital technology would help them develop new skills and maximize their potential.

Bringing the conversation online and providing opportunities for young women and girls to be at the forefront of the conversation will also boost their confidence to speak up and take climate action. We should inspire more young girls and women to participate and influence climate policy dialogue by creating digital materials and content that emphasize the efforts of women climate leaders from local to international scale.