Follow Us:

Mobile Learning for Women (by UNESCO Bangkok, ICT in Education)

© Flickr/World Bank Photo Collection

"Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.” (International Women’s Day, 8 March 2014, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon)

The UN has been adamant in promoting gender equality: in 1995 the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action called on countries to ensure equal access to education for girls, eradicate female illiteracy and expand the availability of vocational training for women. UNESCO’s Dakar Framework for Action in 2000 singled out girls’ education, codified as one of six Education for All (EFA) Goals. The goal on gender established two specific targets: 1) to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and 2) to achieve gender equality in education by 2015.

The collective efforts from the international community, governments and private sector have since helped expand the opportunities for women and girls to participate in education. The countries that had achieved the gender parity at the primary levels have increased from 57% in 1999 to 63% in 2011 (GMR 2013/4).  But despite the progress, 35 million girls of primary school age and 37 million girls of lower secondary school age are still out of school. The effect of these disparities contributes to disproportional literacy rates, where globally, two out of every three illiterate adults are women (UNESCO-UIS, 2014). Consequently, the question of literacy has become synonymous with providing learning opportunities for women and girls.

Facing the reality where the girls and women cannot properly attend schools due to economic, cultural and post-conflict challenges, mobile technologies have shed a new light on innovative ways to reach the unreached girls and women. Mobile technologies have indeed been increasingly utilized throughout the world for an array of purposes, in both developing and developed contexts. According to the International Telecommunication Union’s estimations, out of the seven billion people on Earth, over six billion have access to a functional mobile phone, bringing information to possibly some of the most remote parts of the world.  Consequently, a lot of locally based and international organizations feature this almost ubiquitous technology for education, frequently targeting women and girls.

As the leading agency in education, UNESCO has launched various mobile learning projects toward eradicating female illiteracy and empowering women as early as in 2011 with the Mobile Phone Literacy project supported by the US government. Over the past years, UNESCO’s mobile learning projects have since provided comprehensive support to governments and other stakeholders, including policy guidelines, illustrations of national cases, teacher training for mobile learning and key issues to consider when implementing mobile learning projects. Timely, this year’s Mobile Learning Week was co-organized with the UN Women to celebrate the various promising cases as well as explore the future of mobile technologies to empower women and girls. At the ground level, UNESCO has been supporting a new project in Myanmar to empower girls in rural regions by providing broadband technologies to schools and teacher training, starting in 2015.

It is evidenced in a number of celebrated mobile projects that mobile technologies do contribute to empowering the marginalized women. They include Ustad Mobile Literacy mLearning Project (Afghanistan), Bunyad Mobile-Based Post-Literacy Programme (Pakistan), Using Mobile Phones to Accelerate Literacy Education and Empower Afghan Women (Afghanistan), Pink Phone Revolution Project (Cambodia), Jokko Initiative (Senegal), Project ABC (Niger), and many more. Such projects take advantage of this inexpensive, economical, and widely available gadget. Often, the learning applications can run offline, making it easier to access the content in an Internet lacking location. The apps can be used in local languages, which proves to be much more effective in terms of learning outcomes. Some of these projects can also be used in addition to formal learning, but independently as well, in both rural and urban contexts. These frequently address the critical issue of illiteracy, encouraging leadership, and improving living conditions in a sustainable way, with one main goal of empowering women. The Pink Phone Revolution Project simultaneously uniquely addresses one of the challenges for mobile education for women, where men tend to own or take away the phones. By providing pink colored phones it aims to ensure that if a man does confiscate the phone, everyone can know that it is the woman’s phone that has been taken away.

Year 2015 will be a remarkable year. It celebrates the 20th anniversary after the Beijing Declaration as well as sets up a new agenda for education in Incheon, South Korea, in May 2015 for the next 15 years. The ICT in Education programme of UNESCO will continue supporting the Member States in leveraging new technologies to empower the marginalized and reach the unreached, including women and girls.


Contact info: Auken Tungatarova,; Jonghwi Park, 



GSMA Development Fund & Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. (2010). Women & Mobile: A Global Opportunity. A study on the mobile phone gender gap in low and middle-income countries. London, GSM Association. Retrieved from

ITU. (2013). Measuring the Information Society 2013. Geneva, Author. Retrieved from

UN. (2012). The Millennium Development Goals Report 2012. Retrieved from

UNESCO. (2014). EFA Global Monitoring Report 2013/4. Teaching and learning: Achieving quality for all. Retrieved from

UNESCO-UIS. (2014). International Literacy Data 2014. Retrieved from

UNESCO, UIS, & Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization. (2013). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Education in Five Arab States. A comparative analysis of ICT integration and e-readiness in schools in Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Palestine and Qatar. Retrieved from

UNESCO & UN Women. (2015). Concept Note: Mobile Learning Week 2015. Retrieved from

UNESCO, UN Women, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), & Microsoft. (2013). Girls in STEM and ICT Careers: The Path Toward Gender Equality. Retrieved from