Using social media to report cases of gender based violence in rural Malawi

I recently met with Patricia Mtungila, who is the founder of Purple Innovation, an NGO supporting women and girls in Malawi. Their main objective is to advance women’s empowerment and reduce violence against women and girls through training and access to digital and traditional information on interventions on women and girls in Malawi.

One of their latest projects is to train girls in citizen journalism and how they can tell their stories, especially stories about gender-based violence (GBV) using their phones. I was interested to find out more about why social media is considered an effective way to report GBV. One of the main reasons is due to the ease and speed of publishing information in rural areas. In the training sessions, participants are given advice on how to take photos to document any acts of violence. But also, how to take these images to protect the identity of the person who has been abused.

These photos are then sent to Purple Innovation via either WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger so that they can pass the evidence on to a Gender Technical Working Group at the District Council level. The working group includes various stakeholders such as police, the victim support unit and gender officers who are working to combat gender-based violence. Due to the relationship that Purple Innovation has built with the working group, cases are taken very seriously and several cases that have been followed up by the police have gone to court resulting in convictions.

A recent example of someone who contacted Patricia and her team was a lady who was scolded with hot water by her husband. The child protection worker in that area took a photograph of the burn as evidence and sent the image with an attached voice note to Purple Innovation. Although the victim had reported the abuse to both the local police and the hospital, nothing had been done to arrest the perpetrator. Whereas now this evidence has been escalated to the relevant department within the council to investigate.

Protection against cyber bullying

Patricia does not just train girls how to report crimes of abuse using social media, she also offers advice on protection against cyber bullying. This involves warnings about posting images online that can be open to abuse and how to conduct yourself online. It is good that these trainings are available, but I wonder when the Government of Malawi, will (if ever) mainstream social media awareness and protection in schools.

Cyber bullying cards produced by Norfolk Constabulary and Broadland District Council – UK

I remember my children’s transition to high school a few years ago and social media protection / cyber bullying was high on the agenda.  Advice was given on privacy and safety i.e. posting personal information such as their own names and dates of birth or where they live, but also the kinds of information that might make them vulnerable to predators. Children are also warned about the potential risk to their own reputation and how posts can be screen shot or recorded and potentially shared for their whole life. How long will it be before this level of teaching is available to all children in Malawi via the school system? Why do we have to rely on NGOs like Purple Innovation to provide this education?

Cyber bullying cards produced by Norfolk Constabulary and Broadland District Council – UK


Database of Gender Based Violence

One last initiative by Purple Innovation is that they have developed an open access dashboard on their website of gender-based violence data which has been verified by the district council. The dashboard is accessible for researchers or reporters so they can write evidence based stories based on that data has been collected. It is often incredibly hard to find digitised data such as this in some countries, so this is an excellent tool that will help combat GBV in Malawi in the future!

Catholic Relief Services – A day in the life of Immaculate

I recently saw a campaign which followed the day in the life of a young girl, Immaculate in Northern Ghana. The Twitter Moments series starts with Immaculate doing her daily chores to help the family at 6:15am and ends with her walking home from school with friends at 4.00pm remuneration and benefits. I spoke to Michael Stulman who is the Regional Information Officer for CRS in West Africa who lead this campaign.

What inspired you to produce the Day in the Life of Immaculate campaign? / What is the main purpose of the campaign

We wanted to create content that would inform and inspire our audiences on Twitter. Just like any book or film, there is typically one main character. When you focus on too many people, people can become overwhelmed. By highlighting Immaculate’s experience, it became more personal. And photos and video provide more context and make it more engaging, which is especially important on Twitter, where everything moves so quickly and content is easily missed.

How did you select Immaculate and how long did the filming take?

CRS staff that are based in that area know the community quite well, and they spoke to the school administrator to get his recommendations on who might be willing and available. I met with a few families, and in the end, we chose Immaculate because of her willingness and availability. We filmed for just one day.

