Archive for the ‘Mali’ Category

One of the main programs I support is a youth arts, technology and media program called ‘YETAM‘.  The program supports youth to identify and raise issues that they consider important, and then helps them engage their communities to resolve the issues they’ve raised. The youth have talked a lot about water in most of the places where I’ve been working in the past couple years, probably because children and youth tend to be the ones responsible for carrying water.

As part of the project in Okola District in Cameroon last year, youth mapped their community and prioritized their issues. One of their top issues was water. They made this film together about the water problem and shared it with the community adults and local authorities.

Probleme d’eau Potable – The Potable Water Problem (for subtitles, click on the arrow on the bottom right hand side of the video player and then click on the red ‘cc’ button)

Spurred on by the project and the organized youth, a few months later the community got to work fixing one of their water sources. They put in some resources and so did our local office.

La quete d’eau potable – Lack of Potable Water part 2.

Here are a couple other videos about water filmed by youth….

The Community Water Tank from El Salvador about what happens when water sources are not kept up (click on link as it’s not available on YouTube yet)

Djiko: l’eau potable a song youth wrote to remind communities about water scarcity in Mali

Water – Amazi where youth interview a rural family about water scarcity in Rwanda

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A catalyst for positive change

Youth empowerment through tech, arts and media

Meeting in the middle

An example of youth-led community change in Mali

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Plan just released a new report called ICT Enabled Development: Using ICT strategically to support Plan’s work. The report is part of an on-going process by Plan Finland (kudos to Mika Valitalo for leading the process) in collaboration with Plan USA to support Plan’s country offices in Africa to use ICTs strategically and effectively in their development work. It was written by Hannah Beardon and builds on the Mobiles for Development Guide that Plan Finland produced (also written by Hannah) in 2009.

The idea for the report came out of our work with staff and communities, and the sense that we needed to better understand and document the ICT4D context in the different countries where we are working. Country offices wanted to strengthen their capacities to strategically incorporate ICTs into their work and to ensure that any fund-raising efforts for ICTs were stemming from real needs and interest from the ground. Plan offices were also in the process of updating their long-term strategic plans and wanted to think through how and where they could incorporate ICTs in their work internally and with communities.

The process for creating the report included 2-day workshops with staff in 5 countries, using a methodology that Mika, Hannah and I put together. We created a set of ICT training materials and discussion questions and used a ‘distance-learning’ process, working with a point person in each office who planned and carried out the workshop. Mika and I supported via Skype and email.

Hannah researched existing reports and initiatives by participating offices to find evidence and examples of ICT use. She also held phone or skype conversations with key staff at the country and regional levels around their ICT use, needs and challenges, and pulled together information on the national ICT context for each country.

The first section of the report explains the concept of ‘ICT enabled development’ and why it is important for Plan and other development organizations to take on board. “With so many ICT tools and applications now available, the job of a development organization is no longer to compensate for lack of access but to find innovative and effective ways of putting the tools to development ends. This means not only developing separate projects to install ICTs in under-served communities, but looking at key development challenges and needs with an ICT eye, asking ‘how could ICTs help to overcome this problem’?

Drawing on the research, conversations, workshop input and feedback from staff, and documented experience using ICTs in Plan’s work, Hannah created a checklist with 10 key areas to think about when planning ICT-enabled development efforts.

  1. Context Analysis: what is happening with ICT (for development) in the country or region?
  2. Defining the need: what problems can ICT help overcome? what opportunities can it create?
  3. Choosing a strategy: what kind of ICT4D is needed? direct? internal? strategic?
  4. Undertaking a participatory communications assessment: who will benefit from this use of ICT and how?
  5. Choosing the technology: what ICTs/applications are available to meet this need or goal?
  6. Adjusting the content: can people understand and use the information provided for and by the ICTs?
  7. Building and using capacity: what kind of support will people need to use and benefit from the ICT, and to innovate around it?
  8. Monitoring progress: how do you know if the ICT is helping meet the development goal or need?
  9. Keeping it going: how can you manage risks and keep up with changes?
  10. Learning from each other: what has been done before, and what have you learned that others could use?

The checklist helps to ensure that ICT use is linked to real development needs and priorities and appropriate for those who are participating in an initiative or a project. The report elaborates on the 10 key areas with detailed observations, learning and examples to illustrate them and to help orient others who are working on similar initiatives. It places the checklist into a 4-stage process for ICT integration.

  1. Understanding the context for ICT work: includes external context and internal experience and capacity
  2. Finding a match between priorities and possibilities: rooting the system in local needs and priorities and finding good uses for tools and applications
  3. Planning and implementing concrete initiatives: carrying out participatory assessments, linking to other development processes and addressing technical issues and concerns
  4. Building a culture of systematic, sustained and strategic use of ICTs: linking ICTs with program work, transforming the role of ‘the ICT guy’, and building expertise on the cultural and social aspects of ICT use

Additional material and case studies, ICT country briefings, and an overview of Plan’s current work with ICT4D in Africa are offered at the end of the report.

