“Now, when I go to my village, I see people from different walks of life coming together, joking and talking together. It’s not like before when everyone kept to their own kind, and this is all thanks to the education of your programs.” – Oumar Mahamat, Ndjamena, Chad
Voices for Peace (V4P) is a five-year regional prime partnership with USAID launched in 2016 aimed at reducing vulnerability to violent extremism in West Africa and promoting democracy, human rights and good governance by amplifying moderate voices of peace and tolerance in Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Mali.
Since the early 2000s, violent extremism has become endemic to parts of the African Sahel and West Africa, where tens of thousands of people have been killed by violent extremists and state-led counterinsurgency campaigns. The regional conflicts and resulting humanitarian crises have displaced millions within and across national borders.
V4P expands EAI’s countering violent extremism (CVE) impact through an agile combination of community action and media programming built on EAI’s eight successful years of CVE in media production and broadcast as a consortium partner on the USAID Peace through Development projects (PDev I & PDev II).
"Youth unemployment is a major factor pushing young people towards radicalization. We must promote dialogue to resolve conflicts, increase social acceptance, and create jobs for young people."
The V4P Approach:
V4P’s innovative community-driven CVE approach integrates targeted strategies in each country across main violent extremist pillars. The project’s Activity Monitoring & Evaluation Plan (AMEP) is focused on outcome indicators developed in partnership with USAID/West Africa, the USAID country missions, key stakeholders, and the communities in which V4P is active. This new approach to CVE is enabling V4P to make inroads in addressing community vulnerabilities to extremism while strengthening community resilience through multi-stakeholder collaboration.
V4P incorporates EAI’s extensive local knowledge of what works and doesn’t in the Sahel and uses EAI’s signature community-centered programming, which includes learning and adapting including V4P teams regularly evaluating which platforms, partnerships, and narratives are most effective in CVE efforts, and adopting new approaches based on that learning. To this end, the V4P program design has built-in flexibility to modify geographic targets, messaging and scope to adapt and respond to changing violent extremist narratives and fluid security situations.
Throughout the region, V4P brings together key local influencers and leaders to provide feedback on radio programs to fine-tune the production of culturally resonant materials dealing with CVE issues. Content Advisory Groups meet to discuss and provide technical expertise for radio programming to ensure that the content of the radio programs is technically accurate and culturally appropriate, as well as entertaining and engaging for each specific local audience. Listening Discussion and Action Groups (LDAGs) facilitators are trained to instigate a dialogue on themes of CVE, good governance, and peace amongst their peers.
The extensive formative research and local staff in each country ensure that V4P is actively engaged with vulnerable groups specifically those that are marginalized including youth, women, poor communities, and ethnic minorities as these groups are often targeted by violent extremist actors. EAI also advocates for and creates opportunities to integrate the voices of these groups into formal political and economic forums to address their concerns.
To that end, in September 2018, 29 Chadian youth organizations held a press conference demanding inclusion in the political process to generate economic opportunity. EAI convened a townhall meeting with these youth groups and mayors of 10 communes, which provided a unique opportunity for policymakers to address youth issues and integrate them into the planning process. EAI’s facilitating these types of activities decreased the likelihood that VE narratives will attract the young people. This is critical given the explosion of the youth demographic in N’Djamena, Chad the country’s capital it is estimated 70% of the 2 million people who live there are youth.
For example, the groups like the Budumas in Lake Chad, who often are accused of colluding with Boko Haram, are invited to express their concerns and grievances at roundtables and forums. Indeed, for the first time, and through our local team, members of the Budumas were able to engage policymakers on the issue of their systematic marginalization and spark an ongoing dialogue in an open forum. Meanwhile, V4P continues to strengthen the technical skills of local radio productions in the form of radio capacity assessments, signal mapping and material support.
Youth Tech Camps and Video Contests: Tech camps are a new addition to EA’s Sahel portfolio and, have proven to be one of the most dynamic and successful activities in the V4P project. Sessions included advocacy techniques, achieving social change through non-violent methods, social media tips and tricks, and film production and editing training. Youth video competitions launched in tandem with the camps give the participants the opportunity to put their new skills to use to create videos about something they want to change in their community.
Youth tech camps have taken place in Cameroon, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, allowing young community leaders to be trained to use social media to help counter violent extremist narratives across the region while promoting inclusive governance.
“Women’s role in the fight against violent extremism is critical. When we women unite, we are an unbeatable force." - Walida Ousmane, 23, Vice President of the Young Girl Leaders' Chapter in Niger
Women Peacemakers: V4P establishes women and girls as CVE leaders across the project’s media and community engagement activities. Annual V4P Women Champions of Peace Competitions in each country recognize inspiring women leaders and their contributions to social cohesion. National women’s leadership radio magazine programs, regional radio soap operas, and a women’s leadership video series feature women who challenge stereotypes and corruption while resolving conflict and countering VE narratives.
Interactive Call-Ins: In June 2017, a spate of deadly attacks on the Niger-Burkina Faso border destabilized entire communities. In response to the attacks, V4P worked with local radio stations to foster dialogue by providing a safe platform to connect communities with their local officials. The interactive radio broadcasts, which include roundtables with local leaders followed by call-in segments, were immediately useful in connecting diverse members of the community. “These kinds of discussions with the population and especially our youth are key to combatting extremism,” said a local authority from the Tera region.
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