Impact Report: What The Why Achieved in 2022

Rachel Sheary
July 11, 2023

2022 was an extraordinary year for us. We used the year to dive into our wealth of stories, ensuring that they were accessible to those who needed them most.  We identified new local partners to arrange screenings, debates and broadcasts. We translated our films into 18 languages - including 9 new languages. Through our educational outreach project we reached 6,000 Danish students, and we tackled some of the most pressing human rights issues through our global documentary campaign on plastic pollution.

Here's a brief look at what we achieved in 2022!

Why Stories

Selection, editing and distribution of documentary films to broadcasters

-20 new films

-87 broadcast partners, 10 new broadcast partners in 2022

-190 countries through BBC World News and local broadcasters

-18 languages in total, 9 new in 2022: Arabic, Arabic Sign Language, Cantonese, English, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Japanese, French, Gagauz, Hindi, Swahili, Turkish, Russian, Polish, German, Spanish and Portuguese

Countering Russian Disinformation in Moldova and Belarus with Human Rights Documentaries

To combat the wave of disinformation and censorship in countries bordering Russia and Ukraine, we welcomed two new broadcast partners in the region: Belsat TV in Belarus and GRT in Moldova.

Russia has doubled allocations to its propaganda machine every year since 2016, and tripled it since the invasion of Ukraine in the beginning of 2022. In March 2022, our existing Russian broadcasting partner TV Rain signed off the air, prompted by what has become known as the ‘Fake News’ law (No 32-FZ). Issued by the Kremlin, it threatens 15 years prison for anyone publishing ‘false information about the country’s invasion of Ukraine’.

Russian media has a substantial presence in Ukraine’s neighboring countries; Belarus and Moldova. Geopolitically, they have become primary targets for external propaganda campaigns launched and conducted by Kremlin-controlled media. Independent media outlets in both countries are few and far between and they struggle with insufficient funding. Political leanings toward Russia, financial dependence on oligarchs and a lack of alternative media outlets all create space for Russian disinformation campaigns and propaganda rebroadcasts on state television.

Belsat TV is considered to be one of the only factually reliable media outlets accessible to Belarussians, focussing on investigative journalism and breaking down fake news. Through satellite transmission from TVP in Poland, Belsat aired our WHY DEMOCRACY? series in the Spring of 2022, and continued to air more Why Stories titles throughout the year.

GRT is based in Gagauzia-Yeri, an autonomous territorial unit of Moldova on the border of Ukraine. It is the only broadcasting organisation in the world airing content in the Gagauz language. In August, we assisted GRT in dubbing 12 Why Stories films into Gagauz with subtitles in Romanian. This makes them the first ever documentaries dubbed in the language and aired on local television, providing crucial information to a region often overlooked by Moldovan state media.

''Through our collaboration with The Why, GRT has been given the opportunity to modernise. The mission of bringing documentaries to Gagauzia is very important to us.'' - Galina Maresieva, Executive Director, GRT

Community Screenings

Distribution of films to NGOs globally to support community outreach, advocacy and education programmes

-39 outreach partners, 11 new in 2022

-23 countries

-10 languages: French, Hindi, English, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, Thai, Swahili, Arabic, Spanish

WHY SLAVERY? Film Sparks Anti-Slavery Law in Burundi

Maid in Hell gives unprecedented access into a frightening and brutal form of modern-day slavery, telling the shocking story of migrant maids working under the kafala system in the Middle East.

Thanks to our partnership with Centre for Development and Great lakes (CDE), the film played a particularly important role in Burundi this year, where the government has worked for years to improve its anti-human trafficking record. In an attempt to affect change and spread awareness on human trafficking and modern slavery, The Why and CDE hosted 20 community screenings in French and Swahili in 2022.

Informed in part by a screening of the film for parliament members, Burundi’s government is in the process of passing a law specifically targeting safety and security of those who wish to work in the Middle East as maids. Our screenings in collaboration with CDE showcase the vital impact a documentary can have - in this case, shedding light on human trafficking and slavery and encouraging leaders to implement change that creates a positive impact for the country. According to CDE spokesperson Monia Wakana, the screening was instrumental in initiating this change: ''This film helped a lot. Leaders attended our screening and as a result there has been a decree that helps women who want to travel to work in the Middle East.''


