Empowering Youth in Internet Governance: An Interview with Allan Magezi

As we gear up for the release of our impact report, highlighting stories of our community members, it is our pleasure to bring you an engaging conversation with Allan Magezi, a DIGRA Ambassador from Uganda and a telecommunications engineer championing internet access and connectivity. Our Communications Lead, Hanna, had the opportunity to sit down with Allan and discuss his experiences and aspirations as a Digital Grassroots Ambassador. Here’s what he shared:

HannaHi Allan, thank you so much for joining and expressing your interest in sharing the story. Could you introduce yourself briefly?


AllanThank you so much, Hanna. My name is Allan Magezi. I’m a telecommunications engineer. I am trying to advocate for access and connectivity because I come from a region where we have varying issues in terms of connectivity. For example, we still have 3G, while other communities already have 4 and 5G. So these are kind of the issues that ignited me to join the space, besides, of course, being a telecom engineer that is by default supposed to be contributing to that space.


HannaHow did you learn about Digital Grassroots, and what motivated you to join the DIGRA Ambassadors program?


AllanI actually participated in the DIGRA Ambassador program Cohort 5. Before the call for applications, Uganda had hosted the Africa Internet Summit. I was fresh from campus and was actually doing an internship at the Ministry of ICT & National Guidance, which has the mandate to run the entire internet infrastructure and telecom industry in the country. A couple of colleagues of mine shared with me that if you want to advance your knowledge and learning, especially in line with Internet governance, there’s a program here, give it a shot. So there we go, I applied and was selected, and the rest started evolving from there.


HannaWhat was the program experience like for you? I am particularly curious to hear this because you coordinated your cohort’s biggest and only group community project. 


AllanYes, the experience started on a very fascinating note. At that time, we were in the Covid era and relied on the Internet for everything we did. So doing the training program, especially online, was quite fascinating. But the first pillar was how the program was run. It was very exciting to see people from different walks of life and countries coming together to learn how the Internet is governed and trying to acquire more resources and knowledge. It opened a wider perspective for me to learn as well as network. As for the networking aspect, it was a requirement of the program for us to come up with a certain project, either individually or as a group. In my case, I mobilized a number of participants who were in the program. I felt that when you come up with a project as a group, it is much more effective as it reflects insights from different communities. It was seven of us from a different country. I remember we had Madagascar, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Burkina Faso. We came together and connected with our communities to spotlight different digital issues, especially cyber harassment. I remember we also ran a poll on how confident people felt about the Internet and how they responded. Everything was being done on the internet, and we felt that the responses from the community were actually a reflection of what was happening on the ground. 


HannaDo you think this kind of international and cross-cultural experience during the program helped you expand your understanding of digital rights and Internet governance issues across different contexts and seek insights that you can apply to your community?


AllanAbsolutely. At that time, I worked in telecommunications, mainly with community connections. I had a hands-on role, working with laying optic fibre cables and setting up towers for infrastructure to enable people to access the internet. However, this experience changed my perspective, and I realized I needed to focus more on policy within the ecosystem. Since then, I have contributed significantly to forming and discussing various policies and regulations, both nationally and across borders. I remember that at that time, my knowledge from this experience, especially regarding governance, led me and a few colleagues to establish the first youth Internet governance forum in Uganda. This experience opened up cross-border knowledge and introduced me to people from different countries, not just from East Africa or Africa. It was a great opportunity for networking, and I still keep in touch with many of the participants I met during the program. In fact, I continue to meet some of them at summits and forums, like when IGF 2022 was happening in Addis Ababa, and we came together to contribute to the event as a DIGRA community. This experience allowed us to build a resilient network that positively impacts the internet space. 


HannaWhat role do you think the community component of Digital Grassroots plays in building a network of youth activists in the space?


Allan: First of all, I should mention that this is an entirely youth-driven ecosystem. We are very glad that Digital Grassroots is focusing on the youth narrative. I can tell you that this gradual engagement with Digital Grassroots has opened up many opportunities for me. And I never stopped from that time. I remember engaging with several big players, particularly organizations that contribute significantly to the ecosystem, all while coming from my background in telecommunications engineering. So I had already, by default, felt it was incumbent on me to contribute to some processes available in international telecommunications engineering, such as ITU. We are glad that last year, ITU provided an opportunity to build up a youth generational connection, a youth narrative for people to contribute to ITU processes. Remember, ITU is a multilateral organization composed of governments, and for the Secretary General’s office to create a special section for youth to contribute was a massive achievement. So, I dived into that, largely due to the background laid by Digital Grassroots. 

