MMW's Julienne Lusenge Wins Prestigious Award

A cross-regional alliance of 25 human rights organizations in Geneva, Switzerland has chosen MMW's Julienne Lusenge, Executive Director of our "Wamama Tujenge" podcast program, to receive the 2018 International Women's Rights Award from the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.  Julienne is a grassroots activist in the Democratic Republic of Congo who also leads the fight against rape.  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 abuses 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 organizations 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 Executive Board of Directors for MMW-SL has been formed to provide strategic advice and support to our excellent journalistic team 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, and Yeama Thompson. Most have worked together in various media outlets in Sierra Leone and currently hold challenging positions at BBC Action Media, Open Data Network, IRIN Community Radio network, the Office of the First Lady, and the U.S. Embassy Office of Public Affairs.

The new MMW-SL Board will soon be joined by Sybil Bailor, a member of the MMW International Board of Directors who has recently moved back to Sierra Leone from Europe. 

A warm welcome to all new MMW-SL Board members!

Measuring Impact in Sierra Leone

Sarah Bomkapre Kamara, a Sierra Leoneon 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 MMW’s 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 every MMW-SL Listening Center to study our innovative media network.

Concerning audience appreciation, a top performance metric for MMW, Sarah wrote in her final report that “the MMW 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 MMW on the family planning programme I learnt I should only go to a health center to get correct services and that is what I do now.”

Concerning broadcast reach, another key performance metric for MMW, Sarah noted that “in all of MMW’s 15 listening centers at least 40 women were reached directly with weekly programmes,  although several had significantly more regular listeners. For example, the Masantigie Listening Center in Waterloo (Western Rural) 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 Person at the OIC Vocational Training Center in Makeni, who reported that she has receives over 500 women and girls to hear the latest programme from MMW journalist Alinah Kallon in her school each week.”

Sarah concluded her evaluation report with the following: “The impact of the MMW communication network on the lives of rural women in Sierra Leone is really phenomenal. The many testimonies from the listeners we met – both women and men - about issues affecting their lives covered in the MMW programs were incredibly moving.”

Replicating Our Success in DRC

Media Matters for Women is rolling out our successful concept in Sierra Leone to rural areas of East Africa. 

Jeanne Kibuo Mbweki, an experienced broadcast journalist working with the Fund For Congolese Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was flown by MMW to Sierra Leone to work daily with our team and to also observe an international team of evaluators who visited at the same time. Jeanne was able to meet with all of our 15 MMW Listening Centres spread across three districts, speak with a variety of listeners, and work alongside our journalists as they created their weekly audio programmes.

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 MMW and to consider its possible adaptation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I enjoyed every moment working with the MMW-SL team and the evaluators studying the project to better understand its effectiveness.”

Jeanne has completed a detailed implementation plan for testing the MMW approach in DRC over nine months. In a first pilot phase, our Bluetooth distribution method will be tested in six listening centers 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 MMW journalists in Sierra Leone. 

Update on DRC Project

MMW and our two partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Fund for Congolese Women (FFC) and Women@TheTable, received a grant from Millicom Foundation to create a pilot podcast called Wamama Tujenge ("Women Building Peace").  It was first broadcast across  the DRC on 25 November, 2017 as part of the global “16 Days of Activism to Eliminate Violence Against Women” campaign.   It reached over 700,000 listeners on a network of community radio stations organized by Foundation Hirondelle.

Julienne Lusenge, globally celebrated women’s rights activist hosts the Wamama Tujenge podcast which tells the stories of ordinary Congolese women who do extraordinary things.  The podcasts explore amazingly personal journeys of women leaders throughout the DRC, and they all begin with a single question:  "Why do things have to be this way?"

From courageous women in rural villages to those working as judges, chiefs, and Ministers, Julienne Lusenge brings solutions to key problems being applied by women changemakers across the DRC and the Great Lakes Region.

Wamama Tujenge is easy to find on our Soundcloud account - it's at the top of our podcast list and is offered in French, Lingala and Swahili.

Our MMW journalists in the DRC share Wamama Tujenge episodes with the Listening Centers they establish in their regions.  The ten-minute podcasts are stored on cell phones and are easily and freely shared via Bluetooth transfer, creating a “peer-to-peer” public service broadcasting network which facilitates communication for and among women.  In a new phase of the project, MMW-DRC journalists will now begin to create new versions of the Wamama Tujenge pilot shows using Mobile Production Units (MPUs) provided through the project.

Our Archive is on SoundCloud!

We have archived all 160+ Media Matters for Women original content programmes to Soundcloud. The most recent program from Sierra Leone was by Alinah Kallon, Senior Journalist in Makeni, titled Protecting the Environment, a subject of particular importance to Sierra Leonean rural women and girls following the recent mudslide disaster near Freetown. Alinah’s program includes an interview with Bintu Kelfala, Regional Director of the Environment Protection Agency as well as Alice Neneh James, Regional Manager for Action Aid in Sierra Leone, Suad Koroma who works as a Councilor in Makeni,  Mary Hallowel, Chiefdom Chairwoman from Tonkolili, and Maseray Koroma from the 50-50 Group for the Women’s Empowerment for Political Participation and Women in Politics programs.

Alinah is a founding member of MMW-SL. She presented MMW’s innovative approach to public service broadcasting at the United Nation's global conference on women’s empowerment and technology in Paris in 2015, at the height of the Ebola crisis.  Alinah has produced numerous programs for her five MMW listening centers in and around Makeni.

Alinah told us: “I used to work for a news agency and covered stories that tended to be for the urban elites. Now with MMW I am searching out stories and information that women in poor remote villages will find useful.   Working as a founding journalist of MMW has been an incredible journey for me, especially when I watch people listening to our podcasts and learning about their rights, and even more importantly when they provide feedback on what I have produced. Our podcasts transform lives and lead to better decision-making among rural women and girls, most of whom cannot read or write.”