DW's GirlZ Off Mute celebrates one-year anniversary
Chelsea Boakye vividly recalls her first time working in front of the camera for GirlZ Off Mute.
"I still remember it like it was yesterday," the 16-year old girl says. "The documentary was about a young female footballer whose family neglected her because she wanted to pursue football as a future career."
Chelsea was amazed by how determined the girl was even though she lacked her family's support.
"It was then that I realized how fortunate I am to have my family support me in whatever dream I have," she added.
Chelsea, who lives in Ghana's capital Accra, says that she might now become a journalist.
After all, she's already gained considerable experience reporting for DW's GirlZ Off Mute, a multimedia series giving African girls and young women a voice.
The series give the reporters, who are scattered across Africa, a chance to learn valuable skills.
For GirlZ Off Mute English Africa coordinator, Jane Nyingi, that is part of the attraction of working on the series.
"When the GirlZ Off Mute project came to light, I was eager to work with these African teen girls and share the experience I'd gathered over the years," she says.
As well as English, GirlZ Off Mute — which is funded by Germany's Federal Foreign Office — is also produced in Amharic, Kiswahili and French.
GirlZ Off Mute Amharic coordinator Lidet Abebe is proud of how much content has been produced so far.
"Since the beginning of this project, we have realized about 20 videos and eight radio debates," she said. "We have three teen reporters aged 13 to 17 in three cities."
For Claus Stäcker, who heads DW's programs for Africa, the strength and skills of the young reporters came as a welcome surprise.
"Girls all over the world should have the same opportunities and be able to decide their future themselves," he says. "I am touched and thrilled by how enthusiastic and courageous these young reporters are. When we conceived the project, it was not yet clear to us that we would find such strong young allies."
Some of the reporters are already being recognized in their home countries for their efforts in journalism.
DW Kiswahili's youth reporter, Hadija Halifa, was honored in the "Outstanding Participation" category at the Excellence in Journalism Awards Tanzania (EJAT) in October.
"Hadija has become an inspirational role model to many girls in the country," her father, Halifa Sadiki told DW. "She has promoted advocacy for parents and society in general to play a part in discovering the talents of their children."
Meanwhile in Malawi, Alertha Banda has featured in a movie and partnered with UNICEF since featuring on GirlZ Off Mute as a teen reporter, while Lena Igweanyiba in Gambia is now training with a local TV station.
Reporting in a conflict zone
Another GirlZ Off Mute reporter, Lum Precious Gom, says the show had given her an opportunity to tell the world how Cameroon's Anglophone crisis is affecting girls.
She explains she is inspired by how girls in the conflict-ridden region are coping with the twin difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic and Cameroon's civil war.
"If I have the chance, I would like to tell the world stories [about] what it means to grow up in a typical Anglophone family," Precious Gom says.
Although Ethiopia remains embroiled in conflict, Amharic coordinator Lidet Abebe says it hasn't stopped their reporters from telling the stories which are important to them and their communities.
"Despite the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia, which has lasted for more than a year, the GirlZ Off Mute videos have kept up with political issues and are still very popular," she said. "We get feedback that encourages our reporters and interview partners."
Tackling different topics
GirlZ Off Mute has already tackled a range of topics, ranging from education, health and sanitation to dating and relationships and child marriage.
"Child marriages violate the children's rights," says Alertha Banda, DW's GirlZ Off Mute reporter in Malawi.
For Amharic coordinator Lidet Abebe, tackling some of the more difficult topics is one of the main goals of their upcoming reports.
"We still have to work on some taboo topics: For examle female genital mutilation (FGM) and menstruation," she explains.
#GirlZOffMute on social media
Since making its debut a year ago, GirlZ Off Mute has also been making waves on social media.
"Overall, we have about 750,000 views," according to Anne Le Touze-Schmitz, the GirlZ Off Mute coordinator at DW's French Africa Desk.
"The best video has over 200,000 views. It was about women doing 'men's jobs' in Goma, eastern DR Congo."
The Amharic team have also joined forces with popular Ethiopian influencer Rakeb Alemayehu to expand their reach even further.
"We believe that the videos she posts will reach even more young girls," coordinator Lidet Abebe says. "She has even travelled to visit our reporters in Hawassa and Dire Dawa and has already started posting these videos on her YouTube channel."
Angel Onyi Unigwe, another GirlZ Off Mute teen reporter in Lagos, Nigeria, has seen her own social media profile grow exponentially since she started telling stories about Nigerian girls.
"I have had the opportunity to interact with girls from all walks of life in my country," Onyi Unigwe explains. "They have taught me that you can be anything you want in life."
Deutsche Welle's programs reach 78 million users in sub-Saharan Africa every week, including 49 million via radio.
Edited by: Kate Hairsine and Ineke Mules