Power relations in the world will remain male-dominated if girls and women do not strongly get involved in technological professions, United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres said Saturday.
Speaking at an event to encourage girls to learn coding, Mr. Guterres said concerted efforts should be made to ensure more girls the world over are enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics studies.
“If girls and women are not strongly involved in technological professions, the power relations in the world will remain very male dominated and that is exactly what we do not want. We are in the frontline of this battle,” the Secretary General said.
He said the absence of women from such influential professions was also the reason why in Africa for example, ‘we still have difficulties of girls trying to go to school or we have genital mutilation or early marriages’.
“One of the central problems that women and girls face in the whole world is that our world is organized in such a way that power is more in the hands of men than in the hands of women. So it is essential that we change the power relations to make it equilibrium between men and women,” said Mr. Guterres.
“We are doing it with clarity in the UN but one of the problems we have is that in technology professions – engineers, mathematicians – we are having, unfortunately, a huge proportion of men and a small proportion of women.”
He shared with the African Girls Can Code team that when he was in university studying to become an electrical engineer, his class had 300 boys and just one girl.
“This is what we need to change. We are not yet there. We need to make big efforts to have more and more girls into technological courses. It’s absolutely crucial that we do so,” the UN Chief said.
He added that one of his main objectives at the UN was to reach gender parity at all levels in the structures of the organization.
The girls got an opportunity to show off their skills to an impressed Mr. Guterres who congratulated and encouraged them to continue. Maphanga Sizolwethu from eSwatini showed the Secretary General a programme she designed to ensure free and fair elections.
Letty Chiwara, UN Women Representative to Ethiopia, the African Union and the Economic Commission for Africa, said she was impressed by the young girls’ interest and prowess in coding.
“I can assure you that at this rate the next Mark Zuckerberg will come from Africa,” she said.
The Secretary General is in Addis Ababa to attend the 32nd African Union Summit which this year is being held under the theme; Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa.