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Girls & Women

"Girls and women should be seen and not heard"

What does the UN Women campaign tell us about how far we still need to go to achieve equality for girls and women.

The campaign that UN Women recently launched has shed light on the hundreds of web searches demoralizing and dehumanizing women worldwide. The series of ads created by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai reveals the widespread sexism and discrimination against women when phrases such as “women cannot”, “women need to” and “women shouldn’t” are typed into the Google search engine. This powerful and shocking campaign show us “how far we still have to go” to achieve gender equality.

Using the most popular search engine in the world, we inevitably come across such offensive “auto” choices in any area of interest. The Google support system describes autocomplete as “a reflection of the search activity,” which seems more like a reflection of social paradigms—major stereotypes targeted towards vulnerable social groups. We encounter these everyday verbally or spatially, and get a solid affirmation of their existence while web searching. Concerned about our comfort, Google created this feature to “rest our fingers” and simultaneously help us “rest our brains,” says the Guardian journalist Arwa Mawdahi.

Sadly enough, Arwa is right: “we let technology complete our thought process for us”. If so, global activists should take advantage of the power of Google search to shift disturbing social stereotypes and traditional gender roles. In an era of social responsibility, corporate giants like Google have been actively addressing global challenges. While implementing projects in health, development and crisis-response focused on vulnerable social groups, they can magnify socially responsible initiatives by generating positive attitudes towards marginalized groups and portraying them in a favorable light.

How remarkable it would be to see “disabled people are powerful” rather than “disabled people are a burden on society.” Young girls and boys who start using the Internet in a psychologically fragile age are exposed to such stereotypes on a daily basis. Wouldn’t we be molding more compassionate, responsive, inclusive societies if Google suggested “women should be loved” and “men should be loving” instead of “women are objects” and “men are better”.

At one stroke UN Women managed to highlight widespread gender prejudices, excite public curiosity and stimulate discussion. Google search bar is a generator of thoughts and ideas. It can be used to reflect social patterns and norms or choose to change them, to eradicate negative attitudes and create positive affirmations. While human rights advocates start approaching Google with partnership opportunities, let’s see what the future looks like... and the future is bright, says Autocomplete. Just like these real-time searches.

If you believe in securing a bright future for girls and women, join us in calling on world leaders to ensure that girls and women are at the heart of the new development agenda