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Five years on, three exciting more to go

By Muthoni Wahome, Voice Internal Amplifier Officer

Do you remember your fifth birthday? Probably not if you have celebrated 10 or more birthdays. A child reaching five, however, is often a celebrated milestone. And there is every reason to. They probably have started pre-school, began making friends and, or have started to acquire knowledge that’s starts to shape their outlook in life.  

Likewise, in a project cycle, five years of successful implementation is no mean feat. No project or programme goes without teething problems, or not needing adjustments here and there. Could be at year two of implementation, the projected monitoring plans did not work as expected or the modalities of working with partners needed a little (or a lot) of tweaking. The Voice programme was not any special. It had its teething problems in the first year as it tried to find its footing. One of the major issues was trying to find its identity and it eventually did. Its proud to state and emphasise on the need for grantees to be in the lead of all its work. It’s these voices – of the rightsholders and rightsholders groups – that have made Voice the programme a success. What would the programme be profiling had it not been their work, their journey? Nothing.

Hence, on April 7, the Voice programme went all out to celebrate five years of the first phase of its implementation. In 2016, the programme existed in theory but here we were, ten countries across Asia, East and West Africa; over 400 grantees, 1,000 plus partners and over 5,000 plus linking and learning activities hence the mantra of the celebration: We are Prouder and louder!

“I don’t need you to accept me, I embraced myself long ago,” snippet from poem recited by Sitawa Namwalie. The poem used words from experiences shared by grantees.

The ten countries where Voice is implemented individually held celebrations (in their countries) and further joined in one online global celebration coordinated from the Netherlands. For LaosNigeriaMaliNiger and Uganda, they physically met and celebrated, while KenyaTanzaniaCambodiaIndonesia and Philippines connected virtually for their own national celebrations. Shiny or magic moments were shared by rightsholders and grantees, whom without, the programme would never have been a success (yes! I’m underscoring this).

Take for example this Moment shared by Chae Chhean, rightsholder from Ratanakiri province of northeast Cambodia:

I am one of the young members of a Girl-Led Group. I live in KaChoun Krom Village, KaChoun Commune, VoeunSai district. Like other girls in this area, in the past, I thought that young marriage was common. The villagers here do it without knowing the consequences. Now I know that It is a harmful practice that denies girls their right to make vital decisions and pursue an education. Other girls and I have always been at risk of child marriage. Through peer-to-peer education I learnt and explored issues around reproductive health. I joined a health post for providing mobile health services to all young mothers who are affected by child marriage and for girls who are at high risk of child marriage and teen pregnancy. I became aware of these issues when attending commune meetings. Adolescents and young mothers who get married at a young age, end up living in poverty. But slowly like me, they are turning to invest in education. That is what I hope for more girls and women. This is my shiny moment.

Chae’s story and many more were shared in the various celebrations and who doesn’t love happy endings? Not to forget, happy endings for some, are the start of a (broader) story. You can read more of these Moments here.

Stories and testimonials aside, what would a party be without music (and food or should I say cake)! Artists such as Madina N’Daiye from Mali, the first woman to play a kora (it was a reserve for men), who is also blind graced the celebrations. Award-winning Kenyan poet, playwright and performer known for her unique dramatized poetry performances which combine poetry and traditional Kenyan music, Sitawa Namwalie together with Madina weaved a piece together – yes, Sitawa read a poem as Madina worked her magic through with the kora. There was DJ Catu Diosi from Uganda as well. Catu is a disc jockey and music producer who recently started a project, Dope Gal Africa to essentially celebrate, promote and help orchestrate a global network of African and diaspora female DJs, producers and all-round creatives so as to network, share resources, knowledge and essentially tap into the less explored facets of the music industry.

What next for Voice

We have another three years to shine on. We aim to get even more voices heard and people seen; basically, building on the base we have created. Additionally, there shall be opportunities for former grantees to further deepen their work, which they started. Linking and Learning continues. And more avenues for grantees to take an active role continues.

And yes! From Kamkor Village, Cambodia through East Africa to West Africa, our grantees made the Voice programme a success. We are prouder and louder! #  We strive for: Indigenous People and ethnic minorities; Vulnerable elderly and youth, women facing exploitation, abuse and / or violence, LGBTIQ & people with disabilities. Watch more below.

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