Data Matatu – data-driven advocacy

Advocacy for the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of young people is too often carried out by organisations not closely connected to the young people they aim to serve. RNW Media’s Love Matters programme is working together with the youth-led Dutch organisation, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, to change that, and the Data Matatu is a tool that can help drive the process.

The Data Matatu has been developed and piloted for the Rights, evidence, action – amplifying youth voices (REA) programme. Funded by AmplifyChange, REA works with local youth-led advocacy partners in India, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria to ensure the SRHR of all young people, including the LGBT community. The Data Matatu originated from the need to provide these local partners with digital data as an evidence base to enhance their advocacy efforts on SRHR issues in their region.

Real needs, real time
Information for advocacy is often sourced from traditional, respectable and socially-accepted sources such as national statistics and reports. The Data Matatu seeks to broaden this approach by gathering current, real-time, digital evidence from the conversations of young people living in the target country. This means that advocacy themes are led by the genuine needs of young people and that the topics important to them are identified, highlighted and brought to the table in local and international policy spaces.

The name comes from the public transport system in Kenya, where colourful matatus (busses/vans) carry passengers from one place to the next. The Data Matatu is a visual representation of the project – a way of getting the partner organisations to their next destination in data-driven advocacy. RNW Media, as a digital organisation, has specialised skills in the area of data and analysis that are not widely represented in the development sector, so we can help partners collect vast amounts of evidence grounded in data that originates from digital sources. We help the partners by analysing the digital discourses that are taking place in the project countries around SRHR related topics – on the partner platforms and on Love Matters’ platforms, as well as on governmental and other (traditional) media channels.

Gauging opinion online
Research so far has focused on Twitter because the data is freely available, and the platform is one where not only individuals but also organisations, governments and news outlets share their news and opinions in the same space. The Data Matatu analyses the in-country Twitter discourse on topics and hashtags chosen by the partner organisations for their specific advocacy goals. By capturing the discourse from a broad range of sources, the analysis can gauge online social sentiment around the topics the partner is interested in from different viewpoints. This analysis helps build a strong case for the partners’ advocacy cause and identify the differences across different user accounts – from other SRHR organisations, celebrities and influencers, government officials and media outlets to young people in general.

Youth voices first
The Data Matatu helps to provide new means that can be used for lobbying on different levels – both local and national but also at regional and international forums such as the UN. Feedback and learnings from the different organisations and individuals involved are crucial to the Data Matatu’s success and RNW Media is committed to further developing the tool so youth-led advocacy partners can present local information confidently in a way that places the voices of young people from the Global South at the heart of SRHR issues and discussions.