Gender and democracy

Promoting the rights of women and girls to vote in Sierra Leone national elections

In the lead up to the recent presidential elections in Sierra Leone, our female journalists were engaging women from local communities on their right to equal participation and representation in democratic processes.

Our senior journalists produced weekly podcasts for distribution through fifteen community-based listening centres and peer-to-peer phone transfers that encouraged women to exercise their right to vote and be informed.

Women's rights activists raised concern about the lack of female candidates and were disappointed with the fifteen political parties for not supporting more women to run for office.

Doris Webber, who hosts one of our listening centres (WADDO), said: "I am worried about what the governance system would look like in Sierra Leone in the absence of women in the system as it keeps dropping down from 30% in 2007 to less than 7% in 2018 although women form a higher overall percentage of the voting population." 

It was also reported that women faced discrimination and intimidation during the electoral process. Rd. Nemata Majesk-Walker, the founder and first president of the 50/50 group, an organisation advocating for equal opportunities and representation of women in Sierra Leone, expressed her concern on the issue of the unwillingness of women to support their fellow women in the election process. 

We will continue to work with our journalists and communities to promote equal participation for women in all governance processes.

Ndeamoh Mansaray, Senior Journalist
Media Matters for Women Sierra Leone

Director of DRC partner receives global award

Julienne Lusenge honoured with International Women's Rights Award

A cross-regional alliance of 25 human rights organisations in Geneva, Switzerland has chosen Julienne Lusenge, Country Director of Media Matters for Women's Wamama Tujenge podcast programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to receive the 2018 International Women's Rights Award from the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.  Julienne is a grassroots activist in DRC who also leads the fight against rape as President of Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development (SOFEPADI). She received the award at a ceremony held at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva on February 20, 2018, where she addressed an audience of 700 U.N. diplomats, human rights activists, students and journalists from around the world. 

“I am humbled and deeply moved by this recognition from the Geneva Summit coalition,” said Ms. Lusenge, who accepted the award just before the DRC took its seat for the first time at the 2018 opening session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

When war erupted in eastern DRC in 1998, Ms. Lusenge was a journalist who heard first-hand from victims of abuse by warring parties, including rape and sexual slavery.

An estimated 48 women are raped every hour in the DRC, a country known as the “rape capital of the world.” Outraged, she founded the Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development (SOFEPADI), a coalition of 40 women’s organisations in eastern DRC.

Today, Ms. Lusenge and her group help survivors of sexual violence in the DRC to bring perpetrators before courts, and promote reintegration of survivors into their communities.

 “Women are the first victims of war, but only they hold the unique key to peace,” says Ms. Lusenge.  “I dream of the day when there will no longer be any weapons that support violence in my country.”

Ms. Lusenge was chosen for the award "for her selfless dedication to the human rights of Congolese women amid the horrors of war, and for being a voice to the voiceless," said Hillel Neuer, the executive director of United Nations Watch, a co-organizer of the conference together with Liberal International, Human Rights Foundation, and more than 20 other human rights groups.

Ms. Lusenge was honoured with other of the world's most courageous champions of human rights at the Geneva Summit, including dissidents, activists and former political prisoners from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Pakistan, Turkey, Venezuela and China, who will be testifying on the human rights situation in their countries.

“I am humbled and deeply moved by this recognition from the Geneva Summit coalition,” said Ms. Lusenge, who accepted the award just before the DRC took its seat for the first time at the 2018 opening session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

When war erupted in eastern DRC in 1998, Ms. Lusenge was a journalist who heard first-hand from victims of abuse by warring parties, including rape and sexual slavery.

An estimated 48 women are raped every hour in the DRC, a country known as the “rape capital of the world.” Outraged, she founded the Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development (SOFEPADI), a coalition of 40 women’s organisations in eastern DRC.

Today, Ms. Lusenge and her group help survivors of sexual violence in the DRC to bring perpetrators before courts, and promote reintegration of survivors into their communities.

 “Women are the first victims of war, but only they hold the unique key to peace,” says Ms. Lusenge.  “I dream of the day when there will no longer be any weapons that support violence in my country.”

Ms. Lusenge was chosen for the award "for her selfless dedication to the human rights of Congolese women amid the horrors of war, and for being a voice to the voiceless," said Hillel Neuer, the executive director of United Nations Watch, a co-organizer of the conference together with Liberal International, Human Rights Foundation, and more than 20 other human rights groups.

