Voice(s) (Un)Told

Voice(s) (Un)TOLD

annual report 2021

Introduction Who we are Who we fund How we are doing How we spent What’s next

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“We have thrived even at the darkest and most challenging times of our existence by surviving the pandemic. We commit to continue, we commit to hope, and we commit to rise above the situation. Most of all, we commit to develop a community where inclusion is not a right, we have to work for but a right duly recognized.”

Grantee partner from Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (APLHIV) in Laos shares a joke with a rightsholder.

context but also the tenacity and adaptability of grant- ee partners and rightsholders. While chasing closures, the Voice teams also launched the first calls for propos- als under the extension phase. This included the roll- out of the NOW-Us! Awards to celebrate innovation in inclusion in 6 Voice focus countries, the start-up of the Empowerment Accelerated ‘graduation’ grants, a joint call for proposals with ROOM in Kenya and Tanzania to support innovative initiatives that explore how right- sholders experience freedom at the crossroads of faith and feminism, a call for proposals to support creative projects that will encourage artists and rightsholders to use arts as a tool for activism in Indonesia, among a host of others. Linking and learning continued to connect, outgoing and incoming, grantee partners and rightsholders in numerous events and platforms, enabling new ideas and joint actions to emerge. Throughout the height of the pandemic, information about the facts, the impact and the individual experiences of support and resil- ience were shared via the WhatsApp groups, Facebook pages and other Voice platforms. Peer to peer capacity strengthening as well as creative joint campaigns is a growing part of linking and learning- online, face2face or hybrid.

In some way, grantee partners have become more appreciative of the added value of linking and learning with other organisations, they have become more visible to each other. It has created another space for the rightsholders, grantee partners, and Voice to do business unusual—to let go of the fear of not being in control or structured and to embrace trying out things which may be new. As Shilla Adyero, from Lutino Adunu in Uganda shared: “I feel that with linking and learning, it gives you the opportunity to reflect but also learn from other people and in that process, you also grow by being able to re- check your approaches to development.”


Hope is a powerful thing Voice dedicates this report to the vibrant and powerful civil society movements the world over, who are mobi- lizing and advocating relentlessly for a just and equal present and future. From resisting violence against women with albinism in Uganda and supporting com- munity environmental defenders to protect themselves against reprisals in Madagascar, to setting up a cooper- ative welfare fund for informal women workers in Laos and truth telling efforts to convey the experience of survivors of human rights violations in Aceh and Timor Leste through video documentaries in Indonesia. Rightsholders and grantee partners of Voices contin- ued to fan the flames of equality, solidarity, community

and justice amidst a second pandemic year. You give us hope and we hold you in deep gratitude. 2021 was a crucial bridge year for Voice. It marked the end of phase 1 (2016-2020) and the start of the exten- sion phase (2021-2024). As a result of this continuing journey as well as the plans we could not fully realise, we defined 2020 as the year that was (un)finished. In 2021, we made our best efforts to finish phase 1. This effort was met with immense challenges as the pan- demic continued to rise and subside the world over, in- cluding in the Voice focus countries. Movement restric- tions and other public health measures continued to affect daily life, delaying or changing grantee partners’ finalisation of their projects. At the end of 2021, Voice honoured 205 requests for amendments to the total of 395 grant agreements from phase 1. This is evidence not only of the practical challenges of administering grants and managing projects in an unprecedented

We are proud to present to you Voices (Un)told. The beginning of the journey in this new phase of Voice.



Who we are “Are you ready for me? I will expand what it means to belong. I don’t need you to accept me, I embraced myself a long time ago, Eloquent in myself, Successful in being me.”

Ata Ratu, East Sumba’s beloved singer song writer and female Marapu cultural figure, preparing to record songs to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

hours on 7 April, we were in one space at the global celebration- #connected and #prouderandlouder. More than 384 people participated offline (in capitals and in villages) and more than 570 people participated online, including people who watched the live streams. There were 16 different languages, including sign languages! We danced to the beats of DJ Catsu Diosi from Uganda founder of the Dope Gal Africa network that celebrates and promotes African and diaspora female DJs and music creatives. We were moved to tears by a collabo- rative performance by Madina N’Daiye, the first woman and woman with visual impairment to play the kora, and Sitawa Namwalie, acclaimed poet, playwright and performer from Kenya. The Magic of Our Voices, documenting the stories of rightsholders and grantee partners, is the most pow- erful and humbling legacy of this event. Voice would not exist were it not for the people who have come together in a community around its shared purpose. The rightsholders and grantee partners who daily live the principle “Nothing About Us Without Us” as they affect change for their communities. The Voice team members who work their hearts out to make grants, amplify voices and facilitate linking & learning. And our allies, supporters and funders who continually trust us and guide us. What kept Voice going in 2021 was the immense energy and creativity displayed by rightsholders and grantee partners as they adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic and conceptualised new projects to enhance inclusion for their communities. Following the trend from 2020, we saw a growth in responsive approaches to using social media and digital technology to foster social change. In Nigeria for example, Integriti Technologies and the Yes We Can Youth Leadership Initiative started Politecracy to equip rural youth with digital skills and promote political literacy. In Cambodia, the Khmer Youth Association is using an online platform to share messages that counter negative gender stereotypes from an intersectional perspective through an initiative called “I YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL”. In Mali, the Association Malienne pour la Protection des Albinos is forming partnerships not only with other Disabled Peoples

