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. 

Update on DRC Project

Media Matters for Women and our two partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) -- Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development (SOFEPADI) 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 organised 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 change makers across the DRC and the Great Lakes Region.

Wamama Tujenge is easy to find on our Soundcloud account and is offered in French, Lingala and Swahili.

Our MMW journalists in the DRC share Wamama Tujenge episodes with the Listening Centres 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 the next phase of the project, our DRC journalists will begin to create new versions of the Wamama Tujenge pilot shows using Mobile Production Units (MPUs) provided through the project.

Latest podcasts all online

Media Matters for Women full audio portfolio on SoundCloud and crowdCaster

We have archived all 160+ Media Matters for Women original content programmes to SoundCloud and crowdCaster. The most recent programme from Sierra Leone was by Alinah Kallon, Senior Journalist in Makeni, titled Protecting the Environment, a subject of particular importance to Sierra Leonian rural women and girls following the recent mudslide disaster near Freetown. Alinah’s programme includes interviews with: Bintu Kelfala, Regional Director of the Environment Protection Agency; Alice Neneh James, Regional Manager for Action Aid in Sierra Leone; Suad Koroma, Counselor 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 programmes.

Alinah is a founding member of Media Matters for Women based in Sierra Leone. She presented our 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. She has produced numerous programs for the five listening centres she works with in and around Makeni (Northern Province).

Alinah told us: 

“I used to work for a news agency and covered stories that tended to be for the urban elites. Now with Media Matters for Women I am seeking out stories and information that women in poor remote villages will find useful. Working as a founding journalist for this organisation 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.”