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News || Thursday, 31 May 2012

Souktel and American Refugee Committee Use SMS to Help Stop Gender-Based Violence in Sudan

For years, aid agencies have been using basic mass media--like community radio--to send key messages to communities in need. But when the American Refugee Committee (ARC) launched a campaign in South Sudan to raise awareness about gender-based violence, radio wasn’t enough: Over 60 languages are spoken across the country, making simultaneous broadcasts difficult. More importantly, measuring the impact of radio segments is tough: How could ARC find out if anyone actually heard their message?

That’s where Souktel stepped in, partnering with ARC to create a custom mobile messaging platform that let staff send public awareness messages at scale, in multiple languages, with detailed data tracking. Working with the ARC field team in Juba, Souktel software developers built a cloud-based system which allowed staff in South Sudan--or in US offices--to run SMS information campaigns: If operations on the ground became too risky, the campaign could be easily managed from outside the country, ensuring security and sustainability.

Souktel also set up direct connections to national mobile networks, so that ARC staff could send large volumes of messages simultaneously. A multi-language feature was added to allow for message send-out in English and Arabic script at the same time. Finally, web-based delivery reports provided real-time feedback about the number of messages delivered to local community members.

Leveraging this mobile technology, ARC’s campaign was able to reach thousands of households across South Sudan--sharing crucial facts about the impact of gender-based violence, and the types of resources available locally to survivors. These efforts support ARC’s global work to provide medical care, psycho-social counseling, and legal assistance to the 1 in 3 families affected by violence against women in Africa and Asia.

“Thanks to Souktel, ARC [was able to time] its awareness campaign to reach thousands of people across South Sudan, on National Women’s Day,” notes Jessica Huber, ARC’s Technical Advisor for Protection. Souktel’s Jacob Korenblum agrees: “This targeted, large scale messaging system helped get the right information out, at the right time, to the right audience--while keeping outreach costs down. We were honored to help support this key campaign”.