The EU IOM Joint Initiative aims to contribute to strengthening the governance of migration in Sahel and Lake Chad, and provide protection and sustainable reintegration for migrants along the Central Mediterranean route. A range of awareness raising activities and approaches were piloted, involving and building the capacity of a wide range of stakeholders.
In an evaluation carried out in 2021 after four years of implementation, beneficiary and partner feedback was largely positive, suggesting that the majority of the messaging hit its mark and encouraged community members to think twice about migrating irregularly or sending a family member.
But as with any project, there are always lessons learned! Here are some of our takeaways about awareness raising in the Sahel and Lake Chad region:
Due to the urgency to begin implementing activities and limited awareness raising budgets, the Joint Initiative did not have the luxury of an inception period.
A baseline evaluation would have allowed activities to be better tailored to the local audiences and provide a point of reference to measure shifts in KAP over time.
The Joint Initiative’s limited awareness raising resources were spread over many communities, and in some countries activities were implemented by numerous IPs.
As the imperative was to reach as many potential migrants and communities as possible, involve local partners and diversify activities according to the local context, the lack of concentrated, structured and sustained campaigns made it challenging to collect in-depth data comparing the impact of specific approaches.
Other regional awareness raising programmes such as CineMarena and Migrants as Messengers which have a more defined geographical scope and focused strategy, and which factored impact evaluation into the project design and funding stage have been able to bring more scientific evidence of their campaigns’ effects.
Due to the open, public nature of awareness raising activities where collecting beneficiary details could be a disincentive to participation, for longitudinal KAP studies participants need to be pre-identified and offered small incentives (such as phone credit) to retain them for endline studies.
Another lesson learned is that it is vital to also present viable alternatives to irregular migration, as people may still take the risk if they feel they have no other choice.
Engaging IPs and other grassroots actors is key to the success of activities but makes tracking community events and participant numbers challenging. Online and traditional media engagement and audience reach is even more difficult to track in a region where media monitoring figures for audience reach are not regularly available.
Continuous follow-up with local partners and media monitoring (including the filing of media clippings and profiles of media outlets) is needed. In the case of IPs, they should be required to share a monthly or weekly timetable of events with GPS points to allow for monitoring visits.
Experience showed that community events which built on local customs – such as the ‘attaya’ (tea) ceremony and sports matches were more successful in reaching the target audience than staged events such as formal presentations.
Likewise, staging an event in a central and busy location, such as the main market, a sports ground or a community centre, is effective at maximizing audience numbers by attracting the attention of passers-by.
Peer-to-peer messaging was first piloted successfully in the Sahel and Lake Chad region under the Joint Initiative, and then scaled up with programmes such as Migrants as Messengers. Data suggests that community members generally find testimonies from migrants in their local languages more convincing than campaigns by local civil society organizations.
We hope you found these lessons learned from awareness raising in the Sahel and Lake Chad region helpful! To read the full evaluation report click here.