From Voice to Belonging

2021 will perhaps be remembered as the year when living in a pandemic went from being new to being ‘normal’ for people across the world. For Voice, it presented an early opportunity to engage its global community in a reflective and celebratory event to mark 5 years of being. And so came about the Voice@5 celebrations! In Laos, Nigeria, Mali, Niger and Uganda, Voice teams gathered in-person with grantee partners and rightsholders and other wellwishers. In Kenya, Tanzania, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines the Voice community connected virtually for their own national celebrations. Most importantly, for two

Organisations but also a network of bloggers and influencer activists to advocate for the implementation of a law mandating quotas for political participation of women with disabilities through its project Equilibrons pour un Mali plus inclusive. Complementing these interesting examples of online activism, we had powerful offline initiatives demon- strating that change-making at the local level does not stop. With or without a pandemic. In Tanzania, the Aqua Farm Organization Arts and Culture for Development is creating an arts for change campaign to overcome socio- cultural and religious barriers that prevent women from participating in fisheries through the Bahari HUB Yetu, Ukombozi wa Wanawake project. In Indonesia, Sumba Integrated Development is continuing to organise to en- hance access to social and education services for Marapu believers including through integrating Marapu inclusive curriculum in formal and informal education systems. In Uganda, Voice of Encouragement will take lessons from civil society in Kenya and Zambia to advocate for the re-entry of pregnant girls who are compelled to drop out of schools.




Moving to the South

apply to Voice and cascade down to grantee partners coupled with the pandemic meant that the Voice teams had to continuously reflect on how best to accommo- date the needs of the grantee partners while meeting accountability requirements. This meant listening to recommendations on COVID-19 responses, incorporat- ing wellbeing into programming and budgeting, and being mindful in communications. Through all this, we continue to be buoyed by a common sense of purpose and the realization that these steps in inculcating care as a core value in grant-making are necessary to #ShiftThePower. We are also thrilled to share that the mid-term review recommendation of greater represenation of right- sholders in the Voice advisory board has now been fully realised. In October 2021, Rinaldi Ridwan, Co- founder and Vice-Chair, Indonesian Adolescent Health Association joined Nidhi Goyal, Bart Romijn, Christine Kandie, Caroline Kouassiaman and Dumiso Gatsha, completing the advisory board. We are grateful to have such powerful activists and development practitoners guiding the work of Voice.

A lookback on Voice in 2021 would not be complete without acknowledging the leadership transition in Voice and the purpose with which Marinke van Riet moved on from her position as the Programme Manager of Voice. She locates her conviction of ‘moving leadership to the South’ squarely in the context of discussions around decolonising aid and localising development. Representation matters. This provides inspiration not only for Voice’s ways of work- ing now but also as it continues evolving for the future. Marinke’s departure from the team came at the heels of a long process of decentralisation that has resulted in a stronger presence of team members in the countries and regions where Voice works. These transitions, both within the coordination and country teams, in an already tumultuous and precarious context have required extraordinary tenacity, grace and compassion from current and incoming team members. Above and beyond these changes in their own compo- sition, the Voice teams grappled with an ever-changing context that presented diverse challenges to the work of grantee partners, particularly smaller, rightsholder led organizations and groups. Funding restrictions that

Building transformative partnerships Since its inception, Voice has been intentional in seeking to listen and learn from its grantee partners. In keeping with this ethos, Voice in February 2021, commissioned the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), to carry out a confidential survey with its grant- ee partners to understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. 257 grantee partners (a 69% response rate!) made time to engage in this exercise at an especially challenging and constraining time and provided feedback documented in this report prepared by CEP. We were inspired to learn that grantee partners see Voice as having a positive impact on the work of the grantee partners themselves, their fields and their communities. The sense of solidarity and connection forged by our Linking & Learning efforts were also well received by grantees. Voice’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in its work and its commitment to com- batting racism is also clearly seen and appreciated by our grantee partners. More importantly, Voice will take action to address the areas of improvement our grant- ee partners have identified. These include- the quality of interactions between the Voice team and grantee partners, the stringency, intensiveness and formality of some Voice processes, and the perceived pressure on grantee partners to change their organisational pri- orities during proposal development. We are humbled

