2023 ended with uptick in attacks as 4th Quarter recorded 9% rise in FOE violations

The MFWA’s monitoring report for the fourth quarter of 2023 demonstrates a concerning trend of government interference, attacks on journalists, legal harassment, and media censorship, amidst endemic impunity in the region.

A total of thirty-nine (39) incidents of freedom of expression violations were recorded. The figure is eight per cent (8%) higher than that of the preceding quarter (July-September 2023) which stood at 36.

Nigeria recorded twelve (12) violations, the highest number of violations during the quarter. Guinea followed with seven (7) violations, while Mali and Ghana recorded five (5) and four (4) violations respectively. Senegal and Sierra Leone recorded three (3) violations each. Burkina Faso and The Gambia each recorded two (2) violations, while Togo recorded one (1) violation.

The quarter was marred by a wave of arrests and detentions, physical attacks, and censorship in the subregion. The most serious incidents of violations occurred in Mali where a deadly attack on a convoy of journalists left one dead, another kidnapped and others injured. Another grievous violation was recorded in Guinea with the internet heavily restricted on social media platforms in the country.

In one of the numerous incidents in Nigeria, Major General Bello Mohammed Abdullahi, the Niger State Commissioner of Homeland Security, on November 24, 2023, assaulted Mustapha Batsari, a journalist with Voice of America (VOA). The altercation took place at the Government House in Minna where Batsari had gone to seek information from the Commissioner regarding a crisis in Beji, Bosso Local Government Area.

The following day, November 25, 2023, numerous media outlets in Guinea encountered disruptions, including jammed radio signals and the unavailability of popular social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok without a VPN. FIM FM and Djoma FM both reported signal interference on the same day.

In terms of distribution, twenty-five (25) of the violations were targeted at journalists and media workers, while nine (9) were targeted at media organisations. Four (4) of the violations were directed at citizens with one (1) targeted at an activist. Seven (7) different types of perpetrators were responsible for the thirty-nine (39) violations.

Security agents accounted for nineteen (19) violations, representing forty-nine per cent (49%) of the total. State/public officials and individuals carried out six (6) violations (15%) and seven (7) violations (18%) respectively. Political party affiliates, the courts and media regulatory bodies each accounted for two (2) violations (5%). The remaining violation was attributed to media owners/managers which recorded one violation (1) representing 3%.

This quarter’s freedom of expression monitor also features other important freedom of expression and digital rights developments in the region, including redresses for violations and recommendations to key stakeholders.

Access the full report here.

Women in the Digital Economy Fund: USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Partners Launch WiDEF

NEW YORK, N.Y., March 12, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Women in the Digital Economy Fund (WiDEF), a five-year $60.5 million investment to accelerate progress on closing the global gender digital divide, announces its first call for applications with recorded remarks from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power.

Founded by USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—and first announced by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris in Accra, Ghana in March 2023—WiDEF will now begin identifying, funding, and accelerating investment in proven solutions to close the gender digital divide.

​”The gender digital divide hinders development progress—ingraining existing inequities into the fabric of societies of the future, creating a self-perpetuating cycle that drives further disparities. We need a future in which women are empowered to participate as equal citizens in our increasingly digital world. We look forward to working together to achieve that vision,” said Samantha Power, Administrator, USAID.

“I’m proud of our support for the Women in the Digital Economy Fund. Overcoming the gender digital divide is crucial to unlock the potential of women in the digital era. By increasing women’s participation in digital technology, we’re aiming not just to change their status from consumers to creators and leaders; we’re working to forge a path to a future where everyone benefits,” said Anita Zaidi, President of the Gender Equality Division at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

This event, which brought together leaders from across the public and private sectors and civil society worldwide, was an opportunity to celebrate the start of this effort and learn about how WiDEF will implement its ambitious vision. Representing the Biden-Harris Administration at today’s kickoff event was Rachel Vogelstein, White House Gender Policy Council Deputy Director.

Advancing access to digital technology for all women and girls is critical to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This will help ensure that everyone has access to economic opportunities and advancement as well as government services, education, and healthcare.

In low- and middle-income countries, nearly one and a half billion women lack access to online services. Through 2022, there were 259 million more men than women globally using the internet; a gap that has cost the global economy an estimated $1 trillion. Closing the gender digital divide would increase economic activity by an estimated $524 billion by 2025.

WiDEF is administered by consortium partners CARE, Global Digital Inclusion Partnership (GDIP), and the GSMA Foundation. The consortium will collaborate with industry-leading organizations to effectively engage local and global private sector actors and funders to advance a shared set of commitments to closing the gender digital divide.

