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  • Writer's pictureEQUALS

EQUALS: A look back at 2021

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

As the global COVID-19 pandemic continued in 2021, EQUALS partners recognized the increasing urgency of our goals. Throughout the year, partners in our Access, Skills, Leadership and Research coalitions applied their expertise, resources and dedication to closing the gender digital divide.

The sectors represented by our partners, including academia, government, civil society and the private sector, each have unique strengths and ways of working. By bringing those strengths together, we can build a better, more connected digital future. We are unwavering in our goal of ensuring that everyone – no matter their gender – must be able to access and use digital technology and all its benefits.

Taking a final look back at 2021, before we get on with the great work of the coming year, here are some of the many successful efforts from the EQUALS Global Partnership in 2021.


Lead Partners: World Bank and GSMA with local partners DOT, Natview and TrickleUp!

Location: Rwanda, Uganda, Nigeria

The aim of these pilots is to test different models of delivering digital skills training to women and girls in three countries. The results and lessons learned from these pilots will then be used to inform future digital skills interventions to empower women and girls to thrive in the digital economy.

Lead Partners: ITU and EIF

Location: Burundi, Ethiopia, Haiti

A joint project of EIF and ITU as a contribution to EQUALS, that works with policymakers to mainstream a gender perspective in domestic policies and regulations to ensure women participate fully in the digital economy. It provides skills and opportunities to drive women's economic opportunities in the textile and apparel industries and agricultural sector in Burundi, Ethiopia and Haiti. This year 650+ participants benefitted from capacity development activities on digital skills and digital economy, and 48 digital economy policies, strategies and regulations were assessed on their gender responsiveness.

Lead Partners: EY, GSMA, ITU and W4

Location: Global

EQUALS Her Digital Skills aims to design and provide access to free, gender transformative, foundational digital skills training, e-skills badges, and e-mentoring for one million women and girls by 2026. The initiative brings together three EQUALS projects into one comprehensive program: Tech4Girls workshops, EQUALS Badges, and e-mentoring. The initiative has reached 3000+ girls and young women from 16 to 25 years old across Taiwan, Kenya, Uganda, the Commonwealth, Caribbean, USA, Burundi, Australia, Pakistan, Nepal, South Africa, and the UK.

Lead Partner: ITU with regional and local partners

Location: Global

International Girls in ICT Day reached its 10th anniversary in 2021. To celebrate, ITU and partners developed a program of virtual events, launching a new decade of Girls in ICT and contributing to the goals of the EQUALS Skills coalition. The events aimed to build ​momentum and awareness about the importance of encouraging girls in STEM, to engage key stakeholders and communities, and to provide an inclusive platform to discuss the best ways to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers.

Lead Partners: Various EQUALS partners

Location: Global

In 2021, UN Women, co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France, convened the

Generation Equality Forum, a gathering bringing together partners from all over the world, each committing to specific actions designed to make immediate, irreversible progress toward gender equality. Many EQUALS partners made organizational commitments to the effort, and the partnership as a whole agreed to two collective commitments:

  • Design and provide access to free, gender-transformative, foundational IT skills training and e-mentoring for one million women and girls by 2026 via the program EQUALS Her Digital Skills

  • Increase the visibility, business and digital skills, mentoring and networking opportunities for 10,000 women leaders and entrepreneurs in the technology sector by 2026, powered by the EQUALS Global Partnership

Lead Partners: UN Women, ITC SheTrades and ITU

Location: Global (online)

From October to December on the ITU Academy platform, EQUALS partners provided a free, introductory course aimed at providing basic leadership and project management skills to 160 women entrepreneurs in the tech sector, representing 80 countries. To improve the success of women entrepreneurs in tech, the course was designed to cover critical skills needed for daily operations of companies already established by women.

Lead Partners: ITU with USTTI

Location: Global

With its partners in the United States government, ITU kicked off a series of webinars for current and aspiring female leaders, regulators, entrepreneurs and early to mid-career professionals in the ICT sector, who have strong interest in inclusive digital economic development. The sessions were designed to facilitate an exchange of knowledge and lessons learned, serving to empower new voices and capture diverse ideas to help work towards universal connectivity. Over 570 participants representing 90 countries benefited from this activity.

Lead Partner: ITU with Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST)

Location: Africa and Arab regions

ITU and partners organized a new initiative for empowering women in the cybersecurity sector. By engaging role models and leaders in this field, and connecting them with talented women worldwide, the Women in Cyber Mentorship Programme builds on the CyberDrill 2020 Empowering Women in Cybersecurity Webinar, where the need for role models and mentorship was identified as pivotal for increasing the number of women leaders in cybersecurity.

Initiative: EQUALS-EU

Lead Partners: Oslo Metropolitan University

Location: Global

EQUALS-EU aims to build capacity in gender-inclusive innovation in Europe and partner countries worldwide with an ambitious and value-driven agenda. It is an initiative funded by the EU Horizon 2020 Framework Programme and implemented as part of the EQUALS Global Partnership. In 2021, EQUALS-EU began implementing four innovative activities: 1) Map gender-inclusive innovation ecosystems in over 20 countries, 2) Host innovation camps and hackathons in over 25 countries, 3) Run a six-month incubator program focused on gender-inclusive entrepreneurship, and 4) Hold a one-month boot camp for future leaders in gender-inclusive innovation.

Lead Partners: All

Location: Global

In its flagship annual celebration, the EQUALS Global Partnership announced the 2021 EQUALS in Tech Award winners in December. The five winning initiatives were selected by an expert panel of judges for their vision, significant impact, regional importance and tireless work in bridging the gender digital divide. From a field of 155+ nominees and 25 finalists, five winners were announced, one in each of five categories: Access, Skills, Leadership in Tech, Leadership in SME, and Research.


Despite the many setbacks and difficulties resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, EQUALS partners persevered in their critical work to connect and empower girls and women all over the world with the benefits of the digital age.

In 2021, EQUALS gained 7 new partners, each committed to adding their unique contributions to the goal of gender equality in the digital age. EQUALS partners share responsibility for setting the partnership’s goals and ensuring its continuity. To that end, Access coalition leadership changed hands in 2021 from founding partner GSMA to a shared responsibility by ESOA and Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT). In an annual tradition, the position of Steering Committee Chair was also transferred in 2021. Belinda Exelby of GSMA handed the responsibility to Vanessa Erogbogbo of ITC at the EQUALS annual partnership meeting.

With our partnership energized and committed to our shared goals, we look forward to working together in 2022, building on our successes and facing challenges together. To find out more about our work, please visit, and follow us on social media.

Learn more

The EQUALS Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age is a network of 100+ organizations, companies, UN agencies and research institutions – whose founding partners include the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), UN Women, International Trade Centre, GSMA, and United Nations University. Together, the partnership works to bring the benefits of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to women and girls, and to help women succeed in the tech sector.

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