Africa’s Voices Foundation, a non-profit research organisation originating from the University of Cambridge, has been recognised for gaining insights from hard-to-reach communities living in Somalia.

The President's Medal is awarded annually to an organisation or individual that has made an extraordinary contribution to research. This year's winner was chosen by President of MRS Dame Dianne Thompson, Co-Chairs of MRS Crispin Beale and Danny Russell and CEO of MRS Jane Frost CBE for their work with UNICEF Somalia.

Africa’s Voices Director, Dr Sharath Srinivasan, says: “We’re excited about how seizing the communications revolution, through rigorous, innovative research, can amplify hard-to-reach citizens voices and enhance well-being in African countries. To be recognised by the Market Research Society with the President’s Medal so early on in our journey puts wind in our sails.”

Through interactive programmes on over 20 radio stations, Africa’s Voices gathered opinions from audiences on a range of health topics, such as polio and routine immunisation, and maternal, neonatal and child health, that were analysed using pioneering techniques. By successfully carrying out research within insecure and inaccessible areas, the project demonstrates the value of Africa’s Voices approach as a remote monitoring and citizen engagement tool.

Somalia-community-radio Radio Shabelle is one of Mogadishu's most popular radio stations and has exposed itself to considerable danger in the past for actively taking.jpg

Radio Station in Mogadishu. Credit: AU-UN IST PHOTO/TOBIN JONES

Over 8,400 people participated via SMS from all districts of Somalia in the eight-week pilot study: 44% were women, 86.4% were 15-29 years old and 54.9% were parents. UNICEF valued the rich insights gained, and the data collection method - which would normally require several researchers on the ground in a high-risk context. UNICEF have now developed a long-term partnership with Africa’s Voices Foundation to work on new interactive radio shows exploring a broader range of health topics, including HIV/AIDS, malaria, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). To date, over 100,000 health-related messages from Somali citizens have been gathered and analysed.

Africa’s Voices Foundation will receive the President's Medal at the MRS Awards on 5 December at Supernova London. Tickets can be purchased here.

More information about Africa’s Voices Foundation can be found here. More information about their work with UNICEF Somalia can be found here.

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