I also engaged with ICANN, as you can’t do without some of these major organizations that play a critical role, especially in managing internet resources. This engagement opened doors for me to participate in ICANN meetings. This experience allowed me to learn and contribute significantly to the internet space. Later, I was not only selected to attend another meeting [ICANN 77], which will happen this June in Washington DC, but was also awarded the Paul Muchene Award, an award given to a distinguished fellow from the African region for their contribution to the internet space. I’m the second recipient of this award, and I’m glad to follow in the footsteps of someone I look up to, Ben [Rachad Sanoussi, DIGRA Tech Support], who was the first recipient. 


HannaDo you think that organizations like Digital Grassroots contribute to bringing a more youth-led approach to these events and advancing the degree of youth participation in Internet Governance from often tokenistic representation to actual leadership and initiative? 


Allan: I think I should have mentioned this earlier. We had people from the health sector, the agriculture sector, but they were coming together to say, let’s see how the internet is run. Let’s build convergences in terms of policies, in terms of learning the policies that are very reliable for the internet to prevail in terms of benefits. So that in itself, in this composition, was some sort of an indicator of stakeholders in terms of youth, bringing youths from different spaces to come and talk about how the Internet should be governed. So I think Digital Grassroots still brings up that aspect of multi-stakeholder, which I think, by the way, for the record, is one of the most recommendable approaches to how the internet should be governed. 

Hanna: It’s actually an interesting take. As you remember, we had so many different projects in your cohort, from cybersecurity issues to child protection, and gender-based violence. It’s great to see this power that we can harness when we don’t have a very restricted view of how we can contribute to the space. 

Allan: I entirely agree with you. Sometimes, people from different spaces shy away. It is a challenge, but here is the encouragement: Digital Grassroots has been bringing people together. There’s always a mentor assigned to you, someone who takes you through how the ecosystem runs, someone who understands your background. For instance, if you’re from the health sector, a mentor will help you appreciate the system and how the space runs, and then they’ll build you up through capacity training. Digital Grassroots has tremendously built capacity in terms of youth, and we have many people trying to contribute to the ecosystem because of the mentoring and training they receive through programs like the DIGRA Ambassadors.

HannaWere there any projects or initiatives that you got engaged with following the Digital Grassroots Ambassador Program? 


AllanThere are many, including international engagements, national engagements, and regional engagements. Let me start with the international engagements. Last year, we visited Ethiopia, where Africa hosted the global Internet Governance Forum. I was able to offer technical support, ensuring people joining the meeting virtually had a real feel and contributed conveniently during the different sessions held during the forum. For me to be able to offer that technical support in the control room was because of the background and channel of Digital Grassroots. I remember we were selected based on our professions. We had people with technical backgrounds and others from various professions. But because of my technical background, backed up by my experience and training from Digital Grassroots, I was able to convince the selection team that I could provide the right support during the meeting. I can assure you it was a very successful meeting. We had over 5,122 participants from 120 countries. It was one of Africa’s most fascinating and successful Internet Governance Forums. Then, if I can touch on the national level like I mentioned before, we started the Uganda Youth Internet Governance Forum with a couple of friends who were trained and have been through Digital Grassroots programs. We started the Uganda Youth Internet Governance Forum. Some of us, like myself, are already contributing to the steering committee of the National Internet Governance Forum, and we’ve supported the East African Internet Governance Forum. These channels have been laid out as a result of Digital Grassroots. Additionally, my cohort from the Digital Grassroots program still works together, especially regarding resource sharing with all the participants from that program. We’re still connected up to now. We virtually attend regional engagements like the Digital Inclusion Forum in Kenya and the Africa DNS Forum. 


HannaWhen you reflect on your experience as a whole, from where you started and where you’ve gone since participating in the Ambassadors Program, what program aspects do you think have been the most defining for your journey?


