Photo: Vladimir Valishvili/UNDP

Women in remote and rural communities will benefit from a new USD 350,000 initiative spearheaded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to improve access to digital services as part of Georgia’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new 18-month project focuses on ensuring that women and vulnerable groups enjoy equal access to digital public services and benefit from online training and employment opportunities. Funded by a UNDP rapid response facility, it will be run in partnership with the Parliament’s Gender Equality Council.

“COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to online services, both globally and in Georgia,” said UNDP Head Louisa Vinton. “Building on what we’ve learned during the pandemic, our aim is to apply digital tools to address persistent gender gaps in access to public services and the labor market in rural areas.”

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Georgia just as a major digital reorientation in the governance system was underway. Pandemic-mandated restrictions on physical contact have accelerated this shift towards the delivery of public services online. More than 700 public services are currently delivered through online platforms, from telehealth to communication with municipal representatives.

The pandemic showed, however, that the benefits have been uneven, leaving rural areas and at-risk groups underserved. Less than half of the rural population uses the Internet every day, compared to 65 percent in urban areas. Usage rates are lower for women in both urban and rural settings (Source: NDI).

This digital gender gap creates obstacles for women seeking public services in pandemic conditions, particularly in rural areas. And it exacerbates structural barriers that predate the pandemic. The average monthly wage for women in Georgia is just 64 percent that of men, and 37 percent of women aged 15 to 29 are not in employment, education or training (NEET), against 25 percent for men (Source: UN Women)

To help close these gaps, UNDP will work with the Parliament, the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure and local municipalities to expand access to electronic public services in remote and rural areas, improve job opportunities for rural women by offering new online training and coaching opportunities, and support the roll-out of online business services for women entrepreneurs.        

“Digitalization gives us the tools we need not just to adapt to the pandemic but also to infuse innovation into the economy,” said Nino Tsilosani, who serves on the Parliament’s Gender Equality Council. “This new project complements our other joint efforts with international partners.”

The new UNDP project, “Improving access to digital services for a gender-equal recovery,” will be managed through the wider UN Joint Programme for Gender Equality, implemented by UNDP, UN Women and the UN Population Agency with funds from the Government of Sweden.

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