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Aava Murto's speech on Girls Takeover day, 7 October

Government Communications Department
7.10.2020 17.00
Speech 627/2020
Aava Murto, pääministerin sijainen 7.10.2020

Dear friends,  It is a pleasure to be speaking here before you today, although in a way I wish that I did not have to stand here, that campaigns like the Girls Takeover were no longer necessary.

However, the truth is that we have not yet achieved gender equality. Not anywhere on earth. Although we have accomplished a great deal of good in this area, there is still much work that needs to be done. Girls around the world are currently threatened from a frightening number of directions.

In the name of gender equality, I would like to talk to you today about girls and technology.

Gender stereotypes related to technology affect children from a very young age. If a girl says she plays video games, she is often considered weird. If, on the other hand, a boy says he does not play video games or have a game console, he is considered weird for that reason. When teachers have problems with technology, they usually ask the boys in the class to help. The default assumption is that boys are more interested and skilled in technology than girls. 

Despite these circumstances, some girls do not lose interest in technology. Despite these circumstances, some girls would like to study IT in school and someday even work in the technology sector.  However, they often face the same old obstacle: fear of being excluded and discriminated against. 

Online violence restricts freedom of speech and girls’ access to information. Three out of four girls and women have experienced violence online. I have spoken to female friends my age about online harassment, and it turns out that they have all been asked for nude pictures and they have all been sent nude pictures against their will. And this is just one example of the online violence we encounter. 

However, there is also a lot of good in technology. Technology makes it possible for me to communicate, seek information, broaden my perspectives, learn to evaluate sources and acquire digital skills. COVID-19 has played a particular role in demonstrating the importance of technology: thanks to technological solutions, I was able to receive high-quality education through remote learning.

That said, not everyone has the same opportunity to use technology as I do. Girls from developing countries are in the most vulnerable position. If a family can afford technology, the boys in the family are more likely to have access to it and the internet. In schools, boys learn digital skills more than girls.

All too often, girls in developing countries are excluded from the digital skills and know-how that could enable them to have a safer, better future. The World Economic Forum has estimated that over 90 per cent of future jobs will require advanced digital skills. What will happen to girls, especially the ones who live in developing countries?

Inequality affects many of us girls globally and impacts our lives in a variety of ways. That said, we girls are more than just victims, we represent enormous potential. With our help, many issues can be solved. 

Achieving equality serves us all in a great deal of ways. But in order to improve the position of girls and create a more equal future, we must allow their voices to be heard. Girls must be able to develop technology, so that we can create technological solutions that also take into account the needs and wishes of girls and women.

And in order to achieve this, we need to act fast. Attitudes need to change, and society needs to stop creating a gender for technology. We can decide how technology serves us.

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