Human rights education through film & debate for Danish students

-6,000 Danish students, doubling from 3,000 in 2021

-87 Danish Schools in total, by 22 new schools

Oleg and the War Helps Students to Understand Their Ukrainian Classmates

The documentary Oleg and the War offers a unique and important insight into the life of a Ukrainian child growing up under the conditions of war. Set in Eastern Ukraine on the frontline of the Russian invasion, the film follows the life of 10-year-old Oleg, who seeks joy in everyday adventures. Throughout the year we witness the gradual erosion of his innocence shaped under the pressures of war.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year, our screenings of the film for Danish students have become more relevant than ever. Over 8 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine, and more than 40.000 ukrainians have arrived in Denmark in the last year. Accordingly, several Danish municipalities have welcomed Ukrainian refugees, and schools across Denmark have embraced new Ukrainian students - many of whom are struggling with the extremely difficult transition they have had to make.

Accompanied by a Q&A segment with the filmmaker Simon Lereng Wilmont, this film has created the opportunity for Danish students to engage with a topic that is close to home by asking questions to better comprehend the situation and relate to what young Ukrainians might be going through.

Kaja, a student from Øster Skole in Hjørring expressed how the film and talk changed how she interacts and relates to her new Ukrainian classmates:

“We will definitely talk to [our Ukrainian Classmates] more, now that we know a little more about the situation because we have just seen this documentary. We have a better understanding of how they feel and we can talk to them about it.”

By helping students to relate to their peers and the world around them, ASK WHY? Docs works towards increasing their empathy and compassion.


Production and distribution of documentary series on sustainability and human rights issues

-42 countries

-6 continents

-15 languages

-1st ever sign language version of a Why film

-40 international broadcasters

WHY PLASTIC? at COP27 in Egypt

The Danish Egyptian Dialogue Initiative (DEDI) is an Egyptian organisation that promotes social and cultural understanding between Denmark and Egypt through dialogue and partnerships. Through its EcoKino platform, DEDI inspires discussions on consumer behaviour, corporate greed and the importance of limiting single-use plastic.

During COP27 in Egypt, DEDI screened ‘Coca-Cola’s Plastic Promises’ and ‘The Recycling Myth’ in Arabic, sparking discussions on single-use plastics and the impact of the industry on our climate.

One of the screenings was followed by a panel discussion led by Banlastic Egypt - an NGO which works towards ending single use plastic in the country. The talk was hosted by Abdelrahman Fahmy, green entrepreneur and co-founder of Youthinkgreen in Egypt. Fahmy commented: “I believe films are one of the strongest communications methods to raise awareness because many people are more drawn toward visual communication,” he added, “I’m so happy with DEDI’s initiative which will raise awareness on a lot of topics before COP27.

In 2022, DEDI also created the first ever sign language version of one of our films. This is a new and exciting way to become even more inclusive in our outreach work. We are currently exploring funding opportunities so that we can apply sign language versions to more of our films.


Bringing our films to a global online audience

-6 million views on YouTube

-160,000 subscribers on YouTube

-40.000 new subscribers

-1.1 million hours watched

-17.5 min average view duration on YouTube

-65.9 million Impressions

Encouraging Growth of The Why Arabic

In 2022 we focused on growing The Why Arabic. We translated 16 films, including the films from our WHY SLAVERY? campaign, into Arabic. The channel gained 16.000 subscribers and 2 million views across only 30 videos. Our main viewers this year come from Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Iraq and Egypt.

Almost all governments In the Middle East and North Africa impose censorship on media outlets and TV stations, hindering free speech and access to information about important issues affecting the region. Though social media channels are also subject to censorship, users have a greater chance of accessing content through Virtual Private Networks (VPNS) and other servers.

Through our YouTube channel alone, we reached an important audience with the film Maid in Hell - both in countries where the slavery-like kafala system is still being used, and in countries where the domestic servants who suffer from this abusive system come from. The film is available on YouTube in French, Arabic and English, allowing us to reach an audience in the countries most affected in their own languages. It was viewed 90.913 times in 7 countries that still use the Kafala system in 2022.


-In pre-production, launching in 2025

Thank you so much to all of our generous donors and funders for supporting us in 2022. Without you, our work would not be possible. Check out the full impact report here for more information, impact stories and aspirations for the coming year.

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