Increase opportunities for women in technology: Women leaders

Prothom Alo organised a discussion titled ‘Future of women and technological challenge’ ahead of the 8 March International Women’s Day. · Gender disparity in the country includes technological inequality as well. Technology should be available for both men and women. · Women who faced various obstacles in working outside can earn right from their home using technology.

Guests of a roundtable titled 'Future of women and technological challenge’ at Prothom Alo office in the capital's Karwan Bazar area on Monday, 27 February, 2023.Khaled Sarker

More opportunities have to be created for women in the technological field as it is impossible to establish gender equality in the world excluding technology out of the discussion.

The technological language has to be made easier and device has to be made available to achieve the goal. The cost of internet also has to be reduced.

Alongside the technological advancement, women have to be protected from rising online violence as well.

Women working in different fields made this observation at a roundtable, organised by Prothom Alo on Monday ahead of 8 March, the International Women’s Day.

The roundtable titled ‘Future of women and technological challenge’ was held at Prothom Alo office in the capital’s Karwan Bazar area. The theme for International Women’s Day this year is ‘DigitAll: Innovation and technology for gender equality’.

Former advisor of caretaker government and executive director of non-government organisation Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), Rasheda K Chowdhury said gender disparity in Bangladesh includes technological inequality also.

Technology should be available for both men and women, she added.

Rasheda K Chowdhury said even a girl from the farthest corner of the country can be motivated into pursuing technological studies by making the language of technology easily understandable to common people.

To ensure safe use of technology educators have to be trained and education budget has to be increased, she added.

Berger Paints managing director Rupali Chowdhury said many women have turned entrepreneurs using online platforms. However, if a women wish to enter the job market, cursory knowledge of technology won’t be enough; they have to have good command over at least some of the topics.

Fear of technology turns into an obstacle of learning about technology. To eliminate this fear children have to be made familiar with technologies right from the schools, she added.

Professor Sadeka Halim, chairperson of sociology department at Dhaka University said, women cannot move forward without breaking out of the patriarchal system. A goal of connecting lower and lower-middle class women with technology has to be set.

Government and non-government agencies have to coordinate in facing the challenge of bringing everyone under one umbrella, when it comes to technological facilities, she added.

Founder and managing director of Maliha Quadir believes internet cost should be reduced to increase the use of technology.

She said the high cost of internet is a major barrier to using technology. It costs more to use internet here compared to neighboring countries.

Technology is providing women with economic freedom. Women, who face restrictions from the family in working outside, can make an earning right from their homes using technology, she said.

According to Lafifa Jamal, a professor at the Robotics and Mechatronics department of Dhaka University, said just like food, clothing, shelter, education and healthcare, having internet access also has to be counted now among the basic needs.

Technology has to be brought within people’s reach, so that everyone can access it. In order to see Bangladesh playing an innovate role, opportunities must be given to women. Women can play greater roles if they are given a platform.

Special branch superintendent of police Mahfuza Liza said, 88 per cent of the women falling victim to online harassment aren’t taking any legal steps. Despite the police being ready to support, many women fear taking any legal steps for familial restrictions and social cultures.

Putting emphasis on raising awareness from the educational institutions about seeking legal assistance the police official said failure to ensure exemplary punishment might result in crimes going out of control. She urged women to be cautious of taking some security measures in using online technologies.

Former general secretary of Hill Women’s Federation Ilira Dewan said, people on the hill tracts became familiar with mobile phones and other technologies later than others.

Apart from that, people living on hills are even more backwards in using technology because of the region being remote, shortage of devices and feeble internet network.

Therefore, people on the hill require a little bit more opportunity and attention instead of equal opportunity, in the field of technology, she opined.

Head of Prothom Alo’s English Web Ayesha Kabir bringing up the example of garments factories said many factories have been automated and have started using robotics. As a result, the sphere of women’s employment is getting smaller.

It’s being said that men will be replacing women for having the technological knowledge. So, women in the garments factories need to be trained for making them accustomed to technology, she added.

Travelettes of Bangladesh co-founder and secretary Manoshi Saha said they have a group of 70,000 women now. They are indeed connected with these members by technology.

Although women are more dedicated workers compared to men, there’s a popular belief that women aren’t compatible in using technology. Men should advocate equally in establishing equal opportunities for women, she added.

Member of SAFF-winning women’s football team Sajeda Akhter (Sathi) said, “I am from Kolsindur village. We faced various obstacles in playing football, yet we came out victorious. Still there’s a lot of problems left there.”

Nazifa Jabin, a first year student at Jahangirnagar University’s Fine Arts Department who represented the young generation said, “I have seen in the case of some acquaintances, families also discriminate between boys and girls when it comes to using technology. The use of technology in villages is even lesser.”

Prothom Alo associate editor Shumana Sharmin moderated the session. She said, "We have to think about the future being in the present. The new generation is able to walk the path only because the older generation is paving that way for them."

She further said that what is relevant today becomes irrelevant tomorrow.

"So we must adapt quickly with technology. At the same time, the issue of women’s insecurity in the world of technology has to be kept in mind as well," Shumana observed.