UNESCO Launches “Women in African History: An E-Learning Tool” to tell the story of women at the forefront of development


"Nobody tells the story that African women are in the forefront of development” Dr Nkopsazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) recently stated at the African Media Leaders Forum in Addis Ababa in early November. UNESCO, through the launch of “Women in African History: An E-Learning Tool” is contributing to changing this story by promoting the central role of women in African history and its development through the use of ICTs.

Today, UNESCO’s Director-General Ms. Irina Bokova launches “Women in African History: An E-Learning Tool.”  This e-learning tool is composed of digital comic strips, rap/slam soundtracks and diverse pedagogical resources on a selection of women figures central to the history of Africa and its diaspora. The platform is dedicated to all students, pedagogues, teachers, and the general public interested in the General History of Africa, and particularly women’s role in the continued economic, social, cultural, and political development of the region.

The launch of this e-learning tool represents a crucial step to expand and disseminate knowledge of the role of women in African history to counter prejudices and stereotypes in the framework of “The Pedagogical use of The General History of Africa.” A mandatory requirement for success in the execution of “The Pedagogical Use of the General History of Africa” is the transformation and updating of the information initially made available in the 8 volumes of the collection in form and content.  This need for “updating” implies the use not only of new information and communication technologies now widely available and used on the African continent, but also the revision of content in light of developments within the field of historical studies.  This includes the need for particular attention to the role of women in the history of Africa with the development, since the end of Phase 1, of the field of “gender studies” and the important role women have played in African history.

“Women in African History: An E-Learning Tool,” implemented by the Knowledge Societies Division in the Communication and Information Sector of UNESCO, is an internet platform that consists of multimedia content including comic strips, interactive pedagogical units, audio modules, and quizzes in order to highlight the role of women in African History. The first phase of the project (2012/2013), launched today, is dedicated to the development of the architecture of the platform and the production of the first eight modules; a particular emphasis is given to historical women figures from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Diaspora. In this way, the project develops ICT tools for knowledge acquisition and sharing that encourages the general education and ICT capacity of young women, promotes the use of ICTs, and capitalizes on intangible heritage to promote the link between technology, culture, education, and sustainable development.  The first phase is available in English and French. 

In order to promote gender perspectives through the development of media and local content, 5 comic strip artists from Africa and the African diaspora, the majority under 35, participated in the development of multimedia content.  Illustrators from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Kenya, Madagascar, and Nigeria and hip-hop artists and slammers from across the United States, Senegal, and Eastern Africa have participated in the development of the pedagogical material that is now available and can be consulted on computers, mobile phones, and tablets and downloaded free of charge as open educational resources.  Furthermore, the content has been validated by the Scientific Committee for the Pedagogical Use of the General History of Africa and is in line with the provisions of the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access in Cyberspace adopted in 2003, and also responds to the efforts in the framework of the Memory of the World Programme to promote digital preservation across the African region. The outcome represents a fruitful collaboration between intellectuals, artists, technologists, and pedagogues that positions UNESCO as a platform for innovation, international cooperation and exchange.

Consult the e-learning platform here.