News and Views

Media Matters for Women (MMW) at CSW67 NGO Forum

Media Matters for Women (MMW) hosted an event at the United Nations’ 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women NGO Forum in New York City on March 10. Two members of our team from Sierra Leone, Executive Director Florence Sesay and Senior Journalist Alinah Kallon, were able to obtain visas and attend the conference. They shared their knowledge from their 10-years of experience championing the rights of women and girls among rural communities in Sierra Leone. MMW was also represented by Global Executive Director Lisa Sebree and Founder Sharon Bylenga as well as two of our interns, Maddy MacKenzie and Camille Fowler. Several members of MMW-UK and MMW-US International Advisory Committees as well as supporters from around the U.S. came to NYC to support us.

Several of our MMW team attended the Ambassador’s Reception with Her Excellency Dame Barbara Woodward, United Kingdom Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Her reception for NGOs at CSW67 offered the opportunity to meet many members as well as the Ambassador herself. Her remarks to the group were especially appreciated.

Overall, the UN conference provided opportunities for MMW staff and our many supporters to meet from across the globe as well as to network with others working in the fields of women’s rights and empowerment. For our Sierra Leone staff, it was very important for them to come to CSW67 to hear stories of first-hand experiences from other women – they gained considerably from hearing from other women who are facing similar problems. It was also important for our team to present in a large forum, and to experience the many plenary sessions within the UN, especially the West Africa regional session on FGM and SGBV. We were especially grateful for the several panels focused on new technologies in the area of media and outreach.

Our Panel Discussion: “Addressing the Unmet Information Needs of Africa’s Hardest-to-Reach Communities”

Our panel discussion on March 10, “Addressing the Unmet Information Needs of Africa’s Hardest-To-Reach Communities” included Dr. Mildred Mushunje, of Zimbabwe, Co-Chair of the Civil Society Regional Reference Group (a Spotlight Initiative of the African Union) and Kassoum Coulibaly, Founder and Chair of the Afrika Global Gender Academy in Mali.

Florence Sesay, MMW Executive Director of MMW in Sierra Leone, opened the meeting. She noted that it has been rare for Sierra Leonean media to value the opinions of women and girls. MMW is ten years-old this year and is proud of the fact that we have put forward a blueprint for how to fight for women’s empowerment. MMW is above all a media organization dedicated to reaching Sierra Leone’s most rural communities with relevent news and information. MMW stands up to injustice and provides a model of innovative media to all. MMW’s hope is that our media focused on women’s needs will improve conditions for future generations of Sierra Leones. For survivors of sexual violence, our message is « You are not alone. It is important to believe in yourself and to get the help you need.” We then offer advice on the community services organizations where women and girls can go to find assistance.

Short video of our work

Alinah Kallon, MMW Senior Journalist from Makeni, shared experiences from her 10-years of working for MMW, describing the problems that she has seen in this mid-size town north of the capitol Freetown when there is a lack of access to information. In many cases, she said, misinformation and negative societal pressures on women and girls result. She explained some experiences of rural women and girls in Sierra Leone to help the audience better understand the realities facing females in Sierra Leone.

Dr. Mildred Mushunje from Zimbabwe, Co-Chair of the Civil Society Regional Reference Group (a Spotlight Initiative of the African Union), shared insights about her work to educate girls about their sexual and reproductive healthcare rights, a movement that she began in Zimbabwe that has branched across southern Africa. She spoke about the importance of having community champions who keep an eye on every girl within their community, checking on any girls they haven’t seen in a few days. She emphasized the importance of working within communities and developing solutions from the “last mile.”

Kassoum Coulibaly, Founder and Chair of the Afrika Global Gender Academy in Mali, spoke about his work empowering women and girls in rural Mali. Through his experience, he has concluded that the key to female empowerment is access to economic opportunities, which provides long-term change and independence. Additionally, Kassoum emphasized the importance of involving men and traditional and religious leaders in the fight for women’s rights as they hold much societal power.

We were pleased to host around 30 in-person attendees and more than 20 attended remotely.  Julienne Lusenge, a Congolese human rights activist recognized for advocating for survivors of wartime sexual violence also attended. She is Director of the Fund For Congolese Women and co-founder of SOFEPADI, and is an MMW partner. She had just come from the White House where she was honored in a ceremony with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken for the 2021 International Women of Courage Award. The official event had been delayed because of COVID-19, and she flew to NYC from that event to attend our presentation.

Event Video

Addressing the Unmet Information Needs of Africa’s Hardest-To-Reach Communities: MMW CSW Side Event

Media Matters for Women (MMW)

Empowering women for social change

Media Matters for Women journalists create podcasts – in rural villages’ local languages – that cover topics important to the health, safety and welfare of women and girls.
Our field staff, who are hired from the rural communities that we serve, deliver these podcasts to their communities via listening centers, youth advocates, town criers, and radio stations. Topics include COVID, Ebola, malaria, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), female genital mutilation (FGM), and Sierra Leone’s June 2023 general elections.

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