Women in the Changing World of Work: Virtual Skills School "WeLearn"

On Thursday 16 March 2017, during the 61st edition of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61), UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka spoke to experts in sustainable solution, women empowerment, and information technology about the changing world of work with the need for 21st century skills.

Photo Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown​ - (Left to rig​ht) Anna Falth, Manager of Empower Women, UN Women; Mark Kaplan, VP of Sustainable Solutions, Unilever; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director,UN Women; Meg Jones, Chief, Economic Empowerment Section, UN Women

Moderator of the event Meg Jones, Chief, Economic Empowerment Section, UN Women, started off the panel by asking the question why it is still a challenge for women and girls to have access to education. Executive Director answered this crucial question by stating 6 key reasons:

  1. ​​​​Stereotypes and cultural norms that undervalue women and girls.
  2. The expectations for girls are they will get married soon and will have someone who can take care of them.
  3. Poverty also plays a huge role. When money is scarce, parents in impoverished countries need to decide who can get the education. Girls are left out of this decision, because there is a plan B for them, which is to get married.
  4. Schools are far and transportation is scarce.
  5. Lack of resources and hygiene in schools can often be a hindrance for kids. There aren’t many products or resources for girls who menstruate in school. Which is why to avoid the hassle, girls skip school for that week every month. This leads to many absences.
  6. Lack of resources in homes in the country: When there is lack of water, food or any other infrastructure in a home, the women and girls are the ones who make up for it and fetch water and food. This takes up time and energy and is a priority over school.


"There are over 52 million girls who should be in school and instead, ​they aren’t in​ school. And about 700 million girls who ar​​e alive right now were married before the age of 18.“ Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director

Photo Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown - Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women​

Virtual skills school "WeLearn"

Instead of people getting no education, it is better to have a platform that can provide education virtually. The virtual skills school "We Learn" is designed to gain access to education, learn life skills, gain entrepreneurship knowledge, and prepare people in getting a job. 

"My vision in the 21st century, in the day that we live in, it should be possible for us to provide education to girls and women, and for that matter anyone ​​who needs education…no matter who they are, no matter where they are, as long as we can facilitate that they get the device through which to receive education.” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women

As of now, the content in the virtual skills school is related to financial literacy. In addition to women and girls, men and boys will benefit from this as well. In the virtual skills school content, there will be images of women in non-traditional roles to showcase women as leaders and to show men that women can do it too.

For people who don’t have access to internet in rural areas, there will be an offline method to learn the skills and gain knowledge. According to Soren Thomassen, Chief, Information Technology, UN Women, this offline method consists of a small computer, very little power usage, and an SD card.  The small computer already has a networking device installed. All of the learning content is stored on a small SD card.

Photo Credit : UN Women/Ryan Brown​ - Srishti Bakshi, 2016-2017 Champion for Change, Empower Women

Srishti Bakshi, 2016-2017 Champion for Change, Empower Women, is one of the champions who will be on the field helping people in accessing the virtual skills school. In addition, Shristi has her own initiative called Project CrossBow which aims to address gender parity in India. 

​​To implement this project, Shristi will be walking 2,860 miles across India from South to North in Srinagar for marginalized women. You can virtually join Shristi by downloading their app which will be launching soon. You can join your steps to hers and for each step you take, you can unlock funds to the virtual skills school "WeLearn".

"It’s a life full of learning and learning doesn’t stop when you finish school, it doesn’t stop with your formal e​ducation. You have to have the mindset for learning for life, and learning every day for the rest of your life.” Anna Falth, Manager of Empower Women, UN Women

You can access the virtual skills school ​content by simply registering on the WeLearn website.

Author: Khushbu Kapadia, UN Women's Internal Communications Intern

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