“WiDEF is about putting millions of women at the center of connectivity and information programming. CARE brings our strength in locally led, gender-centered programming in over 100 countries to the effort. The consortium’s collective focus on technology, policy, and gender advocacy offers the greatest opportunity yet to create and sustain an internet that works for the women who could most benefit from it,” said Revi Sterling, WiDEF Technical Director and CARE Senior Technical Director, Digital Inclusion.

“Launching WiDEF is indeed a special moment, one that reflects real commitment and determination to address the stubborn gender digital divide and open the possibilities for women in the digital economy. GDIP is committed to women’s digital inclusion, and we look forward to advocating alongside our global partners to advance this collective effort,” said Sonia Jorge, GDIP Executive Director.

“Closing the gender digital divide has been at the centre of the GSMA Foundation’s work for over a decade, and we are extremely honoured to play an active role in the management of the Women in the Digital Economy Fund. We now look forward to receiving applications to the first round launched today, and to the further two rounds to be announced later this year, focused on large private sector actors, and India specifically,” said Max Cuvellier Giacomelli, Head of Mobile for Development, GSMA.

WiDEF will support and fund programs that advance digital access and affordability; develop relevant products and tools; provide digital literacy and skills training; promote online safety and security; and invest in sex-disaggregated data and research. It will support, wherever possible, women-led and gender transformative solutions, products, and tools and will invest heavily in ensuring the voices and institutions closest to the gender digital divide are central to the effort.

As part of today’s event, WiDEF announced the first call for applications, inviting local institutions worldwide to apply to receive WiDEF funding and support. Applications are due by May 6, 2024.

In addition to financial support from USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, funding is also being provided by Microsoft and the Korean International Cooperation Agency.

To learn more, email contact@widef.global, visit us online at widef.global or follow WiDEF on social media (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter/X).

About CARE
Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside women and girls. Equipped with the proper resources, women and girls have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. This year, CARE and partners worked in 109 countries implementing 1,671 poverty-fighting development and humanitarian aid projects and initiatives that reached 167,000,000 people. To learn more, visit www.care.org.

About GDIP
The Global Digital Inclusion Partnership (GDIP) is a coalition of public, private, and civil society organizations working to bring internet connectivity to the global majority and ensure everyone is meaningfully connected by 2030. Founded by a global team of experts who successfully championed affordable and meaningful connectivity around the world, GDIP advances digital opportunities to empower and support people’s lives and agency, leading to inclusive digital societies.

GSMA Mobile for Development Foundation
The GSMA Mobile for Development Foundation, Inc. (‘The GSMA Foundation’) brings together mobile operators, innovators, governments, and the international development community to realise the positive social, economic and climate impact of mobile technology, primarily in low- and middle-income countries. With funding from donors and the GSMA, the GSMA Foundation runs programmes that advance digital and financial inclusion – with a strong focus on gender inclusivity, climate action, humanitarian response, and investment in innovative digital solutions. Since 2007, these programmes have impacted the lives of over 220 million people.

Michael de Vulpillieres
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Inua Jamii Programme Marks a New Era of Support for Kisumu’s Elderly

KISUMU — The Inua Jamii Cash Transfer Programme, a government initiative designed to assist the elderly in Kisumu County, is making significant strides in enhancing the quality of life for this vulnerable segment of the population. Spearheaded by the State Department for Social Protection, the programme delivers financial assistance directly to senior citizens, providing them with a crucial safety net.

According to Kenya News Agency, a lay counselor engaged in the local implementation of the initiative, the programme distributes a monthly stipend of 2,000 shillings to each eligible individual. These funds are allocated through established banking partners such as Kenya Commercial Bank, Cooperative Bank, Postbank, National Bank, Equity Bank, and Kenya Women Finance Trust, all of which have facilitated the creation of special accounts for the beneficiaries.

To qualify for the programme, individuals must be 70 years or older, hold a valid identification card, and not be recipients of other pension schemes. Onyona emphasized the importance of physical verification during the registration process to prevent fraudulent claims, a method referred to as “proof of life.”

The collaboration with local government officials, including chiefs and village elders, ensures the transparent and efficient delivery of benefits. For beneficiaries unable to visit banks, designated caregivers are entrusted with the task of withdrawing and delivering the funds, with a focus on enhancing convenience and accessibility for those with disabilities through the introduction of M-PESA payments.

Onyona acknowledged the difficulties faced by elderly individuals, especially those with mobility challenges or disabilities, and detailed the programme’s adaptations to meet their needs, such as prioritizing them for mobile money transfers. Moreover, the formation of local committees within the communities serves to monitor and address any concerns, facilitating effective communication and timely interventions.

