Love Matters has been RNW Media’s flagship SRHR programme since its launch in 2011 and has continued to build on its success in reaching young people in restrictive settings with open, honest and pleasure-positive information on love, sex and relationships. New platforms, ground-breaking campaigns and regional and international networking were all on the agenda in 2019, while at the same time RNW Media also began exploring new SRHR interventions appropriate to specific country contexts.
2019 saw the launch of two new Love Matters projects. Amour Afrique, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo launched in February, Since then, Amour Afrique’s content has been viewed more than half a million times, and the platform has attracted almost 128,000 followers on its social media channels..
Talking with young Nigerians
The other relative newbie in the Love Matters family, Love Matters Naija, has also firmly established itself as a strong presence in Nigeria. Platform moderators Victor Ogbodo and Nelly Kalu featured on one of Nigeria’s up and coming media houses, News Central TV, discussing gender based violence and the team took part in the National Conference on Inclusivity, Equality and Diversity at the University of Lagos. Since launching in June 2018, Love Matters Naija has built a Facebook community of more than 385,00 followers with engaging content such as its series of Vox videos, collecting the opinions of young Nigerians on SRHR related topics.
Love Matters Africa, based in Nairobi, worked in 2019 to expand its network and visibility in Kenya’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) landscape. The team joined a consortium of civil society organisations which succeeded in increasing women’s access to safe abortion and post-abortion care. Love Matters Africa colleagues also took part in Social Media Week Lagos and the Sexual Rights Africa Network workshop. Moderator Annette Nyabundi presented a paper focusing on the under-sexualization of disabled bodies at the 2019 Changing Faces, Changing Spaces (CFCS) conference and team members Kelvin Mwaniki and Fiona Nzingo both presented Love Matters Africa’s work at the 3rd Annual Reproductive Health Network (RHNK) Scientific Conference on Adolescent and Youth SHRH.
Campaigning for pleasure
The work of Love Matters Arabic has always been groundbreaking – opening up the topic of sexuality for young people in a region where talking openly about sex is deeply taboo. In 2019 the team decided to tackle a particularly sensitive topic with a campaign focused on sexual pleasure. The week-long campaign ended up generating the highest reach and engagement Love Matters Arabic has seen since it launched in 2014. The campaign reached more than 7.7 million people and generated more than 1.1 million overwhelmingly positive interactions (likes, comments, shares).
Love your body
Another eye-catching campaign in 2019 was #NoBodyShaming from Love Matters China. The two-week campaign via Chinese social media channels challenged norms and stereotypes around physical beauty in China with the aim of encouraging young people to celebrate body diversity and learn to love themselves. The campaign was in response to a survey carried out by Love Matters China in which fewer than 20 per cent of the respondents said they were satisfied with their physical shape – and 75 percent of female respondents said they were either dieting or planning to diet. The photos, articles, short posts and videos produced for the campaign attracted 14.47 million views on Weibo
Power of TikTok
The Love Matters programme relies heavily on social media channels to reach and engage with its young audience and it’s important that the country teams stay on top of new channels as they become popular. Short video platform TikTok has rapidly become a major force in the world of social media and Love Matters India recently partnered with Population Foundation India for an awareness campaign via TikTok called #CoolNotFool, which reached over 280 million TikTok users in India within a week. The campaign created 25 short videos in Hindi and Hinglish using Bollywood-style formats and songs to talk about condoms, contraceptives, consent, healthy relationships and family planning. Users responded enthusiastically, posting messages of thanks and appreciation as well as sharing videos they’d made themselves using the same dialogue.
A major networking opportunity in 2019 was the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver where the global Love Matters team was out in force, hosting a side event on the importance of integrating pleasure in SRHR activities and a digital poster presentation on game-changing advocacy for the rights and wellbeing of lesbian women and girls in Africa. Love Matters colleagues also took part in a session on gender stereotypes in the media and maintained a lively networking space.
Further expansion of the Love Matters programme had been planned for 2019 in Burundi and Yemen but research and the local experience of RNW Media’ Citizens’ Voice teams working in both countries made it clear that the Love Matters approach was not going to be the best way to achieve our SRHR goals in these contexts. After carefully considering the options, in Burundi it was decided to incorporate SRHR within the existing Citizen’s Voice platform Yaga. Yaga has always seen strong engagement with blogs it has previously published relating to SRHR issues and is now taking this further with Urunkundu (meaning ‘Sharing About Love’ in local language Kirundi), a section on the site and social media dedicated to SRHR information and blogs.
Meanwhile in Yemen we established a partnership with local SRHR organisation, Yamaan Foundation. They provide young people with SRHR information via social media and a telephone hotline, the Shabab-line and our Love Matters Arabic and Citizens’ Voice Yemen teams are working with them to improve their reach, content and social media strategies.