NGO creates citizen journalism app for communities

By Sibahle Malinga, IT Web Journalist
Johannesburg

CT Ubumbano, a network of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) around Southern Africa, has unveiled a mobile and Web-based application aimed at helping community members report and share their personal stories of social, economic and gender injustice.

ACT Ubumbano is part of the global ACT Alliance consisting of members from Europe and Southern Africa, aimed at helping communities fight societal ills such as child abuse, lack of service delivery, crime, domestic violence, racism and xenophobia by collaborating with, and supporting, solidarity initiatives.

Speaking at the launch in Johannesburg yesterday, Ashley Green-Thompson, change manager at ACT Alliance, said the citizen journalism platform, the Ubumbano Voice Community Project, is aimed at giving a voice to marginalised communities and those most affected by social injustice.

“Mobile phones have become a critical tool to change lives in communities. The digital platform is about giving communities the opportunity to speak to each other and to the public, in a way that is unfiltered or unedited.

“Primarily, we want to create a network of communication between communities, government councillors, NGOs and churches, through sharing stories which will explore relevant issues.

“Oftentimes other people such as the media and politicians speak on behalf of community members without always representing facts or reality. As ACT, we don’t decide what the messaging should be, it’s the community member who does so, by sharing a personal story about something that affects them directly and raises awareness on an issue that could go unnoticed,” she explained.

In citizen journalism style, the user shares an image, video or a written article of their personal story or incident on ACT’s social media pages on Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter.

The moderator analyses the stories, makes minor edits and then uploads them to the ACT Web site, which automatically feeds them onto the mobile app.

The app, currently only available from the Android app store, is not only about having journalists follow up and report on some of these stories. It also aims to go beyond telling stories and creating a flow of information, sending a message to key decision-makers, such as national government officials and local councillors, to be aware of what’s happening in their communities, Green-Thompson pointed out.

“There could potentially be hundreds of stories told per day and it’s important for the policymakers to have access to these stories, through the app. While there is no limit to the type of stories shared, there are obviously guidelines to follow regarding the type of content published, and the stories have to be credible and based on factual events.”

Global impact

The ACT Alliance is a global network of 146 churches and NGOs working together in over 120 countries to create positive and sustainable change in the lives of poor and marginalised people. The NGOs include: Act for Peace, the Centre for Disaster Risk Management and Community Development Studies, Baptist World Aid and the Council of Churches.

In response to changing global conditions, and to effectively amplify the impact of its work, the Alliance collaborated with three European Protestant development agencies and Southern African partners, to explore new models of solidarity and collaboration between European development organisations and civil society organisations in Southern Africa.

“A key element of this process was establishing a ‘Solidarity Hub’, which is the focal point for interaction, learning and dialogue among local and international partners. The Ubumbano Voice Community Project is part of the Solidarity Hub, seeking to take targeted and strategic action to make real change and deepen solidarity in communities,” according to ACT Ubumbano.

With the advent of technological advancements and social media, the popularity of citizen journalism has spread across the globe. Some major news events have been recorded by citizens who were in the right place at the right time. These include the widespread destruction of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 London subway bombings and the 2005 Air France crash in Toronto.

Other NGOs that have introduced citizen journalism digital platforms in SA include youth organisation loveLife; amandla.mobi, which runs online social activism campaigns; and the Citizen Journalism in Africa Project, a partnership project between NGOs Sangonet and Hivos.

Source: IT Web

Ubumbano Wants To Empower Communities To Tell Their Own Stories

By Shaazia Ebrahim

Your smartphone is a powerful tool. It is a basis of a terrible inequality, and one of the reasons that the Democratic Republic of Congo – and various countries in Africa – suffer disruptions. But it can also be used as a tool for change. ACT Ubumbano wants to empower communities to use their smartphones to tell their stories and empower themselves.

ACT Ubumbano is an organising tool and enables users to post stories about their communities on it. It was designed to help highlight community struggles and allow communities to interact with and learn from each other. It launched its website and a mobile app that accompanies it as part of it’s ‘Solidarity Hub’ on Wednesday in Rosebank.