The report includes input from Plan staff in Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal and Uganda who participated in the ICT4D workshops. It also draws heavily on some of the work that Mika has been doing in Finland and Kenya, and work that I’ve been involved in and have written about in Mali, Cameroon, Mozambique, Ghana, Benin and Kenya involving staff, community members and community youth. You can contact Mika to get the workshop methodology in French or English or to comment on the report (ict4d [at] plan [dot] fi).

There’s so much rich material in the report that I almost want to summarize the whole thing here on my blog, section by section, so that people will take the time to read it…  I think this is a really important and useful piece of work and we’re very excited that it’s now available! Download it here.

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ICT4D in Uganda: ICT does not equal computers

Demystifying Internet (Ghana)

It’s all part of the ICT jigsaw: Plan Mozambique ICT4D workshops

A positively brilliant ICT4D workshop in Kwale, Kenya

7 or more questions to ask before adding ICTs (Benin)

A catalyst for positive change (Cameroon)

Salim’s ICT advice part 1: consider both process and passion (Kenya)

Salim’s ICT advice part 2: innovate but keep it real (Kenya)

Meeting in the middle

I and C, then T (US)

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For the past couple years, I’ve been supporting the Youth Empowerment through Arts and Media (YETAM) project in 6 African countries. One of the best things about being involved in the project is the opportunity to work with some incredible people who are developing the program strategies and implementing YETAM on the ground.  Bedo, the child media program coordinator in Plan Mali, is one of those people I’ve been lucky enough to work with.  He’s kind, gentle, thoughtful and soft spoken yet solid in his opinions and knowledge. His face totally lights up when he’s working with the youth. He has clear vision and gets things done, writes excellent reports, and isn’t afraid to clarify things if he’s not sure he’s understood correctly.  It’s been a real pleasure working with him. On Friday, Bedo told me about some of the short-term positive results that the Mali team is seeing in the YETAM program there, which I’ll summarize below. Photo: Bedo in December 2008 at the Social Media for Social Change Workshop in Kenya.

The YETAM project aims to help youth develop their skills to communicate, educate and advocate at local, national, and global levels about issues impacting on their lives using the arts, traditional media, and new media tools.The project methodology consists of hands-on workshops and activities where youth can improve their communication and analytical skills in order to effectively raise their viewpoints and enter into dialogue with families, peers, community members, decision makers, and the general public. Youth go through a process of participatory mapping, discussions to prioritize their key themes, topics or issues. Then they learn to use arts and media to get their messages across to those that they want to engage in helping them find solutions. To date the project is being implemented in 6 countries in Africa (Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, Rwanda, Kenya and Mozambique).

YETAM in Mali
In Mali, around 60 children and youth in a community in the Kati District have been involved in the YETAM project for about a year and a half so far.  In an initial workshop, the youth raised a number of issues through participatory mapping. They researched, investigated and developed opinions on these issues further through song, poetry, theater, photo and video, and later in the process, prioritized their most important issues:

· many children do not have birth certificates
· rural exodus
· violence at school
· excision (female genital cutting).

Integrating YETAM into school curriculum
Following the prioritization of their topics, youth began an education effort around the 4 themes with the local population and local authorities from their village and surrounding villages. As part of this effort, six school teachers were appointed by local school authorities to support the youth and supervise extracurricular activities around the youths’ 4 themes. They were trained by local consultants and Plan Mali staff on participatory methodologies using arts and media as participation tools.

During this training, teachers learned to adjust their teaching styles and to address the 4 topics not as lessons taught in the classroom, but as information sharing and advocacy topics through drawings, poetry, crafts, dance, and theater. New students joined the small arts groups according to the type of activity that they were interested in.  Students who had been involved longer supervised and trained newer students and helped integrate the program within the school.

In addition to the arts, youth and adults worked together on several short drama films. One of these was about female circumcision. It discusses the medical complications of circumcision in a married woman during her 1st birth. The complications were due to excision, done in infancy, and resulted in vesico-vaginal fistula. Rejected at first by her husband, the woman is eventually accepted after the husband’s becomes aware of the existence of appropriate care (free in Mali) and the commitment made between spouses at marriage.

Engaging the public and local authorities through arts and media
Through the training workshops and the production of the different arts and media materials, youth were able to form their own opinions, messages and ideas for solutions to the issues that they had prioritized.  They organized a public event in the community where they performed their drama, songs and poetry pieces, showed their film, and held a panel with local authorities to discuss how to improve the four areas that they had identified.  Photo:  youth performing a drama piece in the village.

