UNESCO-Sabrina Ho initiative for women in the digital creative industries awards four outstanding projects

On August 31, UNESCO announced the four winning projects of the new "U40 Empowered, UNESCO-Sabrina Ho" initiative: #BeYourVoice (Mexico); Digital Theater by women for women (Palestine); DigitELLES (Senegal); and Academy of Digital Arts (Tajikistan). The projects, selected after a call for funding launched in February 2018, all seek to support and promote the participation of women in the digital creative industries.

While the digital revolution has inspired a new generation of artists and creators to push the boundaries of cultural expression and represents an immense potential for the cultural and creative industries, women's participation in the digital arts sector remains a challenge, the result of limited funding and infrastructure, low representation in the industry and discrimination. Yet, it is estimated that women's share of cultural employment is at least 45%. The "U40 Empowered, UNESCO-Sabrina Ho" initiative aim to remove these barriers to women’s participation in the digital creative industries, particularly by expanding their access to funding, infrastructure, equipment and co-production opportunities.

Of the 101 applications received, four outstanding projects have been selected. Each will receive on average 90,000 USD.

From Virtual Reality to the Academy of Digital Arts

As pioneers in their field, Teatro de aire (Mexico), Theater Day Productions (Palestine), Africulturban (Senegal) and Bactria Cultural Center (Tajikistan), have many years of experience and will explore through "U40 Empowered" disciplines that remain little exploited in developing countries, such as Virtual Reality.

#BeYourVoice (Mexico)

#BeYourVoice is a project developed by the Performing Arts company, “Teatro de Aire” at the interface of education and culture. It is designed to empower 100 young women, giving them the artistic, digital and entrepreneurship skills they need to succeed. #BeYourVoice will operate within a unique platform, using Virtual Reality technologies. Its experimental dimension can lead to new educational models, both in form and content that could be replicable in other sectors or countries.  Through this new VR e-learning tool, #BeYourVoice aims to increase women’s confidence, their employment opportunities and create a network of future decision-makers in the digital creative industries. 

Digital Theatre: For women, By women (Palestine)

Theatre Day Productions in Gaza has developed a new project intersecting digital animation, drama & storytelling and vocational training to build entrepreneurial, creative and technical skills among young women. They will learn to create short videos with their smartphones, work with communities and turn improvisation, character analysis and development into new digital creative expressions from Palestine that can be distributed through international festivals and regional markets. National and international trainers, using the latest digital technologies and software, will mentor these young women. In parallel, Theatre Day Productions will launch an advocacy campaign on culture, freedom of expression and women’s rights. It will use the results of the project to formulate a five-year strategic plan towards the introduction of curriculum on digital audiovisual production at a Palestinian university or public institution.

Waking Up: Digital. Women. Music. (Senegal)

Gender equality, artistic creation and freedom of expression are priorities for Africulturban who are working to awaken women and girls in Dakar to take ownership of their creative environments and develop their full potential. Through this project, Africulturban will provide a new digital training programme for young female artists working in the music industry to strengthen their technical and artistic skills. With the collaboration of Positive Planet International, they will provide opportunities for cultural management training and for the production of new cultural expressions using digital tools. Through this partnership, they will introduce collaborative co-working methods and the Human-Centred Design approach that will help these young women establish micro-enterprises and contribute towards achieving their financial independence. In parallel, Africulturban will launch an awareness raising campaign to combat stereotypes and empower women to fight against discrimination in this sector.

Digital Arts Academy (Tajikistan and Afghanistan)

Much of Tajikistan and Afghanistan’s cultural and educational infrastructure was destroyed by conflict and war, impeding their social and economic development. As they move towards rebuilding their countries, they face fundamental challenges, including the exclusion of women from economic and public spheres, including the tech world. Bactria Cultural Centre will establish a new Digital Arts Academy in Dushanbe for female cultural entrepreneurs under 40 from Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The academy will offer courses on coding, digital creation and entrepreneurship training to help them become competitive on the digital job market. The female graduates will be involved in developing new curriculum, teaching and mentoring future academy graduates. This will help break down barriers women face to spheres of influence. The Bactria Cultural Centre will launch a creative digital campaign designed by the graduates themselves, to help raise awareness of the role and creative capacities of women. Their digital artistic productions will be promoted, giving recognition to the contribution of women to the digital arts scene of Central Asia for the first time.

"U40 empowered", a tool for gender equality in the creative industry

The strategic partnership agreement between UNESCO and Sabrina Ho, a young cultural entrepreneur and philanthropist based in Macau and Hong Kong, was signed on November 9, 2017. Through this initiative launched under the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD), Sabrina Ho intends to promote women's access to the field of digital creation and mobilize around the question of gender equality in the creative industry. In her words:

Women struggle for access in the digital creative field. Gender equality affects us all and extends all the way up to the wealthiest and most glamourous fields we know. U40 Empowered is designed to increase opportunities for funding, infrastructure, equipment and co-production in the digital creative industries for women under 40

About Sabrina Ho

Founder and the Managing Director of Chiu Yeng Culture (CYC), as well as the Director and Chief Executive Officer of Poly Auction Macau Limited, Sabrina Ho places her focus in the development of art and culture by actively organizing various types of social activities to promote and empower young artists from different sectors in Macau. In 2015, she was ranked 17th on the 2015 Top 100 Global Chinese Art Market Man by Yi Dian China and Art Nova 2015 by Art Power 100.

To read the interview with Sabrina Ho, click here.

To consult the results of the Call, click here.