Ubumbano is a Nguni word for solidarity. The organisation is made up of local organisations and three European Protestant development agencies of global faith-based association the ACT Alliance. It was developed to explore new models of solidarity and collaboration between European development organisations and civil society organisations in Southern Africa.

All these organisations have “a shared commitment to human dignity”, ACT Ubumbano’s Ashley Green-Thompson said. ACT Ubumbano was developed to “solve social justice challenges and build solidarity between organisations and people based on shared values” and to “challenge dominant narratives governed by the ‘big men’ and to say the voice of ordinary communities must be heard as well,” he added.

Community activist from Snake Park in Soweto, Thoko Mntambo, said the initiative is important as a platform for communities to tell their stories independently. “Who better to understand the community’s problems than themselves?” Mntambo poses.

Mntambo says communities want to be able to work independently of NGOs. “If communities can stop depending on NGOs and do things themselves, we can make change,” she said. Mntambo says that NGOs often come into communities with their own research which is not always helpful to communities.

Mntambo also says that in her experience, communities need tools that can be used with existing resources because funding always complicates activism. “When funding comes, there is corruption because as activists we forget what we’re fighting for,” she said.

What Mntambo likes about the app is that “it’s not focused on only one thing, it can be about environmental issues or social issues. It gives communities a platform to explore themselves without limiting them”.

Mntambo hopes ACT Ubumbano will conduct workshops in her community of Snake Park.

For her part, she will be speaking to as many members of her community about the app so they can get started on telling their stories.

The Ubumbano app is available on the Google Play Store and App Store for download.

Source: The Daily Vox

Digital Activism Key to Galvanising Communities

Press Release
17 October 2018

“Cell phones have become a critical tool to change lives in communities.” This was highlighted by community activists at the launch of the Ubumbano Voice Community Project in Johannesburg today. Bobby Marie of the Bench Marks Foundation facilitated a panel discussion on the value of digital media in promoting social change. He said “We have not understood fully how significant cell phones are in driving change in communities. An app like this has massive potential to bring communities’ voice into the mainstream”

Community activist from Thulani Snake Park, Thoko Mntambo echoed this sentiment when she described how digital tools have helped her expose many of the difficulties the communities face by living next to discarded mine dumps and tailing dams. She told of children being affected by cerebral palsy, respiratory disease and other medical conditions caused directly by exposure to poisonous chemicals.

Mukasiri Sibanda of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) challenged journalists to pay attention to the stories of communities. “We have a wealth of information, but a poverty of attention by the media”. Reporting on community experiences can help to hold investors and governments accountable for decision that affect the wellbeing of people living in mining-affected communities.

The app is a platform for interaction, learning and exchange ideas amongst local and various stakeholders. This seeks to give voice to communities we work with, and that builds solidarity across the global south and north. Clarity Sibanda from the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) is the moderator of information that flows to the app, and described it as “a way of communities telling their stories without being filtered by anyone – it is authentic community voice”. The challenge is for journalists to get in touch with those who post stories, and the app can help them do that.

The app can be downloaded from the Play Store.

NOTE TO EDITORS: The Ubumbano Community Voice website and application is a platform for community activists in Southern Africa to share stories of their struggles for dignity and justice, and for journalists and others to get direct access to those stories. It is supported by the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of faith-based organisations.

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND INTERVIEWS CONTACT:

Nhlanhla Kubeka
frayintermedia: Account manager
Tel: +27 11 888 0140
Cell: +27 79 847 897
Email: nkubeka@frayintermedia.com

Ashely Green-Thompson
ACT Alliance: Change Manager
Cell: +27 83 442 4497
Email: AGreen-Thompson@christian-aid.org

Arda Transau Relocation, A Tale of the Resource Curse

Drug abuse, commercial sex work, domestic violence and family disintegration are some of the social ills that remain embedded in most rural communities. Villagers residing in Arda Transau, a state owned farm turned residential area for people displaced by mining activities in Chiadzwa’s diamond fields have argued that these challenges are faced predominantly by women.

“These challenges date back to 2009 when villagers from Marange were displaced to pave way for large scale diamond mining.People’s rights were violated, they were relocated without adequate compensation and compensation procedures were not properly followed.”According to Zimbabwe Diamonds and Allied Workers Union (ZIDAWU)’s official, Cosmas Sunguro.

