Citizens’ Voice in 2019 – laying strong foundations for future growth

Citizens’ Voice has gone from strength to strength in 2019. Behind-the-scenes research and work on consolidating and refining strategies for content, engagement and advocacy have enabled the programme to lay strong foundations for future growth and even greater impact. The in-country implementing teams have translated strategy into action with highly effective campaigns, offline events bringing together young people and policy makers, and surveys that highlight the needs and concerns of young people and contribute to influencing policy.

Citizens’ Voice creates and maintains digital media platforms offering safe spaces where young people from across political, ethnic, racial, regional, religious or other divides can come together in a way that is often impossible in the offline space. Inclusion is central to all Citizens’ Voice activities and 2019 saw the adoption of an approach built on five pillars: inclusive teams; communities; partnerships; content; and technology. An important tool for inclusion is the moderation of online discussions to build vibrant, respectful and safe digital communities and all the Citizens’ Voice platforms now use a tailored moderation strategy.

Innovative work from RNW Media’s digital team also saw advances in inclusive technology as platforms were optimised to make them more accessible in countries where connectivity is poor and data plans are expensive.

Human rights in the digital age
RNW Media aims to make its learnings available to other NGOs and development sector actors and the Citizens’ Voice team participates regularly in events at both national and international level to share ideas and strategies. The annual Access Now RightsCon summit brings together a diverse range of public and private actors to focus on human rights in the digital age. Citizen’s Voice convened a number of sessions at RightsCon 2019 around creating alternative civic spaces, including case studies from our platforms in Yemen, Libya and Burundi.

Increasing opportunities
The IGNITE conference, organised by Spark , brings together refugees, entrepreneurs and education experts, as well as representatives from the private and public sector to exchange ideas on increasing opportunities for young people in fragile states. Citizens’ Voice was out in force at the 2019 conference in Amsterdam with three different workshops looking at women entrepreneurs in conflict zones, digital solutions for Syrian youth and online initiatives to connect young people with jobs.

Increasing opportunities for young people is the focus of a new Citizens’ Voice platform that launched in Egypt in 2019. Masaraat (pathway in Arabic) focuses on economic inclusion for young people and aims to address the issues preventing youth participation in the labour market. Masaraat coordinator Muhammed El-Shareben was at the Ignite conference where he presented the platform’s objectives and approach. Within six months of launching, Masaraat had built a social media community of more than 60,000 followers.

Online campaigns are an important tool for engaging our young target audience. The local Citizens’ Voice teams create and implement specific campaigns relevant to their context and also take part in international campaigns such as SPEAK! Activities supporting SPEAK! 2019 ranged from debates on how to combat tribalism and radicalisation in the Democratic Republic of Congo to a sporting and cultural event in Mali around the theme ‘peace and cohesion between communities’ and an event facilitating dialogue between young people and the older generation in Burundi.

Notable country specific campaigns have included #Laisseznousjouer in Mali. The Benbere team created the campaign in order to mobilise young people to protect public spaces and sports grounds from being seized by developers and destroyed. The campaign reached 1.5 million online views, caught the eye of Mali’s Prime Minister and was described by international media experts as the most impactful campaign in western Africa.

Fighting sexual harassment
The Habari RDC team created a campaign highlighting sexual harassment at universities across the Democratic Republic of Congo. #Univsansharcelement was implemented in partnership with local women’s rights organisation Si Jeunesse Savait and included both online and offline activities. A number of national and international organisations and media outlets republished blogs related to the campaign on their platforms and the Habari team was invited by the Ministry of Higher Education to take part in updating the national policy on combating sexual harassment in universities.

Working women
Huna Libya launched a major campaign called You and Work aimed at building awareness on key issues around the rights of women in the Libyan workforce. A video created for the campaign won the Best Short Film Award from Democracy Reporting International and German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle. The video celebrates the successes of working women who break through the prevailing gender stereotypes and attracted 77, 000 views and 3,400 interactions on Facebook. Libya’s Ministry of Education expressed interest in replicating some of the You and Work activities in schools and asked the Huna Libya team to share recommendations on improving career choices for young people.


رسالة إلى المرأة الليبية الطموحة في اليوم العالمي للمرأة…#عقبالك ‏#IWD2019#BalanceForBetter

Posted by ‎هنا ليبيا Huna Libya‎ on Thursday, March 7, 2019

Innovation honoured
Yaga Burundi was also an award winner in 2019, taking second prize in the Francophone Awards for Innovation in the Media. The awards recognise innovative approaches to new ways of accessing and consuming information and are open to all media outlets in the 57 member states of the International Francophone Organisation (OIF). Presenting the award, the Secretary General of the OIF said: “This prize for innovative media makes it possible for us to honour the talents that are able to reach large numbers of young people. Access to quality information is a value we need to protect.”

Video sucess
Working with digital media can throw up unexpected results as the algorithms and policies of different online channels have their own way of affecting what content reaches what audience. This was borne out when a Justice4Her video went viral on the TikTok platform. Justice4Her, co-funded by EuropeAid, aims to strengthen the rule of law to reduce gender-based violence against women, especially young women migrant workers. This was one of 10 videos following-up an online event focusing on domestic violence, marital property and divorce. And the topic that caught followers’ attention was the tricky issue of who gets custody of the family pet when a couple break up.