Mama Sosa: empowering young women in Zambia to have a voice

Target group

Young women from Kanyama.


Young women from Kanyama and (female) members of their communities.

Other stakeholders

Government agencies, Radio stations.

Country Partners Budget Duration
Zambia House of Consciousness (HoC) EUR 157,000 2015-2018
Theory of Change Themes Donor
Intermediate Outcome 2 Accountability, Gender equality in media content, Gender equality in the workplace European Union


Mama Sosa is a part of the ‘Speak Up Zambia!’ project, aiming to enhance social accountability through citizen journalism and investigative journalism. In Zambia, women are barely heard and are rarely part of the public debate. Furthermore, there is little interest of Zambia media in what happens in Kanyama, the largest slum in Lusaka. In a context of poverty, marginalisation and traditional norms and values, it is therefore especially important for young women in this area to speak up, tell their stories and become more critical about issues in their communities.

Overall objective

The overall objective of Mama Sosa is to empower young women in Kanyama to have a voice through the promotion of citizen journalism and use of mobile technology. More specifically, the project seeks to build capacity of young women in Kanyama to report about issues affecting their daily lives, increase media output about women’s issues and address issues of gender inequality within their communities.

Intended outcomes

  • Increased local capacity to produce content on issues that affect the young women in Kanyama.
  • Increased output of locally produced video and audio reports on young women.
  • Increased access and attention to locally produced content about issues that affect young women in Kanyama.
  • Increased awareness in Kanyama about the position of women in this community.


The intensive 3,5 months programme consists of two weeks digital skills training and a two day tailored course on public social accountability, including critical thinking, followed up with a 12 weeks mobile reporting course and mentoring. In this way, the trainees gain the necessary knowledge, skills and attitude to critically report on public service issues and poor delivery of such within their communities.

During the mentoring program, the fellows are expected to produce 1 to 2 reports per week and attend weekly feedback meetings to discuss their work in terms of relevancy of content as well as quality of editing, lighting, style etc.

Yearly graduation ceremonies are held in which the top video reports are judged by a jury of media and gender professionals and a winner is awarded.

Public screenings of some of the most relevant video reports are held, giving an opportunity for the project team to engage with community members at a closer level to get their feedback and garner attention for the project. Furthermore, a discussion takes place on some of the issues featured in the reports.

Achieved outputs

  • A media center for Kanyama has been set up, equipped with 10 computers. It serves as a location for training, feedback meetings and editing and publishing of video and audio content.
  • A website collating content of trained young women has been created. The Mama Sosa website offers a clear account of content produced by the Mama Sosa trainees, and serves as an accessible database.
  • Since the start of the project circa 72 women and 14 men have been trained, and have taken part in the trainee program.
  • Approximately 1.096 reports have been produced, of which 828 have been published on Youtube, Soundcloud, Facebook or the Mama Sosa website. 33% of all reported topics were related to gender and 10% was focused on sexual education topics. These topics ranged from early marriage, abuse, teen pregnancies, public education facilities, prostitution, and access to clean water, to female trend setters, women with disabilities providing for their families, and other positive stories in which women are beating the odds and serve as an example to others.
  • Four alumni received a training of trainers and continued as trainers on the project.
  • Outreach and visibility through graduation ceremonies and public screenings on a yearly basis garner widespread attention. Attendance rates fluctuate around 100 people. Amongst which duty bearers such as ward councilors and other district officials, as well as teachers, NGOs, church pastors and members of the community.

Achieved outcomes

  • The project contributed to an increased amount of publications by young women on issues affecting women in Kanyama. Mama Sosa is one of the few available options and channels reporting on, and showing a positive side of this community.
  • Participants started to look more critically at issues within their communities. This, together with gaining digital and journalistic skills proved an empowering combination for young women with little previous schooling.
  • The social status of the participating women was elevated. Young women gained recognition and respect from the community and family members, due to the (digital and journalistic) skills they gained and the reports they produced. For many of the participating women, the Mama Sosa graduation is the first educational recognition they (and their entire family) receive. Thus, leading not only to empowerment of the trainees themselves, but also of their families.
  • The publications and public screenings led to increased awareness in the community and among authorities of the issues within the community.
  • Throughout the years, the Mama Sosa project, and its trainees, are getting an increasing amount of positive responses from members of the Kanyama community. This shows, for instance, by an increasing willingness of the community to discuss relevant issues on film. There is a clear realization by the community that the citizen journalists are there for them and the young women are seen as speakers of the community. This increasing community engagement shows the importance of the project not only for the trainees, but women and marginalised communities as a whole.

Role of FPU

Free Press Unlimited managed the project and built the capacity of local partners. The organisation provided technical as well as strategic development knowledge pertaining to citizen journalism and the mobile applications used.
Free Press Unlimited was able to bring in experiences of previous projects, assisted with fundraising activities and provided added value in terms of the relationship with the donor and good reporting.

Lessons learned / Challenges

  • The threshold for participating was very low, no earlier education was needed, which turned out to be a powerful aspect of the program. Providing educational recognition to girls that have not received this before proved very empowering.
  • Related, it became clear during the program that the digital skills of the participating young women were very low, and extra attention needed to be paid to this in the training. Learning these skills proved to be very important and empowering for the participants.
  • It was important to involve male family members, as they often decide on the participation of girls in any project aimed at this particular target group.
  • In order to break stereotypes it is important to also include young men. On the basis of request from the community, the project also included a group of young men working closely together with their female peers and covering topics related to women issues.
  • Wider distribution of content produced through community radio stations was unsuccessful as the radio stations are not interested in developments taking place in the area covered.
  • There were technical issues with the app used for mobile journalism.
  • There was a clear need for adaptability and flexibility, both for Hous of Consciousness and Free Press Unlimited, to be able to restrategize where needed. In this way, it was possible for the project to recover from initial setbacks.

More information

Zambian women have their say, article on the Free Press Unlimited website, February 19, 2016

Final evaluation Speak Up Zambia, October 2018

Interim evaluation Speak Up Zambia, 2017