International Girls in ICT Day (28 April), established by International Telecommunication Union (ITU), is celebrated in over 150 countries around the world. The main purpose of this day is to celebrate girls and young women and encourage them to pursue studies and careers in the STEM and Information & Communication Technology sectors. The theme of International Girls in ICT Day 2022 by ITU, “Access and Safety”, was selected due to the discouraging and dangerous obstacles girls can sometimes face in the digital environment and try to bring out possible solutions to these challenges.
In recent years, Bangladesh has had remarkable achievements in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sectors and the impact reaches girls and women as well. According to the UNESCO Science Report 2021, Bangladesh demonstrates a strong profile and ambitious plans in science and technology. This is demonstrated by several national initiatives, including industry driving strong growth, a focus on economic zones and tech parks, support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to bridge the ‘huge financing gap’ and a new Engineering Research Council. The ICT initiatives are remarkable, especially in terms of grassroots entrepreneurship in the ICT sector with the engagement of girls from urban cities to rural areas. While more ICT based opportunities are evolving, there is an increasing challenge to provide safe digital space for women and girls. Globally, COVID-19 has triggered a sharp increase in violence against women and girls, including cyber harassment, online misogyny, hate speech directed at women. A UN Women report on Online and ICT facilitated violence against women and girls report state ‘when women and girls have access to internet, they face more violence than men.’
On the other hand, gender parity remains one of the major challenges, noting that only about 45% of students in the tertiary sector and 26% of students in universities are female in Bangladesh. It is also noted that enrolment in STEM subjects as a share of higher education enrolment stands at only 21% and that “the quality and job-readiness of the graduates is less than par”. For young women and girls to thrive in STEM and ICT, they need the knowledge, support, and empowerment of their communities. It is imperative to have systems and strategies in place to prevent and respond to online/cyber harassment to ensure a safe space for them. This entails providing a safe, secure and enabling environment to avail and access this digital space, while also empower young women with digital literacy, skills and strategies to counter such harassment. When girls can safely access and explore the digital world, they can start to imagine future STEM careers, ICT education and futures in technology for themselves.
 UNESCO (2021), UNESCO Science Report: The race against time for smarter development
 Brief-Online-and-ICT-facilitated-violence-against-women-and-girls-during-COVID-19-en.pdf (unwomen.org)
 General Economics Division, Bangladesh Planning Commission (Dec 2020), 8th Five Year Plan July 2020 – June 2025: Promoting Prosperity and Fostering Inclusiveness
On the occasion of International Girls in ICT Day 2022, the UNESCO Dhaka Office and the Asian Network of Youth Volunteers (ANYV), in partnership with UN Women and bdSTEM, are joining efforts in identifying the challenges and opportunities with regard to the access and safety of girls in ICT.