Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


Opening of the Vienna Discussion Forum

  4 November 2021


Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for joining the Vienna Discussion Forum. I am grateful to Finland, Norway and Sweden, as well as our partners at UNIDO, for coming together with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime to organize this year’s event on cyber equality and digital inclusion.

Women and girls make up the majority of the world’s 3.7 billion unconnected people. In the Least Developed Countries, only 15 per cent of women used the Internet in 2019. 

Digital exclusion robs women and girls of work and education opportunities, while the underrepresentation of women in the tech workforce is an obstacle to gender-inclusive products and services.

At the same time, women and girls are harmed the most by online sexual exploitation, which increased during COVID lockdowns.

We need to do more to stop predators from misusing technology to facilitate abuse, and we need to better harness tech to advance inclusion and promote women’s rights.

UNODC is proud to support Member States in leveraging technology to protect and empower women and girls worldwide.

We recently published guidance on how e-justice mechanisms and other measures can improve access to justice for victims of gender-based violence in a crisis, based on an analysis spanning close to 100 countries.

Through seminars and school visits in West Africa and in Central America, we are raising public awareness of cyber-enabled crimes that target women and girls, such as sextortion and online sexual exploitation.

We have also launched a support network for women working in cyber professions in Africa, so they can learn from each other and advance their careers.

Women have a key role to play as innovators and agents of change in our societies. Let us use this Vienna Discussion Forum to share best practices for advancing digital inclusion, so that women can fully participate in building a fairer, more just, and more resilient world.

I wish you fruitful discussions. Thank you.