International Women’s Day 2023

Today the GFCE celebrates International Women’s Day. We reaffirm our commitment to supporting and empowering gender inclusion in the field of cyber security and capacity building.  

It is crucial to understand how gender considerations impact and are impacted by behavior in cyberspace, which has become a major policy objective of states and non-states actors. A key outcome of the 2021 Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security was a set of principles that guide capacity-building activities of states, referencing the nature of capacity building as respecting human rights, gender-sensitive, inclusive, universal, and non-discriminatory. 

The GFCE recognizes and shares the importance of all international commitments on gender equality in cyber security and cyber capacity building and has developed a preliminary agenda on ‘Mainstreaming Gender in and through Cyber Capacity Building’ to explore how its platform can form the basis for the development of a specific community-driven agenda for mainstreaming gender equality, diversity and social inclusion, focusing on three main objectives: 

  1. Promote references to and awareness of gender considerations in digital and security frameworks; 
  2. Support activities and analysis that encourage gender-sensitive cyber capacity building; 
  3. Coordinate with and complement stakeholder efforts to mainstream gender in cyber capacity building.  

A key initiative driving our efforts under these objectives is the GFCE’s support and facilitation of the Women in International Security and Cyberspace Fellowship. The fellowship, developed by the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia, United States, Canada and New Zealand, aims to ensure equal and effective representation of female diplomats in the United Nations cyber negotiations and contributes to the development of an international peer-to-peer community of female policy makers engaged in UN processes and cyber diplomacy 

The GFCE Secretariat is happy to celebrate International Women’s Day 2023 while on-the-ground in New York City at the United Nations for the fourth substantive session of the OEWG 2021-2025. In the context of the OEWG, the GFCE is supporting the Women in International Security and Cyberspace Fellowship program. This initiative, with support from the GFCE Secretariat, has facilitated thirty-five fellows to attend the fourth substantive session of the OEWG, taking place from 6-10 March 2023, advancing the participation of women in the discussions concerning cyberspace. Prior to the OEWG, the fellows attended a one-day training developed by UNITAR NYO together with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia, focusing on multilateral negotiations and capacity building sessions. 

Image 1. Women in Cyber Fellows at a one-day training developed by UNITAR NYO together with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia.

The Women in International Security and Cyberspace Fellowship program has supported the empowerment of women in the cybersecurity field, as explained by a current fellow of the program: 

“The Women in Cyber Fellowship has been essential to promoting gender inclusion in the cybersecurity field. The fellowship has helped to break down the barriers that have traditionally prevented women from entering and excelling in the cybersecurity field by providing a platform for women to effectively present their ideas and build consensus.”  

– Ms Klorenta Pashaj, Head of Communication and Information Dissemination Unit, National Authority on Electronic Certification and Cyber Security of Albania.

UNIDIR’s report into gender balance in arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament diplomacy ‘Still Behind the Curve’, found that the UN First Committee (under which the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) is convened) has the lowest proportion of female diplomats of any of the UNGA’s Main Committees. This initiative aims to uplift women from around the globe by addressing the need for a greater proportion of representation from women at the United Nations negotiations concerning cyberspace: 

“The women in cyber fellowship it’s a valuable experience according to the diplomatic mission of the negotiations at the cyber security for common goals(purposes), the collaboration on global level, strengthening the integrity and the position of women from all over the world on making decisions and integrating them to a friendly society as a big family.”  

– Ms Anxhela Hoxha, Civilian Specialist in the Operational Sector of the Military Cyber Unit of Albania.  

Moreover, the fellowship supports women through offering them opportunities to build a strong and growing network of female diplomats and other professionals with an interest in cyber and international security issues: 

“Working with the fellows and the experts meant sharing different experiences, which showed me that even though we come from different parts of the world, as women, we face the same challenges. […] Of course, there is still much to do. I strongly believe that this fellowship can really help to increase inclusivity and strengthen the role of women in cyberspace.

Ms Marica Ristevska, Senior Associate for Cyber Security, Directorate for NATO and Security Policy Ministry of Foreign Affairs North Macedonia.  

“I have met extraordinary women in this community – women from all the continents, that have brought their view on how to advance in building a stable and interoperable cyberspace. I have no doubt that in the future we will collaborate for a safer cyber world.” 

– First Secretary, UN and Specialized Agencies Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova. 

Overall, the GFCE Secretariat is honored to support the Women in International Security and Cyberspace Fellowship. The GFCE celebrates the ever-growing number of women in the cyber community and is constantly on the lookout to further discuss areas of opportunities for encouraging women to become even more involved in cyber capacity building processes.

Thank you to the women in our community for all the work that you do, and we look forward to continuing to support and empower women in our international cyber capacity building efforts.