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Amplifying Credible Voices on Elections
June 22, 2016

Woman holding up her painted thumb (© AP Images)
A woman in Zambia uses her painted finger to indicate she has voted. (© AP Images)

Michelle Malunga is a YALI Network member as well as a program manager at a radio-and-television station in Zambia. She also volunteers with an organization that advocates for literacy development, focusing on youths, women and children.

In her volunteer work, she has noticed a large degree of voter apathy among the young people and women she works with. She wondered if media organizations could help counter this problem.

“There has been so much voter apathy over the years,” said Malunga, “and women and youths tend to shy away from the electoral process. There is more that media institutions can do to help the electorate understand their right to vote and feel protected by the law. We have … amazing media institutions that we need to use correctly, not just for profit-making.”

Malunga met with with Jamila Fagge, a journalist with Voice of America and an expert in communications strategy, and Ako Essan Emile, a Mandela Washington Fellow and managing director of Radio Arc-en-ciel, a community-based radio station in the densely populated urban area of Abobo in Côte d’Ivoire.

A common problem across many countries in sub-Saharan Africa is a lack of access to voting information from credible voices, resulting in a lack of knowledge of voting processes and voting’s importance as a civic duty. Too much of the dialogue around elections is often influenced by misinformation from political elites, media sources and community leaders.

Malunga, Fagge and Ako believe one way to provide credible and relevant voting information would be to leverage an existing entity of more than 230,000 members: the YALI Network. Ako and Fagge proposed creating country-specific Facebook pages supported by Whatsapp and using SoundCloud and YouTube to disseminate voter-education materials in the manner of community radio.

Employing blogs, vlogs (video), podcasts and pictures, the Facebook pages would host experts closest to the issues in the particular communities creating content. These local content producers would tag their followers to increase reach. This content could be shared with pan-African news organizations such as BBC Africa and CNN Africa.

Malunga and the other Network members committed to creating pages for Zambia and the other countries they represent, and they hope to enlist other YALI Network members to create an outlet for consistent, credible and accurate voting information.