Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Women, Girls, and Science: Contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Tuesday, May 17, 2017, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) UN Team Volunteer Representative Kristen Grennan recently joined a panel discussion at the Science, Technology and Innovation Forum at the UN in New York (read more about the forum here). The panel, Women, Girls, and Science: Contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, was hosted by the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) and the UN Major Group on Children and Youth (of which WAGGGS is a member and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 Focal Point) and featured an array of esteemed panelists with a range of experiences in engaging women and girls in science and technology:
  • Co-moderator and panel organizer: Walter Staveloz, Director International Relations, Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC)
  • Co-moderator: Kristen Grennan, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts UN Team
  • Opening remarks: Guy Labine, Chair Elect of the ASTC Board 
  • Panelist: Dr. Miyoko O. Watanabe, Deputy Executive Directorr, Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST); Director, Office for Diversity and Inclusion, JST, Japan; Chair, Gender Summit 10 Asia-Pacific; Director-General of the Center for Science Communication. 
  • Panelist: Maria Bilal, Australian medical student; Australian Delegate to G(irls)20 (a Canadian-based globally active social enterprise that cultivates a new generation of female leaders through education, entrepreneurial training, leadership, and global experiences – with one ultimate goal, increasing female labor force participation around the world)
  • Panelist: Dorothy Bennett, Director of Creative Pedagogy, New York Hall of Science 
  • Panelist: Daria E. Cirnatiu, high school student and Finalist of the Canadian World Biotech Tour Stop (for her work on biotech to clean the St. Laurent River in Montreal). 
  • Closing Remarks: Gillian Thomas, Interim President/CEO of ASTC

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting, screen and indoor
Kristen Grennan, left, with panelist Maria Bilal, right.
WAGGGS Team Member, Kristen Grennan, had the opportunity to give a few remarks. She focused on WAGGGS' use of data collection via social media to capture girls' voices around the world, and then giving the data to girls to advocate at international conferences on behalf of girls worldwide. You can read more about this program, known as U-Report, here.

Full remarks:

Thank you so much for joining us today at this panel discussion on women in science and technology. My name is Kristen Grennan and I am a volunteer member of the World Association of Girl Guide and Girl Scouts, also known as “WAGGGS,” their United Nations Team here in New York. WAGGGS is the largest organization of women and girls worldwide, representing 146 countries and more than 10 million girls globally.

While we all know that SDG 5’s ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, women and girls also play a critical role in and component of achieving all SDGs as well. Science, technology and innovation can play a role in achieving gender equality and the realization of the SDGs, or they can widen the gap in inequality if they are not utilized effectively and do not acknowledge the current structural barriers that prevent women and girls from benefiting from these advancements as well as playing a role in developing new technologies.

For example, WAGGGS has partnered with UNICEF to poll women and girls about issues they face daily. One way this is done is through U-Reporter, where Twitter polls are disseminated through direct message to followers. WAGGGS is able to break down its results by age, gender, and location, and it has been working with leaders to show what girls’ priorities are.

For example, Girl Scouts from Ecuador brought poll data from 1,500 poll participants to Habitat III to show city mayors and national authorities that they need to consider girls and women when they develop their plans to implement the set of recommendations for safer cities

The data demonstrated that street harassment was a major concern for women and girls:

  • 60% of girls reported that they’ve experience harassment 
  • Girls were less likely to report harassment than boys with the most popular reason being ‘don’t think any action will be taken’ (40%). 
  • 52% of girls said they avoided public transport or places from fear of harassment. 
  • U-Reporters said governments should provide stronger punishment for those who commit harassment, educate citizens on why harassment is wrong and said governments should improve ways to report harassment. 

Not only did U-Reporter collect poll data, it also asked for personal responses:

  • "In addition to physical & sexual violence, things like street harassment are also significant issues but are 'brushed off' by society." - Girl Guide U-Reporter from Australia 
  • "Sexual harassment isn't taken seriously within my community. I am raising awareness of the problem and encouraging those who have experienced the problem to report it!" - Girl Guide U-Reporter from United Kingdom 

Just by using simple technology through social media, WAGGGS is able to poll thousands of people around the globe. It is able to collect the voices of girls through the disaggregated data, and empower girls to bring this data to the attention of world and community leaders.

It is important to note that the digital divide is an issue: only 33% of U-Reporters self-select as being female, demonstrating not only that it is incredibly important to disaggregate data when collecting data this way, but also that women and girls need greater access to these technologies and resources.

It’s an important message:

  • When empowered with data, girls and young women can be powerful advocates and actors in the monitoring and review processes of national SDG implementation 
  • And girls and young women need to be meaningfully engaged in data collection in order for digital solutions to be viable 
  • And not only that, but women and girls need to be engaged in understanding how they can be reached so as to improve access to digital tools to bridge the gendered digital divide 

Today we have an esteemed panel who will be talking about how we can further break down the digital divide and not only empower women and girls through science, technology, and innovation, but also to break down the systems and barriers that are preventing women and girls from being in those space.

How can we meet women and girls where they are? How can we bring the data and technology to them? How can we create an enabling environment that allows women and girls to invent and adapt technologies to address their needs, and not just those of the male creators who made them? And how can we use these advancements to ensure that the SDGs are in fact leaving no one behind.

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