Migrants as Messengers Project has Equipped Returned Migrants to Drive Awareness Raising on Migration in their Communities
Every year, many migrants from Nigeria embark on treacherous journeys as they leave their country searching for a better future abroad. Migrants travelling via irregular routes face risks such as trafficking in persons (TiP), extortion, physical abuse, torture, forced labour, rape and even death. Despite significant efforts by the Federal Government of Nigeria, intergovernmental organisations, and civil society to protect victims from these risks, still today, many migrants fall prey to traffickers and smugglers due to a lack of information about safe alternatives to irregular migration. Trusted and accurate information, knowledge-sharing and awareness-raising are powerful tools to help potential migrants make informed and life-saving decisions.
To tackle these issues, IOM in 2017 launched the Migrants as Messengers (MaM) project, a peer-to-peer awareness-raising campaign carried out directly by returned migrants who volunteer to share honest accounts of their migration experiences with their communities and peers to help them make informed decisions.
The second phase of the MaM project kicked off in 2019 with funding from the Government of Netherlands. The project which was operational in three states; Edo, Delta and Lagos States had 50 MaM volunteers in Nigeria (29 Males, 21 Females) trained in various digital and non - digital skills for awareness-raising on migration. Volunteers use photography, art, graphic design, community theatre, public speaking, advocacy, sports and creative writing to convey messages on safe migration that creates positive behavioral change among their peers and communities. Through digital content and on-the-ground activities, these volunteers sensitize their peers and communities on safe migration pathways and livelihood opportunities in Nigeria.
“The Migrants as Messengers project is based on the communication for development approach. Returned migrants take ownership and are at the centre of the planning, design, and implementation of activities. These volunteers share authentic first-person testimonies through digital content and creative activities with their peers and community. This further helps them make informed decisions on their migratory journeys.” said Prestage Murima, IOM Nigeria Chief of Mission, a.i
Since 2019, MaM volunteers in Nigeria have reached over 59,000 people under the second phase of MaM through various offline activities like market sensitization, school advocacy, soccer tournaments, music concerts, drama and role plays, radio visits. They have also produced over 105 digital content including videos aired on social media platforms to help their peers make informed decisions on their migration choices.
Activities marking the official end of the project held in Lagos between 3 – 5 August. MaM volunteers organized an art-based event tagged ‘Speaking through Art’ where volunteers shared the experiences of their migratory journey The event had media, government and NGO partners in attendance culminated on the final day with an exhibition of the paintings created by the volunteers.
“This project gave me a pathway to serve”, says Rita Abu, a MAM volunteer. “The different trainings I received has strengthened my skills”, I can take photographs, record videos and speak publicly, these are things I could not do in the past.’’ she added.
Under the MaM project, the volunteers also registered nine returned migrant associations. MaM volunteers will continue to support their fellow returned migrants through these associations and oversee their own activities ranging from sensitization events to provision of mental and psychosocial support. This ensures that interventions done under the project are sustainable by the volunteers even after the project closes. IOM also donated visibility items and digital content production equipment to the volunteer associations to support their activities.
Migrants as Messengers phase two project is funded by the Government of Netherlands.
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