Did Immaculate receive payment in any way?

We are really grateful that Immaculate and her parents allowed us to follow her throughout the day. Her participation was completely voluntary. Our staff in that area had met with her in advance to explain what we were hoping to accomplish, and she was happy to participate.

In what ways was the campaign successful and how would you do it differently next time? 

We looked at key metrics after the campaign was launched, and found that a lot of the content performed better than average, in terms of engagement. We’re always trying new things, and hoping to improve how we tell stories. For example, we’ve used Twitter Moments to highlight specific donors or issues and people. And for each Moment, we’re experimenting with different types of video, GIFs, memes, photos and quotes that help tell a story.

I brought a lot of photography and videography equipment with me – much of which was useful at some point during the trip, but my iPhone was probably the most productive tool for collecting content we can use on social media. Sometimes it’s best to keep it simple!

And like most trips to the field, you need to do a lot of advanced planning, but that’s mostly to set expectations around what you’re hoping to accomplish and why. In terms of what actually happens day-to-day and hour-by-hour, everything can change quickly and you need to be flexible.

With social media, I’m always testing, testing and testing. Next time I’m in the field and collecting content, I’d like to try the “Day in the Life” format again, but I may try adding more depth to the story by incorporating perspective from other friends and family. I’ll probably focus more on video content, as well.

Amnesty International – Social Media Case Study

An interview with Dunya Kamal, Global Communities Officer at Amnesty International about their use of social media to further their cause.

1. How has social media changed the way Amnesty International communicate?

We’re able to inspire people to take injustice personally, in a very direct and organic way. Being the largest human rights organisation in the world means we need to be sure that we are engaging in the conversations our audience talk about, and providing them with content that they care about, relate to, and want to get involved in. It’s massively changed the way we communicate! We’re now creating content specifically for social media e.g. videos for Facebook, and we’re understanding our audience so that we can remain relevant.

2. What is Amnesty International’s most successful campaign on social media?

When we launched our Ireland report and campaign back in June 2015, we were hoping to get an impact with some really powerful graphics our in-house designer created. We weren’t expecting to break our own personal best, with it having the biggest engagement on Facebook for a single post that any of our campaigns has ever achieved (record petition signups in the first week at 15,000, too!).

Amnesty

Its success was down to a few factors: the content itself was demanding Ireland change its abortion law. Good quality content is a must as per WebCitz; the timing was just after the Marriage Referendum success, so many of our users were commenting with the feeling that ‘if the #MarRef happened, it’s about time we got around to this too’.

We’ve also had success with a short-running campaign targeting Shell to clean up the Niger Delta, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The focus on this one, in contrast, was Twitter, hijacking Shell’s own hashtag ‘#makethefuture’ and asking our audience via the website and our tweets, to target Shell.

3. How do you measure the success of your social media channels? What metrics do you use?

Success isn’t a tangible thing – it really depends on what the objectives are. Clearly, if we’re growing across channels, and our engagement numbers are high, we’re on the right track. We use Sprinklr, a social media management tool and platform for a lot of our data capture on social. If part of a campaign is to overload a government official’s Twitter account with mentions, then what we’re focusing on is the pick-up of a specific hashtag or how many people tweet him/her, as opposed to the number of retweets our own tweets receive. Our Data and Insights Analyst is doing an amazing job, setting benchmark figures for our channels in general, projecting what our growth should be by a certain point, and looking at what type of content our audience engages with the most. Adapting our content so that we’re constantly listening to what our audience wants, is a great way to at least ensure you’re always on the right side of success.

4. How does social media help you connect with the media?

Social media is great for bringing breaking news to the people you want to see it – namely press on Twitter. Any time a crisis proliferates, the media team and myself jump on Twitter to get an idea of the content being shared, what the tone of voice, angle, attitude is on the issue. I like to keep an eye on trending hashtags to ensure we are inserting ourselves into the conversation appropriately, and we have a separate press Twitter account that focuses on sharing content most appropriate for journalists and media across the world. Like everything else, social media has made that line to media more direct and therefore much quicker, so not only can we disseminate information (especially breaking news) in effective ways, but we are also able to respond to and see what other news outlets are doing.