A young refugee woman from the Greater Wakiso area in Central Uganda participates in a practical skill building session on fashion design

to receive this feedback, which is particularly telling in the context of the long-due but ongoing sector-wide discussions on localising, decentralising and decol- onizing aid. While we are keen to contribute to the systemic change that the #ShiftThePower movement is demanding, we are equally committed to taking immediate, tangible actions that demonstrate our intention to be a feminist, trust-based, and inclusive grant-making facility. Since September 2021, Voice has been taking steps to ensure socialisation of the survey report within Voice, within Oxfam and Hivos, in addi- tion to disseminating the report to grantee partners. Voice has also begun an internal reflection on how to translate the recommendations received into concrete changes to our ways of working. One such reflection is taking place on the issue of terminology and a shift in our framing to viewing grantees as partners. This change comes from a collective understanding of the power of language and the way in which terminology itself can empower or disempower. We seek to signal our intention to build transformative partnerships with groups whose work Voice is resourcing and move away from transactional ways of working while recognising the funding relationship and the power dynamics it creates. The measures outlined in the response are some steps we are taking to ensure that this change in terminology is practically embodied further in our grant-making and ways of working.

During celebration of International Day of the elderly, the youth join hands with the elderly in Cambodia to amplify the voices of the elderly



Since its inception, Voice has been growing bigger, louder, and bolder as it continues to sup- port a diverse group of nearly 1400 organisations, informal groups, and networks in Africa and Asia, representing the 5 rightsholder groups and previously unreached communities and sectors. Based on cumulative targets from 2016 to 2024, Voice has now supported a total number of 523 projects or 83% of the planned 629 grants. Like 2020, the year 2021 remained a transition period for Voice, characterised by the simultaneous closing of projects from phase 1 and processing of grant approvals for the 58 newly opened calls for proposals for the extension phase. Out of the 396 phase 1 projects, only 190 had been closed by December 2021, while for the extension phase,

131 contracts were signed. These processes continued to be enormously impacted by COVID- 19 restrictions, while at the same time requiring an intensive amount of administrative work. Nevertheless, Voice continued to work flexibly and responsively with the grantee partners, given the pandemic driven realities of the Voice rightsholders. Distributing the total funds expended in phase 1 and committed in the extension phase over the types of grants now gives the following picture:

A strip of animated stories from Kilimanjaro Clinical Research Institute in Tanzania that addresses sexual harassment of schoolgirls in exchange for free rides to and from school by Boda boda drivers (motorcycle taxis)

Who we fund



€ 824,115 € 1,666,211 € 1,927,958 € 433,027 € 4,851,310 Philippines


€ 360,031 € 985,611 € 1,193,444 € 155,830 € 2,694,915

€ 445,973 € 1,891,127 € 1,092,957 € 384,047 € 3,814,104

€ 419,721 € 673,933 € 983,100 € 87,217 € 2,163,970





€ 672,460 € 1,046,097 € 1,396,935 € 68,530 € 3,184,022

€ 395,199 € 1,914,590 € 1,305,329 € 324,245 € 3,939,363

€ 1,027,181 € 3,164,076 € 1,777,981 € 150,420 € 6,119,658

€ 343,233 € 2,043,696 € 1,490,231 € 35,076 € 3,912,236


€ 456,787 € 1,450,945 € 1,182,711 € 1,048,374 € 4,138,817



€ 419,401 € 6,235,064 € 3,426,624 € 592,498 € 10,673,586

€ 48,399,941 Grand total

€ 904,240 € 901,764 € 912,116 € 189,838 € 2,907,959

Figure 2 - Grant funding allocation per country and type of grant



Empowerment projects

Innovate and Learn projects

investing in the self-led transformation of small rightsholder groups have now begun to take the shape of more sustained, deeper empowerment processes at the individual, group, and/or organisational level through the new graduation grants. From pilot-testing the Empowerment Accelerator grants in Tanzania and Indonesia, 6 more countries followed suit and released their own Calls for Proposals (CfPs). Seven (7) countries also continued to reach new grantees working on raising awareness, developing their own leadership, and building self-confidence through the regular Empowerment Grant window. From phase 1 to now, the Empowerment grants comprise 44% of the total number of contracts, but due to their small funding amount, they only amount to 13% of the total fund value. From the year 2020 when the pandemic began up to the present, Empowerment grantees have been coping hardly with unexpected shifts in priorities, beyond their Voice-supported projects, as they experience the direct, harsh impacts of COVID-19. Loss of livelihood, food insecurity, inability to address emergency needs, and lack of access to information and technology are some of the reasons affecting their level of interest and ability to sustain their engagement in the projects and/ or participation in the grant selection processes. Voice initiated internal assessments to understand these changes and gaps, and identified ways to respond to and support the needs of the rightsholders, reflected in the framing of CfPs for the extension phase and some flexibility in implementing the grants. For instance, the Influencing Grant CfP in Laos specifically noted the impact of COVID-19 to the returning migrants from Thailand, and invited applicants to respond to it. In the same way, the Innovate & Learn grant CfP from the Philippines invited projects to address loss of liveli- hoods and reduced source of income. This continues to be an area of learning and exploration in Voice.

