Seeding change: Cameroon’s PROTEGE QV on amplifying digital rights advocacy efforts across the African continent

How are APC members improving their communities’ lives? In this column we’re highlighting stories of impact and change by our members, supported by APC subgranting. Such support has empowered Cameroon-based PROTEGE QV to contribute to the development and promotion of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms, amplifying digital rights advocacy efforts across the continent.

Since 1995, PROTEGE QV has been working on innovative ways to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) for rural development, community support and environmental sustainability in Cameroon. One of their key contributions has come through their work on the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms, a “Pan-African initiative to promote human rights standards and principles of openness in Internet policy formulation and implementation on the continent.” Founded on well-established African human rights charters and documents, the Declaration brings together civil society organisations to promote the adoption of its principles and amplify regional advocacy efforts.

With the support of APC’s subgranting programme, PROTEGE QV has been able to carry out important research and advocacy in Cameroon by evaluating the ways in which the Declaration’s key principles are embedded in internet rights locally. According to Sylvie Siyam, PROTEGE QV’s director, "We want to develop an African index that tracks the implementation of the African Declaration. We benefited from the APC grant to elaborate this index idea for our country."

As part of this venture, PROTEGE QV has also trained 20 advocacy “ambassadors” and organised a series of “Impact Talks” on internet rights with a view to promoting the Declaration and advocating for better internet access in Cameroon. Given that Cameroon’s internet penetration rate has jumped noticeably in recent years, from 4% reported by PROTEGE QV in their 2011 Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) report on “Internet rights and democratisation” to current rates of close to 29%, advocating for a rights-based approach to internet use and development is more crucial than ever.

Sowing the seeds of change

When tackling projects like this, seed funds are often needed in order to seed change, and this is where subgranting has proven to be an invaluable resource for PROTEGE QV. Getting the ball rolling on this important work has created a ripple effect, as APC’s support has been instrumental in PROTEGE QV securing access to bigger funds. Once donors see that an organisation is capable of undertaking “a small activity with a lot of impact”, as Siyam describes it, it facilitates access to future funding that can make a significant contribution to the growth of a project.

Bridging the regional divide

Connecting with like-minded organisations is another important way to increase the scope and impact of research projects and sustain activism. Although PROTEGE QV became an APC member in 2006, and have actively participated in many APC initiatives, they have not yet collaborated with other members on a shared project funded through a subgrant. This is their vision for the future, to consider ways that Africa-based members can come together to amplify their regional impact and, as Siyam said, to “use the grant to help in having more regional interaction.”

The development of the proposed African index for the Declaration is one way that they envision stimulating regional collaboration and bringing members together, and subgranting potentially has an important role to play in these efforts. As Siyam explained, “If five to six members in different countries in Africa work on the same project, if we discuss this with APC, and APC gives a grant to each of these members, it can be something that amplifies the impact of the grant.” With several organisations pooling their resources, knowledge and experience, the possibility to carry out important research, across different countries, becomes a reality, and the results that would arise could have a considerable effect across the continent.

 

This piece is a version of a story highlighted in Continuing the conversation: Lessons from APC subgranting, a report that presents the findings of interviews and surveys of APC members and partners who were recipients of funding through its core subgranting programme, supported by Sida, and of subgrants offered through other APC projects and staff working on subgranting in the organisation.

Did this story inspire you to plant seeds of change in your community? Share your story with us at communications@apc.org

 

 

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