Linking and learning across countries

RNW Media strives to be a Learning Organisation – to constantly assess and monitor the work we do and how we can improve it and share our expertise with others. At a recent week-long workshop in Kampala, people involved with the Rights, evidence, action – amplifying youth voices (REA) programme shared the lessons learned in the last three years of implementing REA in India, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria.

Supported by an AmplifyChange strategic grant, REA works at the intersection of digital media, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and advocacy to influence attitudes, social norms and policies in favour of the SRHR of young people, including LGBT youth. The programme is a collaboration between RNW Media and CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, and also works with a local youth-led partner organisations. The in-country implementing partners are the YP Foundation (India), the Network for Adolescents and Youth of Africa (Kenya), Equality Triangle Initiative (Nigeria) and Reach a Hand Uganda (Uganda).

Outcomes for all
Within the REA programme, Love Matters’ digital media approach complements CHOICE’s youth-led advocacy activities to support young people’s participation and amplify their voices in political and digital media spaces. Seventeen representatives of the REA consortium came together in Kampala to reflect on the last three years of implementation – what went well, what did not, and why this might have been the case. Each partner organisation facilitated at least one session, ensuring that the outcomes were useful for individual organisations as well as for future programmes and partnerships.

Consult and collaborate
Sessions on the first day focused on how to approach SRHR and LGBT issues in restrictive settings and how to integrate SRHR, youth and human rights. Challenges the REA partners have faced include the reluctance of potential partners within the SRHR community to address LGBT issues due to their political sensitivity. When an organisation focused on SRHR specifically includes LGBT in its advocacy, this can result in a backlash and negatively impact the organisation’s work. Problems can also arise when programme activities and implementation are being carried out by people who are not part of the target group of LGBT persons. Consultation and collaboration were identified as key to addressing these challenges, along with strategic engagement with potential allies, policy-makers, student bodies and youth-led groups.

Integrating media and advocacy
Day 2 began with a general training on the various UN Human Rights Mechanisms and how they are being utilised to advance REA’s core objectives. This was followed by discussions on the added value of digital data and youth insights for effective advocacy and how the role of (digital) media within lobby and advocacy activities can be leveraged to ensure greater accountability. Participants agreed that opportunities to integrate advocacy and media expertise had sometimes been missed due to a tendency to work in parallel; CHOICE and partners working on advocacy, RNW Media and partners working on online media. Participants brain-stormed strategies that could address this issue in future collaborations and strengthen the benefits for both media and advocacy partners.

Building strong partnerships
Reflections from these discussions were carried into Day 3’s sessions which focused on the opportunities and challenges of working in a strategic partnership, including best practices for cross-country learning and the benefits and disadvantages of different governance structures. Participants agreed on the importance of involving all partners from the very early stages of programme design and that linking and learning across organisations also needs to be embedded in programme activities right from the start. A discussion on governance identified the pros and cons of centralised leadership (central plan developed, clear hierarchy) versus complete country autonomy (each country decides what happens in country context) and strategies that could ensure working in ways which maximised the benefits of each version of leadership.

Beyond REA: What’s next
What’s next for the REA partners was the focus of Day 4 with discussions around input for future programmes and partnerships looking at what the partners have built together and how that can be capitalised on. Opportunities for further collaboration were identified in all 4 REA countries and the groundwork was laid for developing strong track records to support future programme development and associated funding applications.

The final day of the event saw a presentation by the SRHR and Gender Policy Officer at the Dutch Embassy in Kampala who noted that the Embassy is very impressed with the work that has been done under the REA programme, especially as advocacy work takes such a long time to achieve results. This was followed by a Q&A session on Dutch policy on strategic partnerships and future opportunities for the REA partners to continue their work on SRHR for young people including LGBT persons.

REA continues in Nigeria and DRC
The 3-year REA programme will wind up at the end of 2019, but AmplifyChange has now awarded RNW Media and CHOICE a further 1-year grant to build on REA’s work in Nigeria and expand its activities into the Democratic Republic of Congo. The outcomes of this Linking and Learning event are now being incorporated into planning for this extension of the programme in 2020.