Influencing Projects

providing a space for testing, learning, and/or scaling up ideas and approaches, have taken an exciting turn in the extension phase. A total of 23 new CfPs were re- leased to invite new innovations, engage or re-engage organisations called Linking & Learning Facilitators who work hand-in-hand with the other grantee part- ners, and launch the national NOW-Us! Awards. Aiming to localise the successful partnership with Partos and Spindle in 2018, the NOW-Us! Awards are now being implemented in 6 countries, piloted in Tanzania in 2019, to honor and recognise initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion, and trigger the self-empower- ment of rightsholder groups and communities. A new CfP for a global Linking & Learning Facilitator was also released to strengthen the engagement of multi-coun- try grantees in linking and learning activities.

Sudden Opportunity projects

strengthening the lobby and advocacy capacities of organisations to better represent, include, and amplify the rightsholders’ voices continue to be the largest grant type in terms of contract value, amounting to 45% of the total funds. Fifteen (15) CfPs were opened for the extension phase, with priority in approvals due to their multi-year duration. A window specific to repeat multi-country Influencing grants resulted in continued support to 7 regional grantee partners work- ing to build on the gains of their initiatives and further ensure their long-term sustainability. These include the protection and promotion of the civic engagement of young and women activists in Africa, and amplification of the voices and human rights of sex workers, deaf people, and women and young people who use drugs in Asia, among others.

responding to specific, unanticipated opportunities and threats through collective action remain open in the extension phase, with a slow uptake in 2021, seeing only 2 released CfPs. Since 2016, Sudden Opportunity grants have made up 7% of the total fund value of Voice, with largest portfolio in Nigeria. In 2021, Voice supported 6 ground-breaking projects awarded grants under the Beyond a Hashtag Sudden Opportunity call for proposals which was prompted by the threats to civic space seen in the wake of the powerful campaigns and movements mobi- lizing under the umbrella #EndSARS, #EndPoliceBrutality, #EndBadGovernanceinNigeria, etc.

Photo session after a capacity strengthening session in Tillaberi and Tahoua regions



Grant modalities

Phase In, Phase Out

7% 14% planned

Sudden Opportunity

23% 26% planned

44% 14% planned


Innovate & learn Influencing

with almost 400k. At the end of 2021, 80% of the full available amount of 60,8 million euros from MoFA has been allocated. The remainder is expected to be approved in 2022. While this is good progress against the total budget available to Voice, there are contin- uous challenges in terms of expenditure at the level of grantee partners and resulting delays in transfers at the level of Voice. It is important to reiterate that the pandemic demands exceeding levels of flexibility and adaptiveness from all actors. In response, grantee partners and Voice are making a slow but sure pivot to meet the needs of the moment.

The transition of Voice from phase 1 to the extension phase has been a highly anticipated moment due to the expanding possibility of resourcing newer and larger number of rightsholders groups. However, the testing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic brought Voice and the grantee partners to a near standstill in 2021. In this section, therefore, we find it helpful to provide a more detailed insight into our progress by referring to both phase 1 and extension phase targets according to grant types, rightsholder groups, and impact themes. Overall, Voice has allocated around 48 million euros to 523 grantees worldwide from 3 funding sources: MoFA phase 1 with almost 35 million, the extension phase with 13,1 million, and a collaboration with TAI-Hewlett

25% 46% planned


22% 20% planned

18% 20% planned

Vulnerable youth and senior citizens


The targets on the left were determined based on the initial context analysis done by Voice during its inception phase, showing where and how the funds will be distributed in order to be aligned with the needs identified in the focus countries. The context analysis was last updated in 2020. As seen in the realised accomplishments, there are some areas where significant variances were observed (i.e., the number of Empowerment and Influencing projects, the types of organisations, and the distribution of themes). There are different reasons for these dif- ferences. For one, the country teams, in their own annual assessment and planning processes, found out that there are groups who had been harder to reach than others due to geographical locations, access to information, and weak capacities in seeking funds, among others. Thus, there had been more effort to reach and support informal groups and small organisations to support their visibility and capacity to voice out their hopes and aspira- tions. The contexts in the countries have also been changing rapidly due to the shifts in global and na- tional socioeconomic-political trends. As a result, there were shifts in the way the countries framed their CfPs. In this call for Influencing Grants in Kenya, for instance, there was a focus on rethinking advocacy strategies to promote the rightsholders’ political and civic engagement, and moving away from conventional service delivery framework.