Short term results to build upon
According to Bedo, “Integrating the YETAM methodology with the school environment enabled teachers to learn to address and manage issues with children and youth in a participatory way. The education methods have changed and the student / teacher relationships have become less tense, especially when it comes to discussing subjects such as violence at school or practice of female circumcision.”

Bedo explained that “the introduction of the ‘violence in school’ theme by the students initially caused some frustration among teachers. At first, they felt directly targeted. But when we integrated the teachers into the process, their frustration dissolved and trust began to grow between students and teachers because teachers are discovering another way to teach and discuss sensitive issues – they are behaving as coaches.”  Bedo also said that since the discussions took place at the school, the education authorities have become more interested in the topics and the project.

“At the community event,” said Bedo, “the mayor declared that the council was taking all steps to ensure that all children have birth certificates.  He also addressed the migration of young people from the rural to the urban areas, saying that one of the main reasons is lack of employment. He promised to create jobs to reduce the mass exodus of young people.” Photo: Children interviewing local authorities.

One of the most extraordinary things that happened as a result of the youth’s education and advocacy, according to Bedo, was that “the village chief also made a pronouncement….  He announced that ‘The practice of female circumcision is part of our traditions. As it has adverse consequences on the health of women, I have decided to end female circumcision in the village.’”

Teachers are engaged
Teachers have been happy with the new ways of teaching and the integration of the YETAM project within their school curriculum. One teacher told Bedo that “there have been developments in many areas, especially in the areas that teachers and students developed together – birth registration, rural-urban migration, female circumcision and violence at school.”

The teacher explained that the youths’ messages have extended to parents and those who practice these phenomena.Those who practice circumcision have pledged they will stop it. Corporal punishment is now prohibited by school rules, because we now know that violence undermines the intelligence of the child. The teachers have agreed to end it. They are ready to make every effort to pass the message of awareness among their colleagues so that together we can make every effort to end school violence….”

Youth see concrete results
Participating children also commented that they think that there have been improvements due to the project’s integration into the school. One 14 year old participant in the project said “With this new formula of YETAM, the suffering of children through corporal punishment in schools and the harmful practice of female circumcision has decreased. Before, we children, we could not stand before the public and parents to discuss the subject of female circumcision, but now we can do it. This has greatly reduced the practice of female circumcision. In our village, many people practiced circumcision, but now they say they will stop because they have learned from our messages about the harm it causes.

Another participant, who is 12 years old, commented that “with YETAM, teachers have ceased to beat us in school. Many of our schoolmates have their birth certificates. We are noticing an improvement in our situation.

Next steps
Bedo says that given the positive impact so far of the project, they will ask school authorities to institutionalize an annual special day for each of the 4 topics.  They will continue to support the work that the youth are doing and try to involve more youth, teachers, community volunteers and surrounding villages in this type of project.  Plan Mali also has plans to conduct a participatory assessment with stakeholders to evaluate the project so far and learn how to improve it.

Within the next month or so, the overall project website will be complete, and the maps, art work and videos of all 6 participating countries will be uploaded so that youth can connect with their peers in Africa as well as share ideas with youth in non-African countries.  A curriculum for teachers and youth groups based on the arts and media work that the youth have done around their priority topics is in the works and will be available for schools in the participating countries.

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Our meeting started on Tuesday. Our challenge for the week was to pull together a regional communications strategy. We had lots of presentations on the different aspects and did all kinds of group work and analyses to come up with a good strategy that works for each individual office and then also builds up into a cohesive regional strategy. We looked both at the PR aspect of communications as well as the program/social communications aspect, at the different child and youth media programs, and also at advocacy and our different campaigns. I did a presentation on social media to stimulate thoughts on how we could use it in Plan both at the office level and in our work with youth and communities. The workshop and the whole week was really educational for me, and also exhausting. I leave tonight around 11.45 and will be home tomorrow around 5 p.m.

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OK so I took all this video when I visited the YETAM project. Went back to the hotel, opened it and looked at it all. It was going to be turned into an amazing few testimonials about the project and its impact on the kids and community, to go with the annual report.

Then I was at the second community and my phone was full, so I figured, I’ll just delete the footage from yesterday since I already copied it to my laptop. WRONG. I looked at it but never moved it to the laptop. As I was deleting it I had this funny feeling, which I talked myself out of. But that feeling was right. I ended up deleting all the footage from the YETAM project!! Argh.

