Girls, women in ICT key to achieving CARICOM’s potential

Dr. Barbara Reynolds

Education and Gender Specialist, Dr. Barbara Reynolds, said girls and women, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), were key to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) achieving its goals.

Dr. Reynolds was at the time delivering the keynote address at the first CARICOM Digital Dialogue that was held on 23 April in observance of International Girls in ICT Day 2020. The Dialogue, under the theme ‘Regional Resilience – ICT, STEM and Youth’, was organised by the CARICOM Girls in ICT Partnership. Held virtually in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the forum attracted thousands of participants, primarily via Zoom and Facebook.

Speaking around the theme of ‘Girls and ICT: Actualising CARICOM’s Potential, Dr. Reynolds quoted from CARICOM’s founding Treaty of Chaguaramas, and pointed out that the pursuit of ICT was in CARICOM’s DNA.

She told participants that without girls and women, and ICT, CARICOM would not be able to achieve a unified Community that was inclusive, resilient and competitive, sharing economic and social prosperity.

Sharing Dr. Reynolds’ views, event moderator, Deputy Programme Manager, ICT4D at the CARICOM Secretariat, Ms. Jennifer Britton, said girls were critical to actualising CARICOM’s potential.

She added that girls needed to have access to technology and the internet, and be equipped, especially in the current pandemic period. It was even more compelling now for girls to be given the education that equipped them to apply knowledge and to be comfortable with gadgets and apps, she said.

With reference to the current pandemic, Ms. Britton said “…while we celebrate and commemorate this day, there is soberness around us but COVID-19 has helped to put the spotlight on things that we take for granted: connectivity, connection with each other, care-giving and conversations. These are all intrinsic attributes and characteristics of women and girls. And, as we know, women and girls are half of the world’s population and therefore half of the world’s human potential.

“So there is opportunity for gratitude today, great hope for a renewed future where women and girls will play a central role and that future will probably be predominantly digital and predominantly female for the Caribbean Community as it will be for the rest of the world.”

The need for more opportunities for girls in technology was the common sentiment of the speakers and participants at two-hour long event. In her remarks, CARICOM Deputy Secretary-General, Amb. Manorma Soeknandan, referred to the vital role of women in ICT.

The Deputy Secretary General, emphasised that resilience was an integral part of CARICOM, especially now that the Community, like the rest of the world, was affected by the COVID-19 virus. It was a disruption , she added, that was affecting girls and women around the world. Amb. Soeknandan said that we were forced to give more value to digital platforms, and we must help CARICOM girls to join the ICT and STEM revolution, and help youth to make the right choices. 

“We have to lessen the gender gap”, she stressed.

The presentations evoked rich interaction among the participants. It is envisioned that the series of Digital Dialogues in 2020 and 2021 will attract participation not only from the Caribbean, but further afield for the kind of interaction that will lead to providing workable solutions to inform, expose attract and retain girls in the ICT sector. The next Dialogue is scheduled for 27 May 2020.

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