MMW has been serving “last mile” communities in multiple regions of Sierra Leone since 2013. Our established and supportive relationships with local chiefs, mammy queens, and headmen is one key reason for our success in effectively delivering information on topics including family planning, SRHR, GBV, and COVID-19. We have learned that by engaging with local CSOs who are well known in their communities, we can quickly and effectively implement projects. Our Focal Points and Youth Advocates are drawn from these organizations.
This means that our deep experience and understanding of rural communities comes from our local roots. Our journalists are from the areas we serve. They now live in medium sized urban cities of Sierra Leone—Makeni, Western Region and Kenema—but they speak the languages of the rural women in their provinces. Removing the language barrier is essential. There is a great deal of information available in English on SRHR issues, but this is not useful to our listeners who speak only Krio or one of the local languages we broadcast in. Our podcast library contains over 650+ podcasts that increase awareness on issues relevent to rural women and girls.
We have seen that strong partnerships with service providers throughout Sierra Leone is a key element of the service MMW provides. MMW can act as the all-important link between providers who are trying to reach women in need and the women who need to find the health and welfare service providers.
Sierra Leone Background
Sierra Leone is a difficult place to live a long and healthy life as a female. National rates on child marriage, maternal mortality, under-five death rates and gender-based violence (GBV) are some of the worst in the world. GBV has become so rampant that a nationwide state of emergency was declared by the government in 2019 on rape and assault. Female genital mutilation is 80%. Female illiteracy is 65%. Sierra Leone ranks as the 16th most deprived country in the world on the UNDP Multidimensional Poverty Index. Sierra Leone’s infrastructure and healthcare systems are challenged and the economy, which was ravaged by the Ebola outbreak in 2015, is only recently starting to recover. COVID-19 will inevitably set it back again, and we are already seeing the devastating impact of the pandemic on domestic violence. This grant opportunity comes at a critical time when the reliable information on women’s rights is needed more than ever.
Our Work In Sierra Leone
MMW works directly within communities to stimulate further conversations and bring issues to the attention of local leaders and authorities. MMW connects directly with women/girls to obtain medical and legal assistance. A single MMW podcast can empower a woman to resolve troubling issues in her life; she, in turn, becomes a powerful advocate for others.
When women and girls understand their rights and how to claim them, they begin to stand up for themselves because their lives change for the better.
Before we enter a new area, MMW establishes strong relationships with local leaders, CSOs, CBOs and NGOs to build trust and ensure that our presence and the information we deliver is welcomed and understood. We hire field staff from the communities we serve and provide advocacy training skills so that rural people can rise up as well has help their peers to do so. News of MMW podcasts spreads quickly in communities and the most common feedback we receive, even in early-resistant communities, is that women and girls want more—not less—of the information we share with them.