So I guess the lesson is – never try to manage stuff like that when you’ve had no sleep and are jetlagged! wah. 😦

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I had dinner last night with those who had arrived for the meeting and then crashed. My luggage came around 3 a.m. so I had to go down to the lobby half asleep to get it! But yay!
Today we went out to the community were we had dropped the radio equipment off yesterday. First we went to a meeting at the Plan office. It was really interesting to hear their strategy which is centered around the concept of Child Friendly Communities. The cool thing is that they work with the community to define a set of indicators that the community is in agreement with. Then they measure where the community is at currently (baseline). Then they work with the community to improve their indicators. The interesting thing is that I have never seen it where the community is involved with setting and tracking indicators of their own development. Really really cool. We heard all the theory about it in the morning when the country director and program manager gave us an overview.
Then we all drove out to the village where the community representatives went through all their community indicators and explained where they were with them. So things like how many mothers are exclusively breastfeeding. How many kids are attending school. Percentage that have good hygiene habits. Etc. etc. We saw a few projects in the community – the early childhood care and development center, the nutrition center, and the women’s village savings and loan project. It was really interesting to see how they work, the impact the projects are having on the health and education of the kids, and also all the work that the women are doing to improve their community.
Photo: Community nutrition center where they weigh children to track their growth. They also work with the mothers to show them how to use locally available ingredients like sorghum, peanuts, herbs that grow in the area, to make high protein, high calorie porridge. The program is based on the concept of positive deviance — where the mothers who manage to have well nourished children are studied to find out how they do it, and then their habits are replicated/taught to the other mothers.
Stefanie asked the women in the savings and loan group what the men did, because she had seen mostly women doing all the work in all the projects. That really got a good laugh out of the women. The way the development process seems to work is that the men make the decisions about which projects and initiatives that their wives can participate in. Custom allows multiple wives. The men see the advantage of the improved health and education of their children, and the improved financial status of their wives. Mostly the men work in the fields and do the heavy work for project that require manual labor. Interesting dynamic though – when Stefanie asked her question there was a super long and animated conversation among several of the women and the men from the partner local organization that manages the project. None of this was translated for us! Then Thiekoro from Plan Mali just made a very quick summary. Stefanie asked for clarification later….and I’m not sure the real story was revealed then either.
After we talked with all the project groups, the radio project crew – Kids Waves – did a live radio show. The radio project moves from community to community, training the kids and then the develop a half-hour radio show on different topics. They were covering the issue of Violence in Schools. They had invited the local mayor and the director of the school to ask them about the issue and what they planned to do about it. When will children stop being beaten in schools? The officials assured them that they would not beat children any more. Many of the children laughed at that. I didn’t understand much of what was happening because the radio show is conducted in Bambara, the local language. But the kids and the community really really got a kick out of it, and the kids were great. Self assured and really professional.

Photo: Kids Waves radio program.

We stayed until around 4 and then drove back. We arrived quite late due to traffic and I was soooo tired by then. I went out for pizza with a few of the others, Messan from Togo, Carmen from Benin and Francoise from Burkina. Messan and Francoise had participated in the Kenya Social Media for Social Change workshop, and it was great to see them again. One of the best things about working for Plan is when you have a chance to see colleagues again and develop nice friendships and working relationships.

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I got myself up around 7 and showered. Put my same clothes back on and called Bedo. He and the guys from the Kids Waves radio program came to get me about 8 and we drove about an hour and a half out to the community. We dropped the radio guys off first in one community where we will visit tomorrow and where they will do a live Kids Waves show. The YETAM community was a decent drive down a pretty dusty road, but not really too bad. The kids were all in the school house. They had a whole program planned where they showed the theater and songs that they had made up during the project and since then. They also showed me the photos that they’d taken as part of the project. I took a bunch of video with my phone so that I could make some short testimonials for Nokia about the project. I was really impressed with the kids and the topics they chose – they did one play about female genital cutting, one about the dangers of selling bad meat in the community, and had a song motivating people to go out and vote. Really relevant stuff for community awareness and motivation.

Photo: kids who are participating in the YETAM project.
About 2 we finished the community program and they served lunch. It was rice with meat – goat I think. So as usual I was faced with the vegetarian’s dilemma (as opposed to the omnivore’s dilemma, ha) of how to avoid being rude. In the end I just ended up eating the rice with all the goat ‘juice’ on it. People crowd up and share a big platter of food. They wash up and then each person squats around the platter and uses their right hand to scoop out some rice and form a ball with it, and then eat it along with some of the meat and vegetables. It’s nice to have a communal plate like that. I’ve seen it in many countries and it really feels more like you are sharing the meal rather than each eating from your own private space. I just wasn’t sure how the meat juices and grease would settle since I haven’t eaten meat for so many years…. I was feeling a big woozy by the time we got back, but mainly due to lack of sleep and water since I didn’t drink any water all day and it was pretty hot. (Didn’t want to have to go to the toilet!)

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