5. What is the most important ingredient in a social media strategy?

Understanding your audience. A well-written, coherent strategy is only as valuable as what it delivers. You need to be able to listen, on each platform, to what your audience wants, as well as what kind of content they are engaging with on their social channels (which may have nothing to do with Amnesty!).

6. How do Amnesty International use social media for human rights monitoring?

This predominantly occurs in Twitter, which is an extremely powerful tool for those wishing to document abuses or simply get their story heard. Once I spot something on social (using Topsy for example, sometimes our tool Sprinklr) that seems like it is gaining traction or exploring a human rights abuse, I send a note to the relevant researcher or campaigner to flag to them what I’ve been seeing online, but also to get an understanding from them on what they’re doing – most of the time they’re keeping a watch on the situation, are looking to verify sources, and sometimes there’s an upcoming report or briefing on the issue.

7. What concerns do you have about social media?

The only major concern we have is sharing information too early – sometimes we need to be sure we have verified what we’ve seen on social, which might delay our response or voice on the issue, but is crucial to ensure we don’t say anything that isn’t true. Information is provided to the researchers, who may then need to speak to our law and policy department, but the verification of information comes from a number of sources across the organisation and at this point it would be out of my hands, I’ll hear back if something has been checked and verified, but usually this stage is more focused on information gathering.

Shamba Shape Up and the Use of Social Media

Shamba Shape Up is a reality style TV show designed to educate East Africa’s rapidly growing rural audience. The make over style show aims to give both farmer and the audience the tools they need to improve productivity and income on their farms. Each week the Shape Up team visit a different farm in a different area of the country. The team includes the film crew and a number of experts from partner organisations who specialize in the topics to be covered in the episode. The core of the series tackles issues surrounding livestock, poultry, crops and soil fertility. Other relevant topics include financial planning, solar power and harvesting rainwater.

The series is also supported online with a popular Facebook page which has around 44,500 fans, a Twitter page which has nearly 3,000 followers, a YouTube channel, and recently, a blog and Instagram. The interaction on the Facebook page is pretty impressive.

As well as online, viewers without internet or power can SMS a database and ask for information in the form of leaflets. These leaflets are posted to people free of charge once they SMS asking for them. So far 250,000 have been distributed. Recently, Shamba Shape Up has moved to mobile, with the starting of iShamba. iShamba is a mobile information service, which gives subscribers access to a call centre, SMS service, weather reports, farming tips and deals or advice form commercial partners.

Katharine MacMahon, Communications Officer for Shamba Shape Up said “The social media has been a great tool for us, with our Facebook page becoming a hub for farmers to get advice from either us or from other farmers on the group. We run regular competitions with our partners help, and also invite people to send in photos of their farm and get involved in discussions. In general, the Facebook page is farmer-focused.

In comparison, the Twitter page, which is much smaller, has more of a partner-focus. We interact with our partners and the information they have to offer much more on Twitter, with more of a complex nature (on the Facebook page, posts must not have words which are more than 7 letters long – keeping it easy to read for farmers who may be less educated).

Last month we held a Tweetchat on #TalkSoil, in the lead up to Global Soil Week, with the help of CIAT. It was successful in both discussing the issues surrounding soil health, and also to raise the profile of Shamba Shape Up in the agricultural community on Twitter. To increase the number of Twitter followers, we aim to tweet much more than we currently do, get involved with more discussions and tweet chats and engage more with #KOT (#KenyansOnTwitter – a huge hashtag in Kenya used by millions), and connect with more farmers here.”