Allan: From my experience, one of the most fundamental aspects is how my trajectory has changed since I engaged in the program. I was fortunate to engage in the program right after school. It’s different when you engage in this program, maybe three or four years after campus, but it’s different when you have this program right after school when you’re trying to figure out which space you will take. Initially, my focus was working with different organizations and community companies to lay out infrastructure since that was my professional background to help people gain access and connectivity. I can tell you that most of the African continent is young, and this demographic engages the most on the internet. So for us, having a contribution to how the policies are run and managing the internet space was very important to me. After participating in the DIGRA Ambassadors Program, I changed my trajectory to contribute more to policy rather than the practical part of fixing optic fibre cables. 


HannaAnd finally, I would like to ask you whether there is a particular moment or experience when you felt most excited or proud to be part of our community. 

Allan: First of all, everyone on the Digital Grassroots team is amazing. I want to give you, Uffa, Esther, and my good friend Ben a special shoutout. The team is very fascinating and enjoyable. I remember even when I didn’t have much time for social events or social hours, especially after meetings, I could still catch up a bit late at night, and it was very fascinating for us. As young people, we like to have fun, but also in a meaningful and constructive manner. 


We’d like to thank Allan for sharing his inspiring journey with us and shedding light on the importance of youth engagement in digital rights and Internet governance. As we look forward to our upcoming impact report, we’re excited to share more stories highlighting the impact Digital Grassroots programs continue to have on young individuals and communities worldwide.

Bridging Divides and Fostering Development: Takeaways from the Fifth UN Conference on Least Developed Countries

By Rachad Sanoussi

Last month, I participated in the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) in Doha, Qatar. With the theme “From Potential to Posterity,” the conference convened delegates from across the globe to address the challenges confronting LDCs and explore solutions. The event delved into methods for accelerating sustainable development in LDCs, which are home to 40% of the world’s impoverished population.

Having the opportunity to contribute to this momentous occasion was truly an honor. My interests were particularly piqued by discussions surrounding harnessing science, technology, innovation, and strategies for combating climate change. Digital concerns like universal and meaningful connectivity took center stage in the LDC5’s primary agenda. There is an exigent need to intensify efforts to bridge the digital divide between affluent and impoverished nations. For example, in Benin, the efforts of the government and other actors have made it possible to increase internet penetration from 20% in 2015 to 69% by the end of 2022. But much remains to be done.

LDC5 provided an unparalleled platform for exchanging inventive ideas, formulating efficient strategies, and fostering partnerships to bolster sustainable development in LDCs. I take immense pride in being a part of this global collective, diligently working to enhance the lives of millions worldwide. It is crucial to underscore the importance of promoting technological innovation in the pursuit of sustainable development and climate change mitigation. 

I am deeply grateful for this indelible experience and eagerly anticipate continued collaboration with my peers to forge a brighter future for LDCs. My heartfelt thanks go out to all who made this event possible!

ICANN76: Rachad Sanoussi Earns Inaugural Paul Muchene Fellow Award

By Rachad Sanoussi

The ICANN 76 Community Forum, organized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, serves as a pivotal gathering within the Internet governance sphere. I was fortunate to participate in the event as an in-person fellow this year, having previously attended virtually. The forum’s welcoming atmosphere fostered collaboration among technical experts, government officials, civil society members, corporate delegates, and the wider ICANN community, enabling seamless interactions among attendees. 


The importance of Internet governance in ensuring online security and stability cannot be overstated. Various sessions, facilitated by domain name authorities, community contributors, government representatives, and civil society organizations, offered a rich tapestry of insights and expertise. I found myself drawn to sessions delving into the workings of the ALAC, the African Regional At-Large Organization, and the GNSO, with a specific interest in the role of youth in Internet governance and their potential to influence the Internet’s future trajectory. 


As a fellow, I appreciated the inclusivity and receptiveness of the ICANN community toward integrating diverse vieszpoints into their work. I got to see fellow young individuals actively participating in dialogues, asking questions, presenting ideas, and making meaningful contributions to the discussions. I was also privileged to be the first recipient of the Paul Muchene Fellowship Award, an initiative established by ICANN at Meeting 75 in recognition of Paul Muchene, an ICANN staff member who dedicated his time and technical expertise to support local and regional projects aimed at enhancing the Internet’s resilience. Paul’s passion for applying his knowledge to benefit the ICANN community and inspiring others to join his cause is truly impressive. As the award’s inaugural recipient, I am mindful of the responsibility I hold towards my community and the imperative of giving voice to our collective concerns. 