Addressing the issue of accountability, Onyona highlighted ongoing efforts to vet and monitor caregivers, ensuring they act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. Success stories have already emerged, with some recipients utilizing the financial support to improve their living conditions or venture into entrepreneurship.

The Inua Jamii Cash Transfer Programme represents a vital component of the government’s commitment to social protection, embodying a concerted effort to ensure that elderly citizens in Kisumu County, and across Kenya, receive the respect and support they deserve.

Murang’a Philanthropist Advocates Vocational Training for Recovering Alcoholics

MURANG’A—A Murang’a philanthropist, Nduta Mwaniki, has emphasized the importance of vocational training for recovering alcoholics, stating that it serves as a crucial support in their battle against addiction. As the Chief Executive Officer of Dream Hub Foundation, Mwaniki, during an address at the Kangema vocational training centre, revealed the foundation’s ongoing partnerships with local vocational training centers. These collaborations have resulted in the enrolment of numerous recovering alcoholics in artisan courses, providing them with essential skills for livelihood as part of their rehabilitation process.

According to Kenya News Agency, unemployment and the high cost of living are significant factors contributing to young Kenyans’ descent into alcohol and drug abuse. The Dream Hub Foundation’s initiative seeks to counteract these issues by offering vocational training as a means to equip the youth with employable skills post-rehabilitation. Highlighting the initiative’s impact, Mwaniki disclosed that over 5000 recovering alcoholics in Murang’a have benefited from free vocational training programs initiated by her organization. Inspired by her personal experiences with family members battling alcoholism, Mwaniki has dedicated over 25 years to the cause, underscoring the role of income-generating skills in sustaining sobriety among the recovering individuals.

The Dream Hub Foundation’s efforts include the employment of additional trainers and provision of meals for enrolled students, ensuring a comprehensive support system throughout their training period. Beyond vocational training, Mwaniki mentioned the foundation’s collaboration with local administration to educate the community on the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, further assisting in identifying and rehabilitating addicts before introducing them to vocational training opportunities.

Mwaniki also called for broader support from the government and other stakeholders in reviving and expanding vocational training centers across the country. This expansion, she argued, is essential for providing more young people with access to artisan skills, thereby contributing to the ongoing fight against alcoholism.

Support for the initiative was echoed by Muguru Member of County Assembly, Moses Muchiri, who praised the vocational training centres for offering life-changing opportunities to the youth, enabling them to earn a livelihood and maintain sobriety. Faith Njoroge, overseeing vocational training in Murang’a County, affirmed the county’s commitment to equipping young people with income-generating skills, with over 4000 students currently enrolled in regular courses and an additional 1040 sponsored by Murang’a Youth Service for short courses.

The story of Peter Kamathiro, a recovering alcoholic and beneficiary of the program, illustrates the transformative impact of the initiative. Kamathiro and his peers have formed a youth group engaged in baking, turning their newfound skills into a sustainable source of income and a motivation to remain sober.

This initiative represents a multifaceted approach to combating alcoholism, combining rehabilitation, skill development, and community support to foster a conducive environment for recovery and self-sufficiency among the youth in Murang’a.

Nakuru County Implements Strict Measures Against Land Fraud and Illicit Activities

NAKURU—Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki announced stringent actions against land officers involved in fraud and forgery in Nakuru County, emphasizing that they will face prosecution for compromising the integrity of land documents. The warning comes amidst ongoing disputes, including a significant case involving Nakuru War Memorial Hospital and its controversial land lease extension.

According to Kenya News Agency, led by County Commissioner Loyford Kibaara, Kindiki expressed his disappointment with land officials who have facilitated land fraud and forgery of titles and leases. The County government is currently embroiled in a legal battle over land ownership with the directors of Nakuru War Memorial Hospital, which allegedly secured a dubious extension of its lease.

Additionally, Kindiki addressed the broader issue of crime and law enforcement in the county, particularly focusing on the illegal narcotics trade and the illicit sale and consumption of liquor. He outlined a plan to transfer approximately 42,500 police officers who had overstayed at their posts to prevent corruption and inefficiency in tackling these issues.

The Interior CS also highlighted the efforts to dismantle organized criminal networks in Nakuru, crediting local security forces with making significant progress against groups such as Confirm, TZ, Mauki, and Mungiki. He affirmed the government’s commitment to eradicating illegal activities threatening national security and undermining property rights.

As Nakuru grapples with these challenges, Kindiki’s announcements signal a determined effort to uphold law and order and protect the rights and safety of its residents.