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« on: November 14 2013 »

By Lilian Kiefer | November 14th, 2013

Radio can boost development and improve governance - Panos project turning stations into real agents of change

Almost everyone believes that community radio stations in southern Africa have the potential to play a major role in boosting local development, democracy and the promotion of human rights. The question has always been – how to harness the potential, especially considering all the challenges that community radio stations face across the region.

Well an innovative new initiative – the Radio Platform for Community Development Project (RPCD) – might finally have come up with an answer.

Run by the Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) – with support from OSISA – the project has empowered community members in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia to set their own development agendas and influence positive change regarding issues of local concern. In particular, the initiative has successfully promoted the participation of rural and marginalised communities in key developmental processes in the three countries.

Based on PSAf’s flagship radio listening clubs (RLC) model, the project supported 15 radio stations (5 in each country) and the communities around them to identify, discuss and interrogate critical local issues, and use the information to lobby for policy changes or implementation.

The project aimed to enhance the capacity of community radio stations to operate as agents of change, providing a platform where poor and marginalised people could dialogue with decision-makers and duty-bearers on the major development issues affecting them – ranging from good governance to basic health care, from environmental degradation to natural resource management, and many others.

During the project’s inception phase, PSAf conducted training sessions for station managers, producers and senior reporters at the targeted radio stations to help transform them into effective agents of change – and drivers of community empowerment and sustainable development.

And testimonies from community members, local leaders and radio station personnel show that the project achieved a number of its main goals, including empowering rural communities to demand – and secure – greater accountability.

For example, in Kasempa in north-western Zambia, the RLC discussions added a new perspective on the issue of land ownership, which was predominantly viewed as a preserve for men. The discussions clarified that women could also own land, and challenged the current situation, where most land is owned by men. As a result, the council has received a high number of female applicants for land ownership.

In Mozambique, the project enabled community members to spearhead cultural development, with some RLCs using their meetings to challenge certain cultural practices, such as the Shangan custom of marrying a deceased spouse, which they felt were holding back their area’s development.

“As soon as the club was established, we realised that it presented us with a platform to discuss issues that had been bothering us for a long time as a community, issues bordering on cultural practices like the payment of bride price for a deceased spouse,” said a member of the Inhacutse RLC in Mozambique. “Now we have a way of taking our views to the authorities, we just record our discussions and take them to the radio station. After some time, you will hear the authorities responding.”

Community radio stations were also empowered to provide platforms for citizens in the three countries to monitor the allocation and use of resources that were meant for development, and to hold the authorities to account.

In Zambia, for instance, members of participating RLCs used radio to track the use of budgets meant for education and agriculture, and engaged the district agricultural and educational offices on any evidence-based irregularities that they identified.

“Some community members and particularly those in the school parent teacher associations have taken a keen interest in learning about school governance, and we have had a number of people in positions of authority in the community confirming to us that the RLC discussions are making them more aware of the use of funds allocated to the school,” reported Luckson Hamooya, from the Itezhitezhi Community Radio Station. “Lately, we have also recorded an increase in the number of community members calling in and seeking clarity on issues relating to the use of funds meant for agriculture and education.”

In Mozambique, radio programmes resulted in some mining companies being compelled to compensate locals who were displaced to pave way for mining activities, while some government officials were dismissed or reassigned due to concerns raised in the RLCs.

In Malawi, through Usisya radio’s broadcasts, the communities questioned the rationale in having two policemen cover an area of close to 10,000 square kilometres. They also wondered why there were no efforts to improve the transportation of people and farm produce as the community relied solely on boats to link up with the rest of Malawi.

In a clear indication of the power of local community radios and empowered communities, the number of policemen deployed to the area was eventually increased to six, and the local leadership began to actively discuss ways of improving the road network so as to link the district to the rest of the country.

After undergoing training on the RLC methodology, radio listeners in Siavonga, Zambia embarked on a mission to mobilise other community members to ensure that their concerns attract the attention of duty bearers.

“I work for the council and I have received a lot of information here and I will not sit on it, but will share with my colleagues at the council,” said a ‘Radio Champion from Siavonga. “I will first go to my section, and then take it to the entire council. I will then ask for a platform to share this information and influence the exchange of information within the local authority.”

The project has helped community radio stations to give community members the chance to set their own development agenda and to drive it - proving that these radio stations can be more than just disseminators of information, they can also be real agents of change in their communities.

source: http://www.osisa.org/media-and-ict/regional/community-radio-stations-empowering-citizens
 
Links:
Panos Institute Southern Africa
http://www.panos.org.zm/
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