10% planned

Women facing exploitation, abuse and/or violence

25% 25% planned


People with disabilities

Total Funds

25% planned

LGBTI People

€ 60.847.500


Balance €12.447.559 20%

23% planned

Types of organisations


27% planned

Platforms and networks

Informal organisations (grassroots and CBOs)

Approved € 48.399.941 80%


Formal organisations

50% planned


Access to improved social services

38% 39%

A rightsholder from Lao Disabled Women Development Center in a peer-to-peer pottery skills-sharing session.

30% planned

35% planned

Access to productive resources and employment

Increased space for political participation and citizen engagement


35% planned

A rightsholder advocating for inclusion of persons with disabilities in employment opportunities in Indonesia



Grant Types vis-à-vis Impact Themes Voice transitioned from being under the Dialogue and Dissent policy framework of MoFA in phase 1 to becoming part of the Power of Voices framework in the extension phase, particularly focusing on diversity and inclusion. While the nature of the programme remained the same, there were nevertheless some shifts in intentionality, reflected in the way the grant types and impact themes had been interacting in both phases. For instance, the Influencing Grants have the biggest fund value (47%) and threshold (i.e., maximum of 200,000 euros per project in the countries) in line with the original Dialogue and Dissent framework, but over the years we have been contracting more Empowerment projects (40%) with the smallest fund- ing threshold among the four grant types, amounting to maximum 25,000 euros only per project. In the extension phase focusing on diversity and inclusion, these grant thresholds did not shift, but the intention to invest more in rightsholder-led groups and organisa- tions has continued to be prioritised, even in the larger grant types of Influencing and Innovate & Learn.

Furthermore, the added impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the programme, while transitioning into the extension phase, really required Voice to rethink and reassess its responsiveness to the needs and aspirations of the rightsholders. Thus, the three impact themes of Voice needed to be contextualised further in the extension phase based on the rapidly shifting demands of the time. The need for innovation and creativity has never been more underscored than in the recent CfPs inviting all projects and grant types to promote economic empowerment due to loss of live- lihood, access to mental health services and wellness programmes, protection of digital rights, security and privacy, access to information and technology, har- nessing arts and music to advocate for social justice, and strengthened initiatives in many other thematic areas. While the achieved targets, as illustrated in table 2 above, had no major variance from phase 1, these specific themes nevertheless provide a better picture of where the rightsholders’ priorities are during the beginning of the extension phase.

Rightsholders march as part of celebrating the civil society week in Tanzania

Rightsholders The strong push to underscore intersectionality as a funda- mental aspect of understanding the lives of rightsholders had allowed Voice to reach an even broader network of communities, groups, and individuals with overlapping layers of lived experiences and intersecting identities. In the extension phase of Voice, the newly approved projects do not only remain focused on working alongside the 5 rightsholder groups; they have also opened and widened the way for the programme to reach and include more, such as stateless people and refugees, people affected by modern slavery, people who use drugs, people in conflict areas, individuals and groups most affected by climate change and natural disasters, and many more. This is in addition to the “sub-groups” previously identified in phase 1, characterised by the intersections of gender, ethnicity, age, and disability. Investing in multi-country grants, which are regional grants to support and link the national initiatives to broader inter- national movements, have also allowed Voice to embrace the participation and representation of rightsholders and their organisations based outside the 10 target countries. In Asia, the projects are reaching countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand. In Africa,

we are supporting grantee partners working in Central Africa (e.g., Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, etc.) and even Southern Africa (e.g., Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia). In phase 1, Voice released a regional Empowerment grant to connect small organisations in two or more countries to connect with each other and embark on a joint learning trajectory. However, in the extension phase, the multi-country CfPs were designed to focus more on the larger grant types to leverage the influencing work and innovations at the regional level. The increasing representation of different subsets of rightsholder groups within Voice grantee partners and the widening geographic reach of the projects that Voice grants support are a concrete demonstration of one of the key findings of our mid-term review- Voice has untapped potential to support self-led, right- sholder groups requiring resources .



Capacity strengthening processes engaging rightsholders groups contribute to three outcome areas related to (i) the empowerment of rightsholders, (ii) alliance building, and (iii) increased ability to influence. These processes are supported through the projects that are implemented by grantee partners. The different grantee partners navigate through the three distinct yet inter- connected pathways in our Theory of Change. These are Empower, Amplify and Influence. Capacity strengthening through grant-making

How we’re doing

progress thus far. Part of this reflection took the form of an addition of a results tab on the Voice website that highlights the key outcomes achieved by grantee partners through their Voice supported project. It also included the drafting of a 5-year learning document entitled Journeying Towards Stronger Voices that tells the story of Voice as a grant-making facility, a linking & learning facilitator, and a development actor delivering on an inclusion change agenda. This year, Voice was also supported in carrying out a grantee perception survey that resulted in a set of findings demonstrating what Voice is doing well and what areas of improve- ment are. Based on the recommendations made, a management response was prepared and steps taken to socialise the survey report among all Voice teams. This effort to continue moving Voice towards a trans- formative partnership model also inspired reflections more widely within Oxfam and Hivos on accountabil- ity, trust-based partnership building, and proximate leadership. We are excited to be able to share all we have learned and unlearned thus far with you in the coming days.