Sunguro further highlighted that the villagers, particularly women, in the resettled community felt disoriented and traumatised by verbal, psychological and other types of abuse perpetrated by the military officials who were actively involved in the forced displacement.

Some women residing in the area have raised concern over domestic violence and sexual harassment in their families attributing this to insufficient or lack of food to feed the family among other basic necessities. Most of the families relocated to Arda Transau from Chiadzwa diamond fields do not have income generating projects that can assist them to fend for their families. The rate of unemployment is estimated at around 95%, the community of Arda Transau has not been spared.

Speaking in her local language, Marry who resides in Arda Transau said,”lack of livelihood projects to sustain their families has brought untold suffering in the community adding that the government and former mining companies who relocated them did not provide alternative livelihoods options for sustaining them.”

According to a survey conducted in Arda Transau by the Zimbabwe Diamonds and Allied Workers Union (ZIDAWU) in June this year, some of the women interviewed revealed that they are engaging in commercial sex work to earn a living. If given other alternative ways of survival, they confided that they would quit the trade. Women hardly have access to employment opportunities in the mining companies to be able to sustain their families.

In addition, most parents cannot afford to pay school fees and the burden often falls on the mothers who have to take manual jobs to secure school fees. The management at a local school in Arda Transau has also come under the spotlight for sending pupils back home for failure to settle tuition fees. This is in direct contravention of Section 75(1) of the Zimbabwe Constitution which notes that; every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has a right to a basic State funded education.

ZIDAWU argues that there is a need for continuous engagement with communities that depend on and are affected by extractivism while development partners and the government must ensure that mining companies honour their obligations.

Press Release: Arda Transau Relocation, A Tale of the Resource Curse

Drug abuse, commercial sex work, domestic violence and family disintegration are some of the social ills that remain embedded in most rural communities. Villagers residing in Arda Transau, a state owned farm turned residential area for people displaced by mining activities in Chiadzwa’s diamond fields have argued that these challenges are faced predominantly by women.

“These challenges date back to 2009 when villagers from Marange were displaced to pave way for large scale diamond mining. People’s rights were violated, they were relocated without adequate compensation and compensation procedures were not properly followed.” According to Chairman of Zimbabwe Diamonds and Allied Workers Union, Cosmas Sunguro

Sunguro further highlighted that the villagers, particularly women, in the resettled community felt disoriented, and traumatised by verbal, psychological and other types of abuse by the military who were actively involved in the forced displacement.

Some women residing in the area have raised concern over domestic violence and sexual harassment in their families attributing this to insufficient or lack of food to feed the family among other basic necessities. Most of the families relocated to Arda Transau from Chiadzwa diamond fields do not have income generating projects that can assist them to fend for their families. The rate of unemployment is estimated at around 95%, the community of Arda Transau has not been spared.

Speaking in her local language, Marry Kusena who resides in Arda Transau said, ”lack of livelihood projects to sustain their families has brought untold suffering in the community adding that the government and former mining companies who relocated them did not provide alternative livelihoods options for sustaining them.”

According to a survey conducted in Arda Transau by the Zimbabwe Diamonds and Allied Workers Union (ZIDAWU) in June this year, some of the women interviewed revealed that they are engaging in commercial sex work to earn a living. If given other alternative ways of survival, they confided that they would quit the trade. Women hardly have access to employment opportunities in the mining companies to be able to sustain their families.

In addition, most parents cannot afford to pay school fees and the burden often falls on the mothers who have to take manual jobs to secure school fees. The management at a local school in Arda Transau has also come under the spotlight for sending pupils back home for failure to settle tuition fees. This is in direct contravention of Section 75(1) of the Zimbabwe Constitution which notes that; every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has a right to a basic State funded education.

ZIDAWU argues that there is a need for continuous engagement with communities that depend on and are affected by extractivism while development partners and the government must ensure that mining companies honour their obligations.