Overall, the ICANN Meeting 76 gave me an enlightening experience. I was equally inspired and moved to see young individuals taking an active role in Internet governance, particularly within the context of the multi-stakeholder model and digital inclusion. I firmly believe that the involvement of youth is crucial for preserving the Internet as a secure and open platform for all. I look forward to continuing my engagement with Internet governance and remain steadfast in my commitment to advocating for a more secure, stable, and inclusive online experience for all. 

To see more photos from the event, check Rachad’s social media.

Fostering Digital Inclusion through Active Engagement at the World Mobile Congress 2023

By Bendjedid Rachad Sanoussi

The Mobile World Congress 2023, hosted by GSMA, stands as a paramount global technology event, considered as the largest and most influential assembly of connectivity enthusiasts worldwide. In my capacity as Technical Support for Digital Grassroots, an organisation steadfastly committed to digital inclusion, I had the privilege of participating in this year’s congress, which took place in Barcelona in February. The experience proved to be profoundly enlightening, further reinforcing our dedication to fostering digital inclusion. As a young person, I was captivated by the transformative potential of technological innovation, particularly within the mobile sphere.

Upon entering the bustling event, I was immediately struck by the enormity of MWC. Thousands of attendees navigated the labyrinthine aisles, immersing themselves in the most recent advancements and innovations. Corporate exhibits dazzled with colossal screens, live demonstrations, and awe-inspiring offerings. I marvelled at exhibitions of robots, intelligent voice assistants, and virtual reality devices. Moreover, at MWC 23, I attended numerous sessions delving into the cutting-edge trends in mobile technologies, such as 5G, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence. As a telecom engineer, I was especially intrigued by discussions surrounding the potential of these technologies to enhance digital inclusion and facilitate internet access for the most marginalised communities. 

A particularly memorable talk centred on digital transformation in Africa, where speakers showcased exhilarating initiatives aimed at extending internet access to rural regions and discussed how mobile technologies can enhance education and healthcare. It was encouraging to observe industry leaders acknowledging the significance of digital inclusion and striving to create inventive solutions to realise it. Furthermore, I attended a conference on utilising AI to anticipate and avert natural disasters and observed demonstrations of IoT devices monitoring air and water quality in rural areas. I also had the opportunity to engage in dialogue with representatives from organisations pursuing objectives similar to those of Digital Grassroots. Our exchange of ideas and best practices on reinforcing digital inclusion worldwide proved rewarding, enabling us to forge connections with crucial industry stakeholders. 

In conclusion, my involvement in the Mobile World Congress 2023 was an astounding and enriching experience. I got inspired by the promising discussions and initiatives presented by speakers and industry professionals. As Technical Support for Digital Grassroots, I am convinced that, through collaboration, we can advance digital inclusion and guarantee universal access to the myriad opportunities offered by the internet.

DIGRA – 17th United Nations Internet Governance Forum Report

By Muhammed Bello Buhari

The 17th Internet Governance Forum was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 28 November 2022 – 2 December 2022. Convening in Africa for the first time in 11 years, the Forum addressed the theme “Resilient Internet for a Shared Sustainable and Common Future”. The hybrid event hosted at least 5,120 registered participants from 170 countries, attending over 300 sessions.


As a youth-led organization, we made a commitment to participate in the event and bring the voices of underrepresented youth to the forefront of conversations. Despite the increased emphasis on youth participation in recent years, youth organizations remain underrepresented at the IGF. This is the reason Digital Grassroots was formed during the 2017 IGF in Geneva. We are proud that at least 20 of the Digital Grassroots community attended the global IGF in Ethiopia, which was an outcome of our work to increase the digital citizenship of underrepresented youth in person. Digital Grassroots also organized and facilitated three hybrid sessions, hosted an onsite booth, and celebrated our 5 year anniversary. Our hybrid sessions included a networking session on ‘Technology and Innovation Challenge for Gender Equality,’ a launch event for our short film ‘On this Side of the Web,’ and an insight session on the ‘Digital Rights Learning Exchange program.’

Digital Grassroots Sessions at the 2022 Global IGF in Ethiopia

DRLX report from the ground

As youth leaders in the UN Women’s Generation Equality Forum Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation, DIGRA hosted this networking session to present and discuss the coalition’s guide to solving gender issues through innovation which aimed at promoting gender equality through technology and innovation. The guide was designed to support innovators to create a positive innovation culture and help people inside and outside of organizations break barriers, come together, generate new ideas, and iterate for gender transformative change. 