This chapter highlights outcomes resulting from Voice grantee partners’ actions and collaborations, supported by Voice. Illustrated through stories told by grantee partners, it shares the highlights of Voice’s two core components: 1) capacity strengthening through grant-making and 2) linking and learning . Subsequently, it shows the cumulative progress against the overall results framework. Introduced in 2019, the revised Theory of Change was the pro- gramme’s strategic compass throughout 2021. Voice dreams of a world where empowered rightsholders are able to express their views and demand their rights for responsive and inclusive societies. All our grant-mak- ing and management, monitoring and evaluation and linking, learning and amplification approaches were geared towards the pursuit of this overall goal. 2021 was a significant year; not only for seeding new approaches for enabling inclusive social change, but also for deep and intentional reflection on Voice’s



receiving stigma and derision from the surroundings, have now acknowledged their rights as persons with (mental) disabilities and are rallying to advocate for their own rights. The IMHA engaged rightsholders in the formulation of a number of campaign and advo- cacy issues, as well as a creative design for a disability rights campaign based on the challenges they confront on a daily basis. “We would like to express our gratitude to Voice for giving incomparable support for our effort to “give back the voice” to women and men with psychosocial disabilities, one of the most stigmatised and discriminated groups in our society. We gained a lot of learning while also harvesting the results of this project. We now have new cadres and new networks that will contribute greatly to our advocacy effort in the future for the rights of persons with psychosocial disability”.

In 2021, we continued supporting grantee partners and rightsholders who are organizing themselves and their communities to access their rights. Despite various challenges and limitations, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rightsholders continued taking ownership by working on their own empower- ment. There were testimonies of boosted confidence and self-esteem among rightsholders, people who are facing marginalisation and facing discrimination overcoming self-doubt and internalised stigma, and rightsholders striving to become the best version of themselves while finding their voice and sharing their views. Below we share 3 stories from grantee partners highlighting these changes: A journey of self- confidence The Indonesian Mental Health Association (IMHA), an Empowerment grantee partner has been working to support people with psychosocial disabilities who barely have access to basic rights and services. Through awareness raising and trainings, more rightsholders are now aware of their rights and they are carrying out advocacy to challenge the status quo. Rightsholders who previously lacked self-confidence and were ashamed of their disability status, as well as To Empower: A process by which right- sholders gain power over their own life, take their own decisions, by creating safe spaces to meet, increasing their confidence, and building awareness and skills.

From spectating to acting

Sensitise Uganda implemented an Empowerment project aimed at enhancing secondary students’ civic participation through mock elections. The project conducted school-based election campaigns targeting school communities and outside communities includ- ing girls and boys, parents and leaders to create more awareness on civic and voter education. The concept of observing elections was introduced to empower students to know and understand their civic rights and duties, as well as the importance of casting their votes. Through this, rightsholders understood the role they have to play to promote democratic governance. “I started following national issues on TV because of the enlightenment I got from Sensitise Uganda”, Douglas, student at Progressive Senior Secondary School Kitintale. There is a need to widen the scope of intervention to reach even more students. “I felt good in my heart when my school was chosen among the schools that participated in the project. As a citizen, this exercise provided me a platform to participate in the national elections that were done in the country in January 2021 as a polling agent in my centre. I request Sensitise Uganda to expand the project to most of the areas in the country more especially rural-urban schools so that they also exercise it and they go and teach their people about how elections are done”.

at a glance


475 Empowerment projects supported 2016-2021 2035 rightsholder groups have a safe space to convene, share concerns and exchange ideas and experiences 842 formal and informal groups presented their own change agendas to external stakeholders

Our rights, our collective responsibility

In Niger, Voice Influencing grantee partner Timidria created a platform for awareness raising and active learning for women facing exploitation, abuse and or violence in North Niger on what their rights are and how they can rally together to pursue access to them. In 2021, there was significant progress in that some rightsholders reported a change in their mindset. People who thought there was nothing they could do to change their situation started taking charge of their lives and actively taking part in fighting against their own marginalization. “In the past, only the masters or their relatives had this right. We are now aware that this was a usurpation fostered by our lack of knowledge of our rights. Today, I can say: I said or I say. Before, we were told. We conduct our own awareness sessions on the themes


Overall, these examples illustrate the dividends of empowerment efforts for grantee partners and right- sholders at multiple levels- individual (rightsholder), organisational (grantee partners) and community. The barriers to self-empowerment can range from self-stig- matisation and lack of awareness about individual and group rights, to express discrimination in exerting power as citizens. No matter the scale of the barrier, each step taken towards overcoming stigma, rights education and civic engagement, cascades wider social change.

