BANGKOK, 14 JUNE 2021 - The United Nations Development Programme and the European Union congratulate the achievements of young creators, changemakers, and connectors from Sri Lanka and the Maldives who have successfully completed the “United Creatives” programme, implemented by social change agency Love Frankie.
Over the past 15 weeks, youth have been participating in digital peacebuilding masterclasses and applying their learnings to build online campaigns that tackle hate speech, misinformation, and discrimination. Of a total of 8 campaigns launched over the weekend, two teams were announced by a panel of judges as the winners of the title of ‘best in show’. Both teams chose to focus their campaigns on online misogyny, a topic many of the participants were particularly passionate about.
From Sri Lanka, Saahithiyanan Ganeshanathan, Ruqaiyah Mohamed Shiraz, Sharan Velauthan, Ursula Bastiansz and Sarah Faisal were named as the winners for their #NotCoolBro campaign, which urges men and boys to be gender equality allies and encourages them to call out misogynistic comments or content online. Their campaign is aimed at digital spaces that attract majority male audiences, such as meme pages or online forums, that can use the guise of dark humour to perpetuate gender stereotypes, rape culture, and hate speech. Through creating an anonymous persona ‘The Cool Bro’ as a vehicle for messaging, their content and commentary hopes to disrupt patterns of gendered hate speech. The campaign uses a mix of videos on TikTok encouraging audiences to ‘stitch’ or respond to conversation starters, infographics, and ‘seeding’ or distributing targeted comments on meme pages.
In the Maldives, Fathmath Zainy Shaafiu, Atoof R., Hassan Saajin, Aminath Shameeza S., and Aminath Izana Shameem impressed the judges with their campaign #AnhenehVeema (or “Because She’s A Woman”) which raises awareness on the types of hate that women experience online. They are promoting online conversations through their “Ask Dhontha/Dhonbe” (“Ask A Sister/Brother”) forum, which allows users to anonymously receive advice on issues related to gendered hate speech. They are also crowd-sourcing content from their followers based on a weekly theme to encourage others to join and contribute to the conversation in the Maldives.
With training sessions from tech giants Facebook and TikTok, as well as YouTube influencers and UN and NGO experts working in peacebuilding on the ground, participants of the United Creatives programme learned trends in peace and development, engagement tactics to capture digital audiences’ attention, the power of empathetic messaging to counter hate, how to tackle misinformation, and storytelling techniques that promote respect for diversity and inclusion. After being divided into teams, the youth went on to use a variety of creative media - ranging from comic strips, videos, animation, and infographics - to share positive messages. The programme is part of a wider regional project to prevent violent extremism through harnessing the potential of youth to realize innovative solutions to digital challenges.
“UNDP is happy to collaborate on initiatives like United Creatives that channel youth creativity, innovations and their ability to think out of the box for a more tolerant, inclusive and peaceful society in the Maldives,” said Vera Hakim, UNDP Maldives Resident Representative a.i.
“COVID-19, like in some other countries in the world, has magnified income inequalities and social fissures in Sri Lanka, challenging efforts to build socially cohesive societies” said Faiza Effendi, Resident Representative a.i. at UNDP in Sri Lanka. “Against the backdrop of travel restrictions and lockdowns, these young people have come together to collaborate and produce some insightful and creative campaigns. While congratulating the efforts of all teams from both Sri Lanka and the Maldives, UNDP hopes to see them continue to work with local civil society organizations and experts to help create more positive narratives, combat online hate in their communities and promote community harmony”.
“We need to make better use of social networks, to attenuate their role in disinformation. The European Union is therefore proud to support digital peace initiatives such as the one promoted by UNDP in Sri Lanka and the Maldives”, said Denis Chaibi, EU Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “In COVID times, it is crucial that we encourage young people to counter prejudice and polarization through courage and veracity, and to equip them with the digital skills required to do so."
The programme has already shown promising results in ensuring impact is sustainable. In a pre- and post-participation survey, 89% of participants feel confident in their ability to tell effective stories for social impact online and 96% of the youth leaders engaged stated they were likely to continue to create content that promotes inclusion, diversity and tolerance in the near future.
United Creatives is part of UNDP’s broader strategy to tackle online hate speech that can contribute to social division, lack of tolerance for diversity and real-world hate, all of which can serve as drivers of violent extremism. Through empowering young leaders and creators and providing them with the mentorship, grants, skills, network and training they need to develop socially positive campaigns, UNDP hopes to cultivate an enabling environment where young change-makers have access to resources to drive social change in their communities and societies.
The United Creatives programme was made possible thanks to partnerships with The Centre for Communications Training, The Institute of Economics and Peace, Moonshot, Hashtag Generation, Facebook, TikTok, the Centre for Investigative Reporting, and support from digital creator Nadir Nahdi. Click here to learn more