The session adopted the use of a google doc for collaborative session note-taking from both the onsite and online participants. Participants appreciated the opportunity to connect and network with themselves during the networking session. Most of the participants were experts in the gender and technology field, therefore, the session provided a space for them to interact and network with  peers working in the same field.

Day 2: Short film – On this Side of the Web

Special project

‘On this Side of The Web’ is a short film created by Digital Grassroots that portrays key barriers to digital inclusion for young people and marginalized groups. This community-led short film was presented at the IGF so that we could receive feedback on how to improve the film, and garner support to bridging the digital divide in underrepresented communities. It included perspectives across underrepresented communities across the globe and includes language diversity. This short film championed the inclusion of women in technology and innovation, calls for youth involvement in internet governance, and on giving underrepresented communities the power to shape their internet future.


‘On this Side of the Web’ short film shared a simple message to viewers: The Internet is for Everyone. The core Internet Invariants need to be put into practice.  The film called for support for grassroots organisations through capacity building, institutional funding, and recognition of their work and their voices. It also advocated for improvements in language diversity on the internet to avoid digital colonialism and  encourage more youth participation in the online space. 

Watch the short film here.

The Digital Rights Learning Exchange session aimed at discussing challenges faced by digital rights advocates and spotlighting the DRLX program that Digital Grassroots held in cooperation with the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative. During the opening of the session, the onsite moderator and Digital Grassroots co-founder, Uffa Modey, introduced the objectives of the program, highlighting the importance of providing capacity-building for digital rights advocates coming from underrepresented communities. Also, the Digital Grassroots founder, Esther Mwema, presented program core components and highlights from participants’ feedback, mentioning that the majority of program alumni found it specifically beneficial to work with other advocates from different regions on developing a campaign and learning from each other over the course.


Also on the panel, Sarah Moulton, the Deputy Director at the National Democratic Institute, emphasized the lack of foundational programs that can help budding digital advocates start and lead their advocacy projects and the need to support activists at the entry level. Another feature of the program spotlighted by the program leads was participants’ interest in particular thematic areas, such as access and affordability, freedom of expression, and internet shutdowns. The panelists also covered the issue of program sustainability, stressing the significance of building networks between the participants and hosting organizations and offering alumni different pathways to engage after the program, i.e. as project mentors and guest speakers. 


In addition to the hybrid sessions,Digital Grassroots had a booth at the IGF Village. The booth was co-organized by members of the Digital Grassroots community, and served as a networking and candy station. We displayed several items at the booth including our annual report, five year anniversary balloon and stickers, brochures, and branded tot-bags, all adorned with fairy lights. The booth wall displayed reports of our recent programs that highlight the work of many young people in remote communities. We also showed our short film ‘On this Side of the Web’ to emphasize digital citizenship  in the digital age. Part of our booths goal was also to connect participants with our work as youth co-leaders in the the UN Women Generation Equality Forum Action Coalition Leader for Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality.

DIGRA 5-year Anniversary and Community at the IGF

We connected with our Digital Grassroots community who attended the IGF in person by hosting our 5 year anniversary dinner celebration. The dinner was attended by over 20 of our community members, all of them from the global majority who were introduced to internet governance and digital rights issues through Digital Grassroots programs or had served as mentors or trainers with us.


The dinner was also such an exciting time for the DIGRA community members to meet fellow colleagues who have emerged to different tech communities over the years and this leveraged sharing the gradual growth of Digital Grassroots which is why the theme of the anniversary dinner “DIGRA @5” was typically aimed to reflect the diversity of positive impact the organisation has extended to youth globally.

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Our Engagements with other Stakeholders

The 17th Internet Governance Forum accorded Digital Grassroots the opportunity to engage with various internet stakeholder organisations including the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative, Access Now, ICANN, NED, IGF Secretariat, Diplo Foundation Alumni Network, Mozilla, and D4D Hub:

  • Attended and contributed to the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative round table consultation on the UN Secretary General’s Digital Compact.
  • We met the Access Now team in the halls of the IGF and had an on-the-spot bilateral discussion about youth participation at RightsCon.
  • Connect with the Diplo Foundation Alumni network.
  • We met with ICANN representatives and discussed how to continue encouraging and supporting Digital Grassroots community members to participate in ICANN policy development processes and fellowship programs.
  • Participated in D4D Hub discussions about making Digital Grassroots internet literacy online learning content openly available as part of IDEA D4D HUB PROJECT.
  • Spoke with NED about funding options for grassroots organizations.
  • Visited the IGF Japan booth to input comments on the process to accommodate visas for African participation in 2023 IGF.


