We need to be careful and deliberate about ensuring equal representation, diverse storytelling, and fund women-led projects to move beyond contemporary gender issues says Brian Malika
Every morning while I jog, I bump into women from the villages of Shivakala carrying loads of heavy bananas, vegetables, maize, and sugarcane on their heads as they hurriedly walk in order to reach Kakamega town before the sun blazes in its full morning glory.
As I jog, relentless thoughts about how the world of technology has greatly improved over the years hover in my mind. Human beings have improvised ways through the technology of their day to make work easier and also to fulfill certain recreational aspirations.
Unequal benefits of technological progress.
For the women in my rural area of Kakamega, access to technology is a gender issue. The benefits of technology towards making their hustle easier is still a foreign reality. This is because of cultural prejudice that views women and girls’ meaningful involvement in the fields of science. engineering, mathematics, and technology to be taboo.
In my village, it’s frowned upon when girls ride bicycles when in fact such a skill could enable girls living in far-fetched areas to reach school earlier thus improving gender issues and access to education!
Harnessing the digital revolution.
It’s also presumed that the use of mobile phones and even computers are masculine and thus we are missing out on the special opportunity to fully harness the digital revolution in terms of enabling women and girls to reap the benefits of digital trading.
Breaking the digital divide between genders.
For instance, instead of women in my village carrying loads of farm harvests every morning to the market, they could team up and open a digital marketing platform where they could advertise and sell their harvests in the comfort of their homes. Through the help of logistics companies, they could deliver the harvests once an order is made. This is only possible if more women are enabled to take advantage of digital technological ventures without cultural restrictions.
It is my wish that my village understands how inclusivity and equality for all within the technology sector will accelerate the social and economic development of the community.
Three successful industrial revolutions.
Over the years, we have recorded three successful industrial revolutions. The first industrial revolution, which happened in the 18th century was a period when the use of mechanization was adopted to replace crude tools in agriculture. This period eased farm work which in turn boosted production since farmers were able to cover bigger chunks of work.
However, more energy was used by farmers to operate the machines invented in this period and this was a reason to deny women and girls the chance to shape this revolution because they were viewed to be weaker and softer beings with no energy to operate the invented machines.
The second industrial revolution in the 19th century ushering in the use of modern technologies to the efficacy of machines, there were better engines that used oil, telegraphs, and even chemical synthesis in manufacturing. Again, women and girls were under-represented.
The beginning of the third industrial revolution in the middle of the 20th century led to a digitized world of production and manufacturing using computers and the internet. Life was redefined since programmable computers and controllers helped achieve a high level of accuracy during production in this era. It is notably noted by research that women’s representation in the digitalization of development is skewed when compared to men.
Gender inequality during industrialization.
Through these three industrial revolutions, the quality of life generally improved in terms of education quality and access, medical care and research on vaccines, agricultural production, security surveillance, and even climate change monitoring. But on the flip side of the coin, the standards of gender equality were improving on a biased spectrum by favoring men over women. More importantly, if women and girls would have had a fair chance of participation in the former revolutions of development, then the gains achieved would have been bigger and better.
Characterized by the interconnection of digital technologies that will be embedded in different social scenarios of human life, the fourth industrial revolution promises to unearth milestones like the launching of driverless cars, robots performing surgical operations on humans, assisted living for people with severe disabilities, the first trip to mars
Therefore, if the world will be careful and deliberate in involving women as the world enters the fourth industrial revolution, then the promise to speed up the quality of life for all will be easier to accomplish.
Some of the ways that can be accelerated to ensure that the efforts of women are given fair representation during this revolution. We must advocate for more adolescent girls and young women from rural and hard-to-reach areas (like my community) to be incorporated into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics projects.
Equally, there needs to be enhanced digital media storytelling on the achievements and potentials for Black, Asian, Minority, and Ethnic women (BAME). Such an advocacy campaign will increase the self-esteem of the BAME female community towards participating in the fourth industrial revolution era.
Funding women-led projects.
Lastly, we need more women and adolescent girls in particular from disadvantaged communities to build on new technologies that can make the lives of women better. Simultaneously, these women should be given financial resources to scale up such technologies.
Brian Malika is the Founder of One More Percent (A grassroots media advocacy non-for-profit organization), is a young freelance Development journalist focusing on gender equality and disability rights. Brian believes that the ambition for achieving a just and fair world for all by the year 2030 as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals can be accelerated when traditionally marginalized women with disabilities and adolescents at the grassroots level speak out their mind for a prosperous world through an open and fair media that is anchored on intellectualism, transparency, and creative inclusion of marginalized female voices. So far, through his grassroots media organization, Brian Malika has been able to train 240 adolescent girls and young women (15-24 years) from rural areas of western Kenya on how to use policy as a tool to achieve gender equality by harnessing media spaces as a voice platform. This project was funded by the U.S Embassy in Nairobi under the State Department grants for exchange Alumni.