Sixty Seventh Session of the United Nations Commission on the
Status of Women (CSW67)
National Statement by
Lord Vaea, Minister for Internal Affairs of the Kingdom of Tonga
Priority theme: “Innovation and technological change, and education in the
digital age for achieving gender equality and the
empowerment of all women and girls.”
6-17 March 2023, United Nations Headquarters, New York.
Madam Chair, Congratulations on taking your Chair for the Sixty Seventh Session, on the Commission of the Status of Women.
Tonga affirms their support of the CSW67 priority theme, as we consider innovation, technological changes and education in this digital age, and its impacts on women and girls.
The target of the Tonga Strategic Development Framework (TSDF) II 2015-2025, for universal internet access aligns with the priority theme.
The National ICT Policy strives to maximize the power and versatility of global connectivity while preserving Tonga’s culture and values. Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality Policy in Tonga envisions gender equality by 2025, sadly this will not be realized.
However, there is much to gain from the digital era through the different technological platforms that has encouraged e-learning, efficient communication, digital services, and the use of the social
The 2021 Population Census indicated that more women than men own a mobile phone and use mobile data.
However, with these gains come challenges – cyber security, online threats, exploitation, the need for data protection, on-line bullying, abuse and gender-based violence. The unequal access to new technology, is due to geographical and disability accessibility challenges, and the unaffordability of technological devices.
Domestic Violence service providers are now providing interactive online services ensuring services are accessible. An app allows the timely reporting of domestic violence, and provision of urgent support.
A 2017 government survey indicated cyber bullying and crime are recognised as a form of gender-based violence, in which 59% surveyed were female.
All government secondary schools have internet access in Tonga however connectivity is sporadic. E-learning including radio ensured our children continued with their education enabling classes including TVET institutions and universities, during the covid-19 lockdown.
Madam Chair, we will encourage women and girls to study STEM related fields and collaborate on new initiatives for women on renewable energy, such as with the SIDs DOCK Island Women Open Network (IWON), currently led by the Tonga Prime Minister.
We have seen how technology can help us address climate change, natural disasters, covid-19, education and work. In early 2022, a volcanic eruption Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai and tsunami, broke the submarine cable which disconnected all communications with Tonga and the world for about 10 days.
There are still challenges that needs to be addressed, such as:
a. There are no systematic ICT training programs highlighting the need to train more ICT Teachers in public schools. Only 9% are ICT teachers.
b. There is a lack of sex or gender dis-aggregated data and gender analysis, regarding many of the ways in which these new technologies are intersecting with gender relations, and cultural transformations, are underway.
Madam Chair, we call on the international community and multilateral agencies to support us to:
a. Improve Investment on digital technologies to empower women and girls and close the gender digital divide including on climate change, disaster risk reduction, digital development and on gender transformative innovation.
b. Support the development of policy and regulatory guidelines for affordable internet access for all particularly for women and girls.
c. Invest in the encouragement of women and girls to study STEM related fields including to increase ICT-qualified female teachers in schools, and women in technology and engineering
research and development, including energy
d. Improve internet access in primary and secondary educational institutions.
e. Invest on safeguard for online cyber bullying and gender-based violence
f. Collect gender, sex, disability data on women’s specific issues on technological and digital innovations.
16. Madam Chair, I must echo some of my esteemed fellow speakers at this CSW67 Session, that “we must dare to dream” and “we must dare to do” , to address the gendered impacts of innovation and technology, to bridge the digital gender divide.
I thank you.
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