The 2022 IGF allowed us to reaffirm the importance of youth participation in the internet governance ecosystem. Digital Grassroots invites our community to contribute to our cause through mentorship, institutional funding, and promoting our programs. Read more about our work in the 2022 Annual Report. 

Celebrating Another Year of Growth and Impact: 2022 Annual Report is Here!

It’s hard to believe we’ve been serving our community for five years! Time flies when you’re making a difference, and we are proud of what we have accomplished during this period. Our fifth year was particularly exciting as we continued to expand our efforts and explore new avenues of capacity-building and advocacy.

As we reflect on the last year, it looks like a time of bountiful achievements, marked by exhilarating moments of expansion and progress. We continued to expand our initiatives, launching and delivering a new comprehensive training program for digital rights advocates, which we delivered in two editions. Our Digital Rights Learning Exchange provided 40 digital rights advocates a learning space to enhance their advocacy skills and collaborate with fellow advocates working towards similar goals. It was also a year rich with speaking engagements and advocacy work, which we carried out across numerous events engaging with diverse stakeholders and leading discussions on critical digital issues impacting our community and young people at large. In this Annual Report, you can find a detailed report of our achievements and plans for the future.

Looking ahead, we are excited about the possibilities next year will bring. We remain committed to our mission of empowering youth leaders in the digital space, and we are eager to explore new partnerships, initiatives, and collaborations that will help us achieve our goals. Thank you for being a part of our story.

New Report: Digital Rights Learning Exchange Cohort 2

Throughout September and October, Digital Grassroots held the Digital Rights Learning Exchange Program (DRLX) Cohort 2 in cooperation with the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative and with support from the Mott Foundation. This was the program’s second edition – after the successful first run, which took place earlier this year in spring. 

The program provided emerging digital rights advocates with training and mentorship on developing and implementing digital rights advocacy projects across such areas as:

  • Access and Affordability
  • Freedom of Expression
  • Internet Shutdowns
  • Privacy and Surveillance

In total, the Digital Rights Learning Exchange involved 20 aspiring human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, researchers, and Internet Governance activists from 7 countries (Haiti, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe). The program engagement was tailored specifically to promote active collaboration between participants coming from various communities, foster peer learning, and build networks for digital rights cooperation. 

By its design, the DRLX consisted of a six-week online course, weekly 90 minutes group meetings with industry experts as a guest speaker, a group project where participants were developing a digital rights advocacy campaign, and a 2-week group mentorship with an industry expert who provided the feedback on participant projects. Over the span of the program, participants had an opportunity to acquire knowledge on advocacy planning, communication, monitoring, and evaluation and test their learnings and skills by applying them to group projects. The end of the DRLX Cohort 2 was marked with a Finale Event, where participants presented their group projects to the community. The event gathered program alumni and mentors. DIGRA community members and fellow digital rights advocates of the participants.

Digital Grassroots would like to acknowledge and celebrate everyone who committed to supporting the learning journey of our aspiring group of digital rights advocates by sharing their time and expertise: our guest speakers David Aragort, Elizabeth Sutterlin, Ji Yeon, Lourdes Walusala, Michael J. Oghia and Rachel Mims and mentors Emmanuel C. Ogu, Grace Msauki, Jameson Pierre-Louis, Jesse Nathan Kalange, Osei Manu Kagyah. We would also love to thank our participants for their active program engagement and dedication to building a better digital rights space for their communities. We look forward to seeing you make an impact in the sphere!

DIGRA at 10th African Conference on Sexual Health Rights

From June 27 to July 1, 2022, Purposeful Sierra Leone hosted the 10th African Conference on Sexual Health Rights (ACSHR) in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. The event brought together feminist activists, UN agencies, government, and civil society representatives from across the continent to learn, connect and create an action plan in order to end violence against women and girls.

