Community radio stations unite to build peace

Community radio stations unite to build peace

Start a dialogue!

The first phase of the UMOJA – Radio for peace project was a huge success. The team started the second phase with in-house trainings. Two days with the whole staff of the radio station. One day is dedicated to conflict related topics and the other day is used for the training on journalistic skills: Interview-technics, feature-writing, fact-checking, content production. Again this phase started with a meeting of all the station managers to assess the individual training needs of their staff – this approach, which is consequently participatory, is an important first factor of ownership for the participating stations. A second factor is the integration of community radio colleagues in the training activities: after a Training of Trainers workshop with demonstration lessons given by the participants 10 colleagues join the UMOJA Team to take over a workshop or training module of the in-house-trainings.

The training-activities are ongoing. Meanwhile, the Kenya Community Radio Network (KCOMNET) Team has grown. Two other projects are implemented. One is financed by HIVOS – dealing with questions of accountability integrating not only community radio but also community theatre and newsletters. The other project is financed by Stem van Africa (SVA), a Dutch Media development organization. This project deals with one of the big challenges of the radio-stations: the material sustainability. A single community radio station with 200 000 listeners is not interesting for advertising, a package of 20 stations represents up to 6 Million listeners and a negotiation of airtime-rates can be done at the same level as Kenya Broadcasting Corporation or Citizen.

And to fill our small office in Shalom House completely, the Canadian NGO Farm Radio-International has chosen KCOMNET to host the Project Officer of their Kenyan Project. All these new people improve the discussions in the Team and allow developing synergies between the projects. Our common work with the community radios tries to give overlapping input. There is a peacebuilding component in every project and the UMOJA Project must also deal with questions of accountability (Fight against corruption) and sustainability of the radio-stations.

The focus of our activities is shifting: From a pure capacity building project to a content production project. On the World Radio Day 2018 we launched a first big Radio-Drama Production. As the result of a cooperation with the SIF-Program we transformed a little comic-strip book on IDPs (Internally deplaced Persons) which was produced with Kituo cha Sheria into a Radio-Drama.

The KCOMNET Coordinator, and the UMOJA Team did the script-writing, Mtaani FM in Dagoretti took over the technical part of the production. Real Talk “This can happen to anyone of us” is the title of the story of Kadogo, her Grandmother, Mwalimu Patricia and Mzee Lodjang who are travelling to an IDP Meeting in Mombasa. Broadcasted several times at different hours of the day by the 41 UMOJA-Stations, this production in English and Swahili reached about 12 Million listeners. Radio is a powerful Media.

With the production of high quality content the UMOJA-Project has arrived at the core activity of radio stations. The development of this content can integrate community stakeholders, theatre, music and spoken word artists, youth, elders, women, men to talk about their concerns in the pure tradition of African storytelling. This content is authentic and will touch the people.

Real Talk “This can happen to anyone of us” was just the beginning. In August 2018 we did an amazing experience, we organized a three days “Creative Content Development Workshop” in the informal settlement Mukuru Kwa Ruben together with RUBEN FM to create 10 new episodes. After 3 Days we had 10 raw radio drama scripts talking about education, corrupt politicians and human trafficking, the struggle to survive and life as a refugee. The start of broadcasting by our 41 Stations was launched in January 2019.

In this 2nd cooperation with the SIF Program the members of 4 community theatre groups participated, giving voice to the different characters. A textbook is published with the English and the Swahili radio drama scripts to allow other theatre groups to perform these little plays on stage. Besides the airing of these stories, the UMOJA Team plans to test a new form of dissemination: We want to put the sound-files on USB sticks to ask Matatu and Bus drivers to play it in their cars.

Radio cannot show a sundown but it can tell the story how birds go to sleep

The UMOJA-Project starts its 3rd year of “Radioactivity” – thanks to an incredible creative Team we have a lot of ideas to realize in the next years: We want to produce a national Newscast, the production switching every month to another station but aired by all the stations under a common jingle every evening at 6 pm. Such a task helps to overcome tribal views. There is also the idea to produce a docu-fiction on Kenyan History for the younger listeners.

We have done so far about 30.000 km with our project car to visit our colleagues, to discuss, to brainstorm, to develop, to calculate. Thanks to an incredible Team of Radio-Activists we still have a lot of plans for the UMOJA-Radio for Peace.

Michael Schweres is a Senior Journalist, Author and Journalists Trainer working as International Peacebuilding Advisor with KCOMNET and the UMOJA – Radio for Peace Project

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