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Dhaka Tribune

Empowering indigenous women for the digital era

What is the progress of indigenous women in the ICT area?

Update : 07 Mar 2023, 01:35 PM

Amidst the rapid progress towards innovation and technology, the question arises: What is the position of indigenous women in this digital advancement? 

While the country is moving forward with the vision of a “Smart Bangladesh,” it is important to consider the inclusion of indigenous women in this development. Is there any documented effort being made to address this issue? 

As the world looks to celebrate International Women's Day with the theme -- DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality -- the above-mentioned questions are some vital concerns that need to be answered if the country aims to achieve the SDGs by 2030.   

The Bangladesh government has made significant strides in ensuring women's empowerment and has been lauded internationally for reducing the gender gap. 

While it is predicted that the world will need approximately 132 more years to narrow down the global gender gap as per the Global Gender Gap index, Bangladesh has made significant progress in reducing gender inequality. 

Among South Asian countries who have reduced the gender gap, as per the Global Gender Gap index-2022, Bangladesh is the top country -- leaving India, Nepal, and Bhutan behind. 

However, when it comes to indigenous women, there is no data available on the gender gap, particularly in the ICT sector.

What is the progress of indigenous women in the ICT area?

Are the indigenous girls getting the proper training to make themselves ready for the tech world that is going to dominate our lives heavily in the future? 

Let's peep into the latest Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS)'s ICT survey-- Access and Use of ICT by Households and Individuals 2022. The BBS data on the use of internet and computer shows that 38.9% of the population use the internet in Bangladesh. Among these internet users, 45.3% are male and 32.7% are female. 

Although there is no data available specifically on the indigenous population, we can assume from the available data that the number of internet users among indigenous women is significantly lower.  

Similarly, according to the Mobile Gender Gap Report of 2022, a significant proportion of smartphone owners do not use mobile internet, particularly women in Bangladesh; 26% of women who own a smartphone do not use mobile internet compared to 20% of the men. Also, men's mobile internet use has increased while women's has remained flat. 

The level of access and exposure to ICT among indigenous women is still uncertain, as it remains unclear whether the government is taking sufficient steps to provide them with technology and facilitate their engagement with it.

The Mobile Gender Gap Report also says the primary obstacles to using mobile internet in Bangladesh for both men and women are “literacy and digital skills” and “safety and security.” 

Therefore, it can be inferred that women in general, as well as men, require digital literacy. This data also suggests that indigenous women also face comparable issues. 

The International Labour Organization (ILO) states that indigenous people, despite being only 6% of the global population, represent approximately 19% of the most impoverished population, making them disadvantaged. 

As for indigenous women, they are even further marginalized. 

It is crucial to prioritize the training and preparation of indigenous women in the ICT sector to achieve SDG-5, which aims to achieve gender equality.

The job market has become highly competitive and having ICT skills is no longer a luxury but a necessity to survive and succeed. 

It is important thus to see indigenous women taking lead in the ICT sector by introducing new ideas and making contributions towards building a proud nation in Bangladesh. It is a necessary step to ensure that we march towards an equitable nation -- with indigenous women no longer left behind. 

Mathews Chiran is a member of the indigenous Garo community and currently serves as a communication assistant at a non-profit organization.

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