Ms. Lusenge was honoured with other of the world's most courageous champions of human rights at the Geneva Summit, including dissidents, activists and former political prisoners from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Pakistan, Turkey, Venezuela and China, who will be testifying on the human rights situation in their countries.

New Leadership in Sierra Leone

A new Board of Directors for Media Matters for Women in Sierra Leone has been formed to provide strategic advice and support to our excellent team of journalists in Sierra Leone. The Board Chair is Fatmata Dainkeh Katta who, like many of the other new board members, began her radio career at Cotton Tree News (CTN), the largest public service media project in post-war Sierra Leone, where she worked as a journalist, presenter, and producer. 

Other board members include Millicent Kargbo, Florence Katta Sesay, Mariama Khai Fornah, Mariama Sesay, and Yeama Thompson. Most have worked together in various media outlets in Sierra Leone and currently hold challenging positions at the Office of the First Lady, the U.S. Embassy Office of Public Affairs, BBC Media Action Sierra Leone, Open Data Network, IRIN Community Radio Network, and Initiatives for Media Development.

The new Sierra Leone Board will soon be joined by Sybil Bailor, a member of our International Board of Directors who has recently moved back to Sierra Leone from the United Kingdom and has spent the last decade working on international development with CARE, The World Bank, and Plan International. 

A warm welcome to all our new Board Members!

Measuring Impact in Sierra Leone

Sarah Bomkapre Kamara, a Sierra Leonian currently earning her PhD in journalism in Germany, completed a comprehensive evaluation of Media Matters for Women's work in Sierra Leone in June 2017.

Sarah’s task was to determine how our pilot projects had performed in effectively communicating with “last mile” populations and to understand whether our programs had positively impacted people’s lives. Sarah worked with all of our local staff and traveled to all 15 of our Listening Centres to study our innovative media network and distribution approach.

Concerning audience appreciation -- a top performance metric for our organisation -- Sarah wrote in her final report that “the programmes produced are relevant and informative.”  One testimonial Sarah cites is from Fatmata Tejan from Waterloo community: “I used to self-inject myself with family planning drugs which led to complications, but since I listened to Media Matters for Women's Family Planning programme I learnt I should only go to a health centre to get correct services and that is what I do now.”

Concerning broadcast reach -- another key performance metric -- Sarah noted that “in all of Media Matters for Women's 15 listening centres at least 40 women were reached directly with weekly programmes, although several had significantly more regular listeners. For example, the Masantigie listening centre outside Waterloo (Western Area Rural District) draws 100 to 200 citizens to hear the weekly broadcasts.  Another example of our success in establishing a notable broadcast reach is from Antonette Jeneba Koroma, the Focal Point Person at the OIC Vocational Training Centre in Makeni, who reported that she has received over 500 women and girls to hear the latest programme from our journalist Alinah Kallon in her school each week.”

Sarah concluded her evaluation report with the following: “The impact of Media Matters for Women's communication network on the lives of rural women in Sierra Leone is really phenomenal. The many testimonies from the listeners we met – both female and male of all ages - about issues affecting their lives covered in the programmes were incredibly moving.”

Replicating Our Success in DRC

Media Matters for Women is rolling out our concept to rural areas of Central and East Africa following four years of successful programming in Sierra Leone.

Jeanne Kibuo Mbweki, an experienced broadcast journalist working with the Fund For Congolese Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was flown by Media Matters for Women to Sierra Leone to work for one month with our team and observe an international team of evaluators and leadership who visited at the same time. Jeanne was able to meet with all of our fifteen (15) Listening Centres spread across three districts -- Northern Province, Eastern Province and Western Area Rural. She interviewed numerous listeners and worked alongside our journalists and Executive Director as they evaluated the success of their weekly audio programme distribution from January to June 2017 for the AmplifyChange Opportunity grant provide by Mannion Daniels.

Jeanne said when she returned: “My journey to Sierra Leone in June 2017 for training and consultation was an excellent opportunity for me to discover the innovative approach of our organisation and consider its possible adaptation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I enjoyed every moment working with the Sierra Leone team, the evaluators, and Executive Director studying the project to better understand its effectiveness.”

Jeanne has completed a detailed implementation plan for testing our approach in DRC over the next nine months. In a first pilot phase, our Bluetooth distribution method will be tested in six listening centres outside of Kinshasa. In a second pilot project, we will test whether local journalists can replicate the Wamama Tujenge podcast format by creating weekly podcasts of their own using Mobile Production Units (MPUs) similar to those used by our journalists in Sierra Leone.