By Ross James and Jon Hargreaves
Amidst the turmoil on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, following clashes between government forces and Islamic militants, a voice for peace continues to ring out. Radio Gandingan, an HCR-supported community-centred radio project, is providing critical information to residents and displaced people from Marawi city, where the fighting first broke out on 24th May. A number of people were killed and taken hostage by the militants who had reportedly occupied several government buildings in the city, torched others, including a church, a school and the city jail and took over a medical centre where they replaced the Philippines flag with a black, ISIS-style banner.
Meanwhile Radio Gandingan is helping provide critical information about the situation and the martial law rules that have been imposed by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte. Community volunteers are working around the clock to provide up-to-date information and the station’s popular serial radio drama now includes the Marawi situation into its story-lines.
Since 2004 Radio Gandingan has been broadcasting in the primary language of the minority Magindanaon people, empowering them to voice their concerns and gain access to government officials and services to improve their quality of life. Preliminary results of an evaluation currently underway by HCR shows how the project has helped community cohesion by resolving family and community conflict, strengthened family bonds and relationships and improved understanding between community members and leaders. Radio Gandingan listeners have also expressed how the project has helped to improve health and develop livelihoods in their communities.