By: H.E. Amb. Minata Samate Cessouma – Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, African Union ‎Commission

08 March 2023, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – As Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development of the African Union, I join the rest of the world to commemorate the 2023 International Women’s Day under the theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality”.

While the COVID-19 pandemic caused a rapid proliferation of digital tools and services, women and girls in rural African communities are left behind by systemic and structural barriers to technology access and adoption. Transformative change ‎toward gender equality requires further investments in integrated innovation and digital literacy, changes in law and policies, ‎interventions to shift social and gender norms, and the audacity to change power ‎relations. I am confident that a better representation of women in decision-making will yield more impact in the health, humanitarian, and social sectors.

We must join efforts to make sure that girls are valued and given the same opportunities as boys in education, health, and social services and that their potential is recognised. Increasing ‎access to health care, good nutrition and education, among other basic needs, is paramount to reducing the ‎alarming malnutrition, disease prevalence and harmful practices such as child marriages and female genital mutilation (FGM) among adolescent girls and young ‎women the continent.

Innovation and technology provide unprecedented opportunities to reach those most likely to be left behind. Digital technology is opening new doors for women’s empowerment in humanitarian spaces. Through the digital space, they can access a range of services and products like sexual and reproductive healthcare, information and advice, counselling, digital learning, banking/cash transfer services, and protection services. Therefore, to bridge the gender digital gap, African governments need to urgently implement the numerous AU instruments to address the existing structural inequalities, including social barriers that exclude women and girls from accessing and using the internet and ICT comprising harmful practices such as child marriages.

The Department of Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development is also developing a continental Digital Health Strategy ‎for Africa to guide Member States (MS) as they transform how ‎health is provided using digital means.‎ ‎Digital health can improve health outcomes by increasing access to healthcare services, bridging ‎distances and enhancing the experience of receiving or delivering care, especially in difficult areas.‎

In conclusion, I urge AU Member States to continue aligning with the policy frameworks adopted by‎ ‎‎Heads of State and Government as roadmaps to ensure that all women and ‎girls have every opportunity to succeed. On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the achievements of women and girls that have helped shape the world we know today. We are committed to supporting innovation, technology, and digitalisation for gender equality in all the AU Member States to pave the way for generations of women and girls to reach their full potential.

I thank you.

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