of our choice, such as the participation of women in the communal councils”


Ms. Daisy Twesigye of The Electoral Commission launching the Mock Elections Toolkit developed by Sensitize Uganda as the Chief Guest



To Amplify: is the process of acquiring the means and support to express and raise your voice. Grantee partners and rightsholders demonstrated cre- ativity and strength in a dynamic context by continuing to employ different tools and avenues to amplify their voices. They rose above existing challenges and decided to re- think, re-strategise and re-energise how they approached their amplification activities. 2021 also saw Linking & Learning facilitating organisations take the centre stage in facilitating connections between grantee partners and sup- porting amplification in different forms. Below we share 3 stories from grantee partners highlighting these changes: Insisting on Be/Longing The ASEAN SOGIE Caucus (ASC), a regional network of LGBTIQ human rights defenders and civil society organ- isations, organised the first-ever, month-long virtual Southeast Asia Queer Cultural Festival 2021 with the theme “Be/Longings” in March 2021. The theme ‘Be/Longings’ was inspired by words “kerinduan” in Bahasa Indonesia or Bahasa Melayu, and “pangungulila” in Filipino. It sought to express the duality that the ASEAN region and its insti- tutions are erasing a significant group of people from its memory. And from LGBTIQ persons point of view, they are missing a region that is genuinely caring, inclusive, and respectful of diversity. The festival’s programme featured 30+ works, performances and events by 40+ queer activists and artists from all over Southeast Asia using various dig- ital platforms. Through curating this cultural experience, ASC and their network of LGBTIQ activists, artists, culture workers and academics have engaged in a profound act of cultivating collective memory and generating social and cultural discourse on queer existence, thereby opening up a powerful alternative space for LGBTIQ people in the region to belong. “LGBTIQ people in Southeast Asia have always found ways to insist that we belong in our communities and in the region. We want to show that diversity of sexual and gender identities has always been part of our histories — this diversity even pre-dated colonisation and modern nation states that introduced laws that declared that our existence as illegal… With the help of Voice, this monumental festival was made possible, and LGBTIQ people from the region are given a space

in writing and most importantly, to present the characteristics of an inclusive world for persons with visual impairment that we must have in our country.” Beyond a Hashtag Nigeria’s youth stood hand-in-hand to protest against the excessive force used by special anti-robbery squad, popularly known as SARS. They caught the world’s attention through the #EndSARS movement which blossomed into the youth taking charge of their destiny for a better Nigeria. The sudden opportunity grant called “Beyond a Hashtag” brought creative youthful grantee partners like Youth and Students Advocates for Development Initiative, YSAD among others with the project “No Dey Give; Follow Traffic Rules” which used innovative digital campaigns and use of toll-free numbers to create awareness on the menace of extortion of Nigerians by the police & how it is connected with police brutality. The campaigns galvanised citizens to move from bystanders to activ- ists. Additionally, two countries; Kenya and Nigeria under one theme; Youth, Politics & the Digital Space held a knowledge exchange with the view to share experiences and lessons learnt in how the youth in both countries used digital tools to call out the police and in turn hold the government accountable.

to come together despite the many challenges that we are facing, a space where they can truly belong.”


at a glance

Linking Arms, Joining Voices The Association for the promotion of youth in Kati APYK, works to strengthen the leadership and engagement of girls and young women in the political sphere in Mali. APYK found itself facing a challenge in involving young women and girls who are not in school into their project. The consortium of Femme et Tic and Kunafoni.com, the linking and learning facilitating organisation in Mali advised APYK to profile women and girl role models during the mobilisation and awareness campaigns instead of men, as was being done by APYK previously. APYK confirms that recalibrat- ing its outreach approach in this way has enabled them to start integrating young women and girls more readily in their project. In the Philippines, YGOAL, Inc., the linking & learning facilitating organisation in the Philippines, connected grantee partners and rightsholders with media practitioners. In some instances, this led to publication of news articles that documented grantee partners innovations to continuing reaching rightsholders and fulfilling their mandates in the context of the pandemic. In others, it result- ed in profiling the personal stories of empowerment of rightshold- ers in mainstream media. This includes the account of Fermin Yap, a 21-year-old student who dreams of becoming a teacher one day who is also a person with visual impairment. Fermin won a nation- al essay competition organised by the National Organization of Visually Empowered Ladies (NOVEL) in the Philippines in August 2021. Fermin says: “Winning for me validates my capacity, through my writing skills, to participate in such an advocacy campaign and to contribute to raising awareness on how to build an inclusive world for persons with visual impairment. I want to grab this opportunity to thank NOVEL Philippines and Preen.ph because you gave us this kind of moment to show our skills

823 (Informal) groups, organisa- tions and networks have built diverse alliances, initiating an agenda to amplify rightsholders’ voices 164 online and offline campaigning activities undertaken 1389 publications linked to amplification such as the Echos from Madagascar by Natural Justice, a sudden opportunity grantee partner whose project “Solidarity with African Environmental and Land Defenders” aims to support indigenous peoples and local communities and their grassroots organisations in up to seven countries in Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, DRC, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda and Madagascar).

