Telling the Real Story
Telling the Real Story
The project in brief
UNHCR, The United Nations Refugee Agency
Ethiopia, Somalia (Somaliland), Sudan, Nigeria
January 2015 - Ongoing
It is a peer to peer communicating with communities project which aims to raise awareness about the dangers of onward irregular movement. By reaching out to people of the move, in their native languages, through the internet, social media, community leaders, volunteers and diaspora, Telling the Real Story aims to combat misinformation about the journey towards Europe from the East and Horn of Africa and Nigeria, and inform people about other options available to them.
The purpose of the project is to empower target audiences (asylum-seekers, refugees and other people on the move) to make informed decisions about their future, their immediate courses of action, and the risks associated with their choices; decisions based on facts rather than on smugglers’ and traffickers’ narrative. The project is guided by UNHCR’s Communication with Communities (CwC) approach, the goal of which is to achieve improved protection outcomes by involving affected populations in solutions.
UNHCR launched the awareness raising campaign, Telling the Real Story (TRS) as part of a multi-country initiative aimed at providing truthful and trustworthy information to refugees and other persons of concern in mixed flows.
Main activities of the Good Practice
Telling the Real Story has been built starting at the community level and adapting the messages accordingly. Over the five years the project has been in operation, Telling the Real Story has become a known source of information by persons of concern. Additionally, the project teams working directly with persons of concern not only help ensure referrals to protection services but also to information about jobs and livelihoods opportunities.
Contribute to the enhancement of opportunities for refugees through education and livelihood opportunities – In Jijiga, Ethiopia, TRS has conducted livelihood trainings for refugee youth in collaboration with Jijiga University. The training involved business management and personality development training and refugees were coached on how to successfully manage a business. The winning proposal was awarded seed funding that would enable the refugees start a business. One of the winning business has today established a poultry farm.
In Khartoum, limited opportunities for further education, in addition to other issues, is one of the main push factors that drive PoCs to move irregularly. TRS continues to advocate for educational opportunities. One such opportunity is the DAFI scholarship available through the Windle Trust International that covers a year of tertiary education and is available to 330 refugees in Khartoum. As a result of the meeting with the TRS team and its advocacy, Windle Trust agreed to further support refugees and asylum seekers in 2017. In Khartoum, TRS continues to promote access through raising awareness about Windle Trust scholarships and free online educational resources through poster distribution, direct community outreach and by including this information within its widely disseminated service brochure. Additionally, TRS has provided recreational equipment in community schools, and assists with the monitoring of school distributions and other educational activities by implementing partners in community schools.
In Somalia TRS has engaged professional career counsellors during school activities. The counsellors provide students with information about labour market trends, career options, and useful practical information in job search and application writing. Such an event at the University of Hargeisa was covered by Somali Cable Television.
Diaspora engagement – TRS has built up over its five years of operation, a trust base with communities as well as a solid audience base. Diaspora engagement is crucial to ensuring that messaging on onward movement is adapted to the populations the project engages with. TRS connects diaspora-led efforts in various EU countries with refugees and advocates for diaspora led solutions in countries of origin and transit. Additionally, through TRS diaspora meetings, the diaspora has been inspired to start their own information campaigns complementing TRS messaging.
- University of Jijiga
- Somalia Ministry of Education
- Windle Trust
Challenges and how they were overcome
In addition to the provision of information on the dangers of irregular movement, the project has had to manage expectations on the amount of information on regular pathways and capacity to provide information and facilitate livelihood and education opportunities that are scarce in most of the locations where the project is disseminated.
In Ethiopia, once a grant was provided to execute the business plans, it was evident that the cooperative members did not have the practical know-how in running a sustainable business.
In Khartoum the modest project activities were fairly straightforward thanks to good cooperation with DAFI our implementing partner for tertiary scholarships, and our local implementing partners and school directors in primary and secondary education. However, one challenge that arose is a lack of staff resources to assist with educational monitoring and identification of protection issues occurring in schools.
The overarching issue affecting education services in Khartoum is a lack of resources as only a small percentage of vulnerable or eligible refugees can access education services.
How they were overcome
The project, in close coordination with UNHCR Education, Livelihood Durable solutions units, maps opportunities and dissemination of information. The relevant units are responsible for counselling refugees and therefore manage any expectations.
To overcome the entrepreneurship challenge, TRS reached out to a poultry farm owner in Jijiga to volunteer and provide theoretical and practical training to the cooperative. The cooperative continues to reach out to the consultant to provide guidance.
In Khartoum, in order to overcome a lack of staff resources and assist with educational monitoring and identification of protection issues occurring in schools TRS refugee outreach volunteers and the Project Officer regularly engage with students and school directors to identify issues that are then shared with UNHCR for effective action. To overcome a lack of overall educational resources, TRS has applied for additional educational funding from donors. It has also identified ways in which the project can be expanded beyond its traditional outreach activities to more directly address educational issues within the scope of the project.
Results of the Good Practice
In Jijiga, 5 individuals are the owners of a business and they are generating sustainable source of profit.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
Through community empowerment projects financed by the project, refugees are provided with an opportunity to develop their own businesses based on their needs Through community empowerment projects financed by the project, refugees are provided with an opportunity to develop their own businesses based on their needs
In Khartoum, the project will continue to engage in regular outreach to, and monitoring of educational activities in community schools. In the face of upcoming funding cuts in the 2021 budget which will worsen already limited access to education in urban areas TRS will seek to expand its efforts to identify and promote free educational resources.
Further support required for the project to continue or scale up
The project would expand partnerships that would enable the diversification of livelihood and education opportunities.
Christa Awuor Odinga, Project Manager, Telling the Real Story – UNHCR: [email protected]
Alexandra McDowall, Team Leader, Telling the Real Story - UNHCR: [email protected]