The show is on TV in Kenya (4 million viewers), Uganda (2 million viewers) and Tanzania (4 million viewers). It was started in 2008, and became Kenya’s reality style TV show. It is the third “edu-tainment” production created by Mediae.

DFID, Social Media and Infographics

Just over a year ago I met with the digital team at DFID for the first time and wrote a blog critiquing their use of social media. At that very first meeting we briefly discussed the possibility of our students working on a project as part of the MA Media and International Development that I teach on.

Last week, after extensive negotiations, I visited DFID with 7 students to initiate a consulting process. We had a productive day at meetings with Marisol Grandon (Head of Digital), Simon Davis (Senior Content Editor), Russell Watkins (Photography Editor), Jess Lea (Girls and Women Digital Lead) and Ricci Coughlan (Digital Editorial Designer).

It was incredible to hear about their content generation for their social media platforms and to learn about the appointment of Ricci three months after the initial discussion about the need for a graphic designer. His presentation was remarkable and it demonstrated the success of his recruitment.

As I mentioned in my blog post, images and infographics are an incredibly effective way to engage with audiences, and I wanted to talk about some of DFID’s recent successes. They have collaborated with 3d animation studios to create stunning and highly shareable visuals that have not only raised their profile but also showcased their commitment to social media outreach. Their clever use of infographics to communicate data points has been appreciated by their followers, and many have been amazed to see how DFID have used 3D animation to capture a narrative.

The results of this partnership have been a great success and have helped DFID’s digital presence to grow and expand.

The first infographic I want to introduce is a birds eye view of the first British Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone.

It is a fantastic example to show the power of social media to strengthen stakeholder relationships. The infographic has been widely shared including tweets from the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defense and Save the Children. It is important for multi-lateral agencies such as DFID to engage with new audiences. I’m sure many of Save the Children’s followers also follow DFID but I wonder how many followers of the MoD’s twitter account also follow them? How many of them have started following them as a result of this retweet? The infographic was also lifted and posted on the Mirror website. More exposure to an audience that might not be aware of DFID’s work.Below is another example of how content created by DFID was used on the UN’s Twitter channel.

I asked the team if social media had helped improve relationships with other organisations. They said that they regularly receive or send direct messages to other organisations to share and promote information and that this had undoubtedly improved relationships. I don’t know why I’d never thought about this more deeply before. To me, as an individual, social media and particularly Twitter has been an invaluable tool for networking and this is equally or maybe even more important for global organisations who share similar goals or values. It’s hard to put a value on this but I hope senior managers appreciate how immensely important this kind of networking is in a digital age.

My favourite infographic from DFID is a series of 8-bit pixel designs which were used to raise awareness of the girls summit which was held in the summer. This style seems to resonate with other DFID supporters as it was highly shared on Facebook. Maybe DFID followers on Facebook are a similar age to myself and therefore the use of a retro style appealed to them. Maybe it was the subject matter?

Infographics can be very succinct with their message or very detailed. DFID have experimented with several approaches including animated gifs, videos and quotegrams too. I’m not particularly a fan of quotegram and animated gifs and looking at shares they are not so popular with other audiences, but I applaud DFID for experimenting with different mediums. The video style infographic below however, is detailed and has had a good number of views.

Although infographics have the potential for sharing, they take a long time to research and produce and do not always engage with the public. Using an agency to produce these kind of graphics can be costly so having an in-house designer who is proficient in these skills can be a more cost effective approach. But, it doesn’t always work.

Ricci said “I feel it is important to add that I am very proud of the work here and they are very much the products of team work, not only between the digital editors and myself but also our colleagues in strategic communications and policy who contribute advice, guidance and outreach. The team work at DFID is one of the many highlights of my experience here in my first year.”

On the whole I’m a big fan of the infographics produced by DFID. It would be good to measure the overall reach that these graphics have had. I don’t have time to do that at the moment, maybe the student group will in their analysis. You can view and assess the infographics for yourself as they are available in a dedicated Flickr group. I hope you find them interesting.