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND INTERVIEWS CONTACT:

Nhlanhla Kubeka
frayintermedia: Account manager
Tel: +27 11 888 0140
Cell: +27 79 847 897
Email: nkubeka@frayintermedia.com

OR

Cosmas Sunguro
Zimbabwe Diamonds and Allied Workers Union: Chairman
Cell: +263 772 763 209
Email: zzidawu@gmail.com

Illegal Sand Mining, An Ecological Negative Practice

By Booker Menzva

Illegal sand mining in the Kruger to Canyons biosphere is depleting the rivers ecosystem adversely affecting the livelihoods of communities who live around and depend on the rivers. Miners are leaving deep holes that fill up with water and are a hazard to children and livestocks, drowning cases are on the rise. Villagers fear if uncurbed these illegal mining activities will destroy their rivers and deprive them of their source of water and livelihood.

Illegal sand mining is leaving untold damage to the environment

Abahlali baseMjondolo Condemns Xenophobia

Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (A person is a person through/because of other people)

Unyawo alunampumlo (A person is a person whenever and wherever they find themselves)

These are African proverbs that encourage the spirit of humanity.

Borders were created by those who colonised us in order to divide and control us. We were further divided by the creation of fixed ethnicities. Today elites continue to try and actively divide the working class and impoverished people on the basis of nationality and ethnicity.

Our politics is rooted in the land occupation and our struggle. If you are a participant in a democratic struggle you are a comrade in that struggle. It does not matter which country or province you come from. Our politics is that of gathering people together, forging community, and building the power of the oppressed. Those who try to lecture us that our neighbours who have proven to be comrades are our enemies because of where they were born or what language they speak are in fact our real enemies.

Since our movement was first formed we have always opposed all forms of xenophobia or ethnic discrimination. We have always called on all progressive forces to shelter and defend people that come under xenophobic attacks. We have always worked to build a movement in which everyone can feel at home and have the dignity they deserve. We are proud that we have members and leaders from different provinces and countries in our movement who have upheld the just cause.

The xenophobic actions targeted on foreigners residing in Soweto and Zeerust are disgraceful and everyone must vehemently condemn this injustice and we propose that this condemnation translate into concrete forms of solidarity.

Let us not allow our minds to be colonised for we fought against colonialism during the armed struggle. Let us understand clearly that our oppressors, including the ANC, want to divide impoverished people and the working class in order to keep us weak. Let us build the democratic power of the oppressed in struggle.

Coal Mining Threatens the Community of Vosman

Vosman in Emalahleni is an informal settlement area with Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses built for the community of Vosman. Most of the houses were constructed with no solid foundation. The area is close to multiple coal mining operations which are open cast and the more the blasting in the mines takes place, the more the slate from the ground shows up and cracks.

People who are 100m away from the mines are living in fear for their lives as their houses are cracking from bottom to the ceiling while the interior has also not been spared. Some of the windows are cracking and broken.  Their safety is now under threat as a result of the negative consequences of mining. The community is also not being consulted when an operation is taking place. All they want is the mines to fix the cracked houses as others have just constructed new houses and these are barely three years but are already showing signs of cracks.

Making A Living Picking Waste

Living in a community that is contaminated by mine waste radioactivity is not easy for the people of Thulani Snake park informal settlement in Soweto. People around the area are now making a living as waste pickers to survive. They do not have electricity so recycling helps them to get money to buy paraffin and food. It is really hard especially for women to wake up early in the morning and walk a distance pushing a trolley to get recycling items like tins, plastic bottles, and other recycling items. They say when they go to suburban areas they are humiliated by some residents and some call them derogatory names such as “bomalala pipes” while  security guards also chase them away.

Despite, the ill -treatment, they don’t get enough money from the items because the scrap yard does not pay much especially when the scale is small.

Waste picking has become their source of livelihood. Some of the waste pickers around the area are drug addicts, who use the returns from selling scrap to feed their hunger for drugs. Women waste pickers are now intimidated by these ‘nyaope’ boys and have expressed the need for the police to protect them.

The community has also called on the government to formulate policies that will ensure that they are recognized and stop the municipality from privatizing the recycling sector.

Nyaope or whoonga is a street drug that has allegedly come into widespread use in South Africa since 2010.