Promoting and advocating for gender equality in both the real and virtual world, Digital Grassroots also took part in the event. DIGRA was represented by one of our active community members, Diamondra Rafiringa, a gender equality activist and sexual health advocate. Diamondra took part in the DIGRA Ambassadors Program Cohort 5 and was able to put the acquired knowledge into practice to demonstrate that gender-based and sexual violence can be defeated through and with digital literacy.

Understanding the crucial role of challenging and regulating gender-based violence in the virtual space, our ambassador took the ACSHR as an opportunity to educate activists on the issues of gender inequalities in the digital sphere and share her vision for solutions and initiatives which they could carry out together. During the event, Diamondra was also invited to speak at the “Our bodies, our choice” session to raise awareness among participants about sexual health rights, the importance of exercising these rights, and discussing actions against sexual violence.  

The ACSHR 2022 enabled young activists to connect and exchange ideas and experiences, empowering young women to set for the missions they wish to pursue. The conference ended on many positive notes. The host country passed a bill decriminalizing abortion, while the participants returned home with their minds full of innovative ideas and energy to become agents of change.

As Josephine Kamara, an Advocacy and Communications Manager at Purposeful, said, “change was not yesterday or tomorrow, but is being built now”. It is, therefore, time to foster actions so that the next generation does not have to fight but live fully what we have fought for.

Read the Report: Digital Rights Learning Exchange

Recognizing the crucial role digital rights advocacy has to play in the wake of grave violations of human rights across the Internet, specifically in restrictive political environments, Digital Grassroots held Digital Rights Learning Exchange Program (DRLX). The program took place from April 27 to June 3 and was executed in cooperation with the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative.

DRLX gathered twenty participants from underrepresented regions representing 12 countries (Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Nigeria, Lesotho, Mexico, Uganda, Haiti, Burundi, Malawi, Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Cameroon).

In its essence, the program was designed specifically for those who are new to the digital rights space and sought to build the capacities of emerging digital activists to develop and implementing advocacy projects that address digital rights issues in their communities along the following themes that formed project groups:

  • Access and Affordability
  • Hate Speech
  • Freedom of Expression
  • Privacy and Surveillance

Digital Rights Learning Exchange was a six-week online training course that incorporated an online course covering topics such as advocacy concepts for civic engagement, communications strategies, data usage, and monitoring and evaluation of advocacy campaigns, among others. Each week the participants had a chance to take part in online meetings with top experts in the field of digital rights and shared their expertise and knowledge with the rising leaders. The guest speakers included Emmanuel Ogu, Gbenga Sesan, Lourdes Walusala, Nyamwire Bonnita, Rachel Mims, and Sarah Moulton.

The program also featured a two-week mentorship in which a mentor was matched with each of the project groups on the program. The mentor groups consisted of Bendjedid Rachad Sanoussi, Bolutife Adisa, David Aragort, Jesse Nathan Kalange, and Sarah Kiden. Mentors played a key role in supporting participants during the project development, which culminated in the final event.  The DRLX Finale Event was a 90 minutes virtual event at the end of the program for the participants to present the digital rights advocacy projects they were developing during the program.

Digital Grassroots is grateful to the community leaders, mentors, and the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative for making this cohort possible. Read the full report here.

Read the Report: DIGRA Ambassadors Program

The Digital Grassroots Ambassadors Program has always been a firm foundation of our work, as we aim to provide skills and knowledge for emerging digital leaders to enable them to address digital issues on a community level and actively participate in Internet Governance. Up to now, we have been able to implement 5 editions of the program, which reached almost 200 participants from more than 30 countries. Throughout the years that the program has been running, one of our main objectives has been making sure that the content of the Internet literacy course, which forms the basis of the program, provides a relevant and hands-on learning experience that participants can directly apply to their community projects. We also try to ensure that participants have an enabling environment to learn from experts in the digital space. That is why each cohort in our program also features a variety of digital activists and professionals that bring their unique experiences and expertise to the program as trainers and mentors, assisting ambassadors in their learning journey and project development.

This report highlights the main facts and figures about the program as well as documents in detail the latest edition of the program, which took place from September – November 2021. It also spotlights some of the projects that our ambassadors developed and executed during or after the program. These projects reflect the range of topics the participants chose to address and emphasize a diversity of paths in digital activism that our ambassadors take to build a better digital future for their communities.

We hope you will enjoy the publication!