The past few months in Zambia have been spent launching the Talk to Loop platform, which allows individuals to provide feedback on the humanitarian or development aid they receive. We have learned a lot along the way, and we have had the opportunity to meet people, share information and show organisations the benefits of being a part of the platform.
During the month of October 2021, Talk to Loop Zambia had the opportunity to spread this message, and the Loop team travelled to Southern Province, where the platform was introduced to various civil society organisations, and we had an opportunity to teach people how to utilise the platform.
With more people interested in utilising Loop, and stories being shared on the platform, we were able to execute the second part of Loop, which is known as Closed Loop, an independent platform that allows people in vulnerable positions to share stories freely and safely. Trained case managers refer cases to the right organisations and ensure stories reach the right people. Closed Loop offers anonymity and a safe space for people to report cases without fear of victimization.
This November, we officially launched Closed Loop, and we invited participants from different CSOs to attend a workshop that focused on reporting sensitive stories. Organisations present included Transparency International Zambia, Young Women in Action, World of Prayer and Women Alliance for Equality, just to name a few. Our key focus was on reporting sensitive cases, and having a discussion with various organisations who took part in the participatory workshop.
The first round of discussions was centred on “Reporting Sensitive Stories – What Have Organisations Put Into Place?”
Participants were encouraged to have a discussion on sensitive stories, what these sensitive stories are, and where victims of different injustices can report to. Present during this discussion were also representatives of the Zambian Police who provided insight on what steps the police have put in place when receiving sensitive cases.
Participants were able to define sensitive stories, and also gave examples of such cases depending on the work they do. Jerry Goma, a Chief Inspector in Zambia talked about stories of sexual assault, and gave examples of some of the common cases they receive. “We usually hear a lot of stories of incest, and how molestation is present in some homes, but people fear sharing these stories because they do not want the breadwinner to be locked up. We hear of such stories everywhere, and we receive such reports, and sometimes, it may be people we know.”
Nelson Banda of the Zambian National Men’s Network (ZNMN) spoke of challenges men face when reporting stories of abuse, because men being abused is culturally never discussed. Men fail to discuss injustices that affect them, especially if they are receiving this abuse at the hands of their spouses. When men are abused, jokes are often passed, with people asking how a big man can be beaten by a woman."
During the discussions, participants also spoke of cases of political office abuse, bribery, corruption and extortion that people face. They spoke of difficulties that people face when reporting such cases, and how society normalises silence. Theresa T. Kuluneta, who works with Lusaka Muslim Women Organisation, talked about how sensitive cases are not addressed. Poor protection of identities of victims and lack of sensitivity in the media make it difficult for people to speak out. “We have normalised certain behaviour, especially when it comes to sexual assault against women. Young people are not taken seriously, and when you report to law enforcement, at times you are treated like a child. “
When asked whether there were safe spaces for people to share their stories, participants felt more can be done, and that most safe spaces are those that they have created for themselves, spaces that promote inclusivity and are usually informal. Most participants felt there were no official channels that provide anonymity and assurance that their reports would go to the right people who can actually make a difference.
In the larger discussion we established that abuse and sexual exploitation occurs in the home and everyone can fall prey to it, but the offender must be brought to books immediately and the survivor should be taken for counselling sessions. In the later hours of the day, we broke up into smaller groups where the focus was more on different sensitive stories that occur in a work place, and how organisations can reach victims and what mechanisms they use.
An introduction to Closed Loop was given, and participants had the opportunity to use Loop, and experience how the platform can be of service to their organisations. Participants were thrilled to share their stories on the Talk to Loop platform. Many managed to share stories via the Loop SMS platform, while the others had to use the website and from that they were able to fully understand the process of Open and Closed Loop, as explained in the presentations during the day.
A large number of the audience had mentioned how they will use the Talk to Loop platform in their organisations as well as when they are out doing community work. It turned out to be one of the platforms that even they as individuals could utilise and benefit from greatly.
A REMINDER OF HOW TO USE LOOP IN ZAMBIA:
If you would like to put the power in your hands and ensure the right people listen, simply share your story by going to the website talktoloop.org to get started. You can also send ‘LOOP’ via SMS to 4343 on any mobile network. Talk to Loop ensures privacy and anonymity upon request. For more information on Loop, email firstname.lastname@example.org