“Despite the challenges, our country teams carry on creating opportunities for young people to hear and be heard.”

Dear Friends of RNW Media,

Imagine it’s Monday morning and you’re sitting down to work. You open your laptop to write a blog about the upcoming elections in your country. But something’s wrong. You can’t get online. You get a message from a colleague on your mobile saying the government’s shut down the internet. You have to find a solution. You can keep your blog alive with content from outside collaborators, from the diaspora in neighbouring countries. You can get online with a sim card bought outside the country, but it’s risky. You could be arrested.

This is just one example of the challenges our local teams* (collectives of media-makers) and partners face regularly. Their experiences reflect the larger issues we see in the countries where we work—shrinking civic space, lack of youth inclusion in governance, spread of misinformation and disinformation, lack of media freedom, backlash against expanding Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). Despite the challenges, they carry on creating opportunities for other young people to hear and be heard. They listen and respond to what matters to young people, strengthening their capacity to advocate for social change and linking them to decision-makers.

In 2019, 21.4 million young people accessed information via our websites. 11 million young people were following us on social media, our videos were viewed 144 million times; 43.6 million website page views. In total our content was distributed 1.2 billion times across all our digital channels. With major media outlets regularly featuring our work, we amplify the voices of young people throughout the mainstream. They helped increase knowledge, changed perceptions and behaviours, challenged social norms and influenced policies. I am deeply impressed by the adaptability, courage and innovative efforts of the young people we work with.

In Mali, Benbere’s campaign #LaissezNousJouer mobilised young people to protect public spaces and sports grounds from corrupt public officials and land developers. “#LetUsPlay” reached 1.5 million online views, was endorsed by Mali’s former Prime Minister and described by an international media expert as one of the ‘three most impactful campaigns in Western Africa’.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, our team broke the silence about sexual harassment in universities with the campaign, #Univsansharcelement–Universities Without Harassment. The campaign’s content reached a massive number of viewers, with an average of 20,000 views per video, and articles generated more than 3,200 reactions and 500 shares on Facebook. As a result, Habari RDC was invited to participate in the development of the government's Guidelines for combating sexual harassment in universities.

To understand our impact around the world, we conducted an independent Midterm Review (MTR) of our Next Generation Programme. This programme, funded by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands, has enabled us to expand our reach into more countries, deepen our collaboration with local civil society organisations and engage with more young people. The reviewers said: “RNW Media’s journalist and broadcasting expertise supports in-country staff in developing high-quality content that is relevant to the realities of the youth and sensitive to prevailing social and cultural norms.” Like me, the evaluators were impressed by the resilience of the young people who make up our teams. They praised the teams’ ability to develop creative and dynamic strategies for survival and sustainability in restrictive settings, and for dealing effectively with barriers to positive change.

A major achievement this year was recruiting two young people to our Supervisory Board. We are extremely pleased to have made good on our commitment in our organisational strategy to have youth representation at the highest governance level. The two new members, whom you will meet in this report, are from Morocco and Nigeria.

In 2020, in line with the MTR recommendations, we will maximise our programmes’ relevance, effectiveness and impact. We will continue our organisational fundraising, building on work in 2019 in developing programme proposals together with Dutch and Southern partners for the two tenders of The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands. These prospective programmes will support the work of both our Citizens’ Voice and SRHR programmes and incorporate the expertise of RNTC as trainers and content experts.

Reading the report, you will discover more about the actions of the young people we worked with in 2019, their impact and the lessons learnt. We are very grateful our donors believe, just like us, that these vibrant young people with strong ideas about how to bring about change, can and will claim their space in the policy-making bodies at national, regional and international levels. We would like to thank wholeheartedly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands, Nuffic, AmplifyChange, the Packard Foundation, EuropeAid, the Swedish Postcode Lottery and the Dutch Postcode Lottery for their support.

I hope you too will be inspired by our experiences in 2019 and would love to hear your thoughts on this report.

Jacqueline Lampe CEO RNW Media

*We call them ‘our local teams’ or our ‘country teams’, but they are the core people within the collectives we work with. We define a ‘collective’ as a cohesive interest group or network of people working together to achieve a common social or cultural objective. All our collectives are oriented to using media for social change in their communities.

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