Peacebuilding

yet more evidence… radio changes lives!

How a radio project dramatically improved the lives of communities in conflict…

By Dr Ross James, Founder, Health Communication Resources 

Community Radio Volunteers visit communities in Magindnaon Province, Mindanao, Philippines

Community Radio Volunteers visit communities in Magindnaon Province, Mindanao, Philippines

An evaluation [1] of HCR’s community-centred radio model in an area of violent conflict, has shown that it led to significant improvements in the community.

Background

The communities of Magindanaon province in Mindanao, Philippines, have experienced sustained conflict, disadvantage and disempowerment. Radio Gandingan (RG) has quietly transformed minority Maguindanaon communities, severely affected by decades of armed struggle for political autonomy involving multiple state, civil, political, religious and armed actors. RG began broadcasting in 2000 as a weekly one-hour radio program with airtime purchased from a local commercial radio station but expanded in 2004 to two and a half hours of purchased airtime, spread over five evenings each week. Following the storming of Marawi City in north Mindanao by ISIS-aligned fighters who attacked key government buildings, churches and schools, RG volunteers provided evacuees with field reports, updates and information provided by government and non-government (NGO) service providers. Local communities claimed RG was more trustworthy than other sources of information, because of RG’s demonstrated compassion and credibility through community-centered activities. 

We wanted to understand the processes that led to RG being regarded in this way. We analysed reliable research data collected in the period 2005 to 2009 using realist evaluation, or RE [2].  This method analyses how people within a context respond to mechanisms, such as components or resources, that bring about change. In other words understanding the context is very important, as are the mechanisms that can influence change.

The context of the six communities associated with RG was very complex.  Communities were isolated from health and development service providers and suffered from ill health due to poor hygiene.  There was high unemployment, a poor environment and tension between neighbours and within families.  Ordinary people were further excluded from decision-making, with little access to information resulting in low self-confidence and disempowerment.

What We Found

When we looked at the data we found stories and explanations of how RG’s role had promoted dialogue, and improved livelihood and community participation. Specifically, dialogue had resolved community conflict and strengthened family bonds and relationships, and improved communication and understanding between community leaders and community members; livelihood had improved with behaviours and practices that led to better protection of the environment, livelihood, health, community cohesion and unity; and community participation was better through involvement in the RG radio program, and increased participation and communication in community meetings. 

RG trained 18 Community Radio Volunteers (CRVs), residents in the six communities, to participate in community-centered radio programming. RG programs modelled dialogue that extended into community discourse, social learning and decision-