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With U-Report, phones are a new voice for children

James, a scout from North Kivu, tells us about his commitment to the U-Report project, a completely free
sms system that gives voice to young Congolese on issues that concern them.

I discovered U-Report thanks to a training we received in Munyonyo – Kampala with three other scouts. My role is to mobilize the scouts of the DRC into participating to the U-Report adventure, to become U-Reporters. We scouts, have the mission to seek solutions to the problems of children in our cities, especially for those we take care in our groups.

I decided to train new scouts about U-Report because each child feels their problems differently and U-Report give every one of them the possibility to give the answer they think is the best one.

Scouts have a leader role and an influence on youth, even in the remotest area. This is why I think we are in the best position to easily provide real information about the country.

The scouts we trained love U-Report: they consider it a new space created for them and allowing them to share an embarrassing situation for free. With U-Report we hope that in the future, no one will dare to deprive a child of his rights or that the fear of being exposed prevent them from doing it.

I think U-Report can also serve peace in North Kivu and contribute to create an atmosphere of trust in our family.

I want to finish by quoting Baden Powell, founder of the world scouting movement: “A difficulty is no longer one, from the moment you smile, you confront it. – The question is not “what do I have?” But “What can I give in life?”.

What is U-Report ?

U-Report is an innovative UNICEF project designed to collect
, directly from youth, information regarding their living conditions or the respect of their rights. The innovation lies in the unique opportunity the access to mobile technology provides to promote development.

U-Report offers young people the possibility to share with UNICEF and its partner’s free information about themselves, through their phone and by sms. Concretely, it is a free SMS service designed to give young Congolese the opportunity to voice their opinions on issues going on in their communities across the country.

Users, called U-reporters, can register for free by texting “participer” to the short-code “100”. After answering a few questions, you become U-Reporter. On a regular basis, an SMS poll or alert is sent to all U-reporters asking for their opinion on a given issue. The answers are stored in a database and used to improve the work of UNICEF and its partners in the field.

U-report has multiple uses, such as raising awareness on certain issues, community-led development and information sharing as well as issue advocacy at a national level. It allows for evaluation and monitoring of projects and programmes based on information collected directly and in real time to the source.

Moreover, U-report as a monitoring tool can hold partners and government actors accountable. The results are publicized in national media channels and shared with parliament to ensure decision makers have access to information regarding their districts or ministries.

Already working in other countries, we are still in the first phase of the project in the DRC: U-Report has been tested in July 2014 in Kinshasa with 50 young people, and in Goma in September 2014 with 120 young people. The objective is that by 2017, 500,000 boys and girls become U-Reporters, especially teenagers and women.

The main challenge is to convince as many people as possible to become U-Reporters. To do this, UNICEF has decided to partner with scouts movement. Committed to youth, Scouts are in the best position to mobilize those around them to become U-Reporters. In order to so, a comprehensive agreement between UNICEF and the World Scout Organization was signed in November 2014 in Malaysia.

Photocredit: UNICEF Zambia 2014

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