Undoubtedly, the youth play a vital role in their communities as they are a creative force and a dynamic source of innovations as they are contributing greatly to the political systems.


As Voice completed the set-up of a fully localised linking & learning infrastructure in the 10 Voice focus countries, the Linking & Learning facilitator organi- sations embraced their role as a conduit for creative brainstorming, exchanging solutions and wider sharing of grantee partners and rightsholders stories. In the spaces of connection created by the Linking & Learning facilitator organisations, grantee partners found solutions to problems they faced in project implementation, found opportunities to strengthen their own skills on communicating their stories, and diversified and broadened their networks for wider reach.



Influence: The process where right- sholders and their representatives will use a range of lobby and advocacy tools to influence individuals, families, communities, private business, religious leaders, (social) media, and other de- cision-makers’ policies, practices, and behaviours. Grantee partners and rightsholders continued to adapt and refine their influencing approaches in line with the current COVID-19 context. Online training and knowl- edge sharing activities for leaders and activists as well as social media and radio campaigns were some of the ways in which influencing took place. This approach also had its limitations as activities around influencing decision-makers were often challenging, especially due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, some grantee partners were still able to conduct in-person meetings and taking an online approach worked well in other cases. Age is just a number In Cambodia, HelpAge Cambodia (HAC) coordinated and supported representatives of Older People Associations (OPAs) from 5 capital-provinces in devel- oping a new advocacy platform for elderly people, the Cambodian Ageing Network (CAN). Today, CAN rep- resents more than 25,000 people from 5 capital-prov- inces and is an influential platform that enables elderly people and other marginalised groups to amplify their voices and echo their needs to policy makers and key decision makers at national levels. As part of the success of HAC’s Influencing grant, two elder representatives of CAN were selected as the members of the technical working group of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth rehabil- itation (MoSVY) and fully involved themselves in the review and development of an action plan for the National Ageing Policy 2017-2030. One of them is Ms. Vanda, who is also CAN’s president. She has put a lot of her efforts in collaboration with all members in ad- vocacy work and engaging with multi-stakeholder and key governments through various dialogue and con- sultation to mainstream aging issues as well as to seek their support in addressing the needs of the elderly.

Mrs. Chan Roeung shows how she communicates with elderly per- sons. She is the Auditor of Older People’s Associations (OPA’s).

at a glance

654 rightsholders groups, CSOs and networks report a benefit by using a diverse set of lobby, advocacy and campaigning tools

“I felt very empowered and motivated of being a member in this technical working group with the ministry. I could say, it is my first time ever to join with national government to work on policy level”.

Through their different campaigns and by involving lawmakers in the activities under its Sudden Opportunity grant, NRF saw an increase in the application of legal documents with at least 500 Nubian individuals acquiring their birth certificates, passports, and identification cards. As these individual experiences show, our grantee partners’ proj- ects allowed for influencing to happen on multiple levels across society, from the community level to the national stage. At the same time, individual actions are interconnected with actions at other levels, reinforcing each other. Champions and role-models such as Vanna and Metta inspire others like them, while NRF managed to motivate whole communities to speak up. Overall, the Influencing pathway of change its principle “Nothing About Us Without Us” illuminate ongoing processes of months and years, across which the influencing strategies of rightsholders unfold and are likely to encounter both unexpected challenges and unex- pected successes as they are being implemented.



“I identify as...” In Kenya, the Nubian Rights Forum (NRF) came up with inno- vative ideas to continue their advocacy efforts since COVID- 19 started, using both digital and traditional media spaces to create more awareness on the importance and need of having identity documents. One of the most significant impacts was based on community-led advocacy. Building upwards from community forums, radio/media, and community skills training, NRF has seen members of their target communities plan and implement their own advocacy actions related to identification. These actions have targeted local, regional, and national policy makers from registrars to members of parliament, demanding change towards equali- ty in the system. In April 2021, for example, the organisation ran a #MYIDMYRIGHT web series with an aim of sharing success and challenging stories on obtaining legal documents. While these stories do not speak on the severity of the discrimina- tion and risk of statelessness issues in Kenya for marginal- ised and minority communities, they highlight the challeng- es the community faces due to lack of documentation.

301 Voice grantees have defined a change plan to strengthen their capacity to influence decision makers.


375 experts and 219 platforms have been deployed with the support of Voice grants to strengthen grantees’ and their implementing partners’ social innovation and influencing capacities.




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