Beninese journalists take action for the Sustainable Development Goals

BY Marie Sandra Lennon, Aristide Djossou | October 18, 2016|Comments 0

If you are reading this blog chances are you work in development, so you might know something about the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If you work for the United Nations, like we do, you might be able to identify a few of the 17 goals and maybe a few of their 169 targets. You might also be aware of the importance of the new agenda or, as the UN Secretary-General’s says – the SDGs are THE plan: there is no ‘Plan B’ because we do not have a ‘Planet B’!
But, what about the rest of the World? Do they know?

In Benin our answer to this question was “not… yet”, so we rolled-up our sleeves and started spreading the word!

Journalists as allies

We all know how important media are and, more how fundamental journalists are to generating a public debate, sharing information with the local population and making governments accountable keeping their promises. Journalists could be great allies and we at the UN in Benin decided to partner with them to spread the word.   

The Union of Media Professionals of Benin was prompt to take on the Agenda 2030 challenge and we were thrilled to collaborate with them on a number of workshops in Cotonou, Grand Popo and Parakou guaranteeing the participation of all major community radios in Benin.

More than one hundred journalists from different media establishments around the country participated in these workshops. We made sure to involve journalists from community radios, since they are often the most powerful channels to communicate with the most excluded and isolated populations, since they might not have other forms of communication, but they often have radios. Involving community radio journalists was our way of sticking to one of the (beautiful) agenda principles we maintained: to leave no one behind.

A spontaneous translate-a-thon

First we shared with journalists the goals of the 2030 Agenda, the development process of the Agenda and the principles behind it. Once achieved we moved to the important stuff: How are journalists in Benin going to engage and take action to mobilize support for the new agenda?

The first step that the journalists took was a basic but essential one: “Let’s translate the goals into our local languages”. Using local languages is essential to ensure the full involvement of local authorities, civil society and population, among other many collectives. For a few hours our SDG orientation workshop was transformed into a translation space, where journalists helped the UN coming up with the translation of the SDGs into languages used in Benin Bariba, Dendi and Yoruba. Simple but smart.

Moving forward

We and the UN and the team of journalists see this collaboration as a first step on engaging and knowing more about the UN efforts in Benin to accompany the Government in the implementation of the agenda, sharing their enthusiasm for being agents of positive change in their society.

During the workshop, they discussed with our programme colleagues on diverse development activities ongoing in their localities, including gender equity, education, and economic growth and how they relate to the SDGs. Such is the case of the towns of Banikoara and Bonou, where the Millennium Village Project is promoted by the journalists as one specific actions effectively linked to SDGs. Overall, they are enthusiastic on the contribution they could bring to achieve the SDGs and being agents of positive change in their society.  

At the closure of one of the workshops, Isabelle Lemou, journalist from the Urban FM in Parakou, represented her peers and said “we very much need this type of capacity building as it will allow us to be armed to properly raise and advocate for SDGs issues”. She noted that collaboration between the UN and Beninese media should be reinforced in the future.

We are already planning to identify clear and practical ways to follow up on this collaboration with radio communities. Thanks to UNICEF, the UN in Benin is soon organizing a ‘brainstorming’ day with the Ministry of Communication and community radios across the country to agree on the next steps. We will keep you posted!

Authors


Marie Sandra Lennon Marie Sandra is Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the UN in Benin. You can follow her onTwitter.
Aristide Djossou Aristide is Head of Coordination Office at the United Nations in Benin. You can follow him on Twitter.

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