SMS Alerts and Media Spots Prevent Coercion of Voters
May 22, 2012
Filming media spots to rally voters.
In the lead up to Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections, Egyptians disseminated more than 166,000 Electoral Integrity SMS alerts to women and youth in their communities. This was no spontaneous uprising but the result of a project, Egypt ELECT!, conceived and implemented by Creative’s Electoral Education and Integrity Practice Area team. Egypt ELECT! builds the capacity of Egyptians to develop, produce, and disseminate voter education messages surrounding issues of electoral integrity that specifically resonate with women and youth in their underserved communities.
Women and youth in Egypt, particularly those coming from poor and underserved communities, were historically disempowered within their country’s political system. Often coming from traditional patriarchic structures and lacking the opportunity to effect change amidst Egypt’s power structures, they tended not to participate in the electoral process. Women and youth who attempted to participate were subjected to vote buying, coercion, and misinformation, among other acts of electoral fraud and violence.
The January 25 Egyptian Revolution opened an unprecedented democratic space in Egypt and created an opportunity to empower these underserved populations. The Revolution brought to the streets a wide cross-section of the Egyptian populace, including women and young people, and raised their expectations and demands for access to information and participation in elections and political processes. During the past year, with funding from USAID, Creative has been working in a non-partisan way in Egypt through to help address this traditional marginalization of women and youth from the electoral process.
As part of this effort, Creative’s Egypt ELECT! project worked with Souktel Inc. to help Egyptian groups develop the infrastructure to disseminate SMS Alerts through a computer-based system designed for the project. This enabled the dissemination of Electoral Integrity SMS alerts to women and youth in marginalized communities in the lead up to Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections. As a result of this campaign, a community member who was standing in-line to vote on Election Day informed one of ELECT’s NGO volunteers (who by chance stood nearby) that they had planned to vote for a candidate who had paid them a bribe until they received a text message from the NGO that read “The person who pays you a bribe to win will also pay a bribe for other things.” The voter said it reminded them of the urgent need to vote with their conscience and to yield positive change for their entire community and country.
Egypt ELECT! complemented its SMS Alerts campaign by further raising voter awareness through supporting the production of thoughtful and captivating videos, developed by Egyptians, that are being aired on Egyptian television, YouTube, and Facebook. Twelve 30-second electoral integrity media spots were aired prior to Egypt’s parliamentary elections. These same Egyptians are now building on their message formation and video production skills to develop and film three five-minute mini-dramas discussing their experiences during the parliamentary elections to be aired in the lead up to Egypt’s May 2012 presidential elections. To date, the 30-second media spots caught the attention of three Egyptian television stations which were so impressed with the quality and neutrality of content of the videos that they agreed to air the spots for free in the days leading up to and during the People’s Assembly elections; at least one spot was aired per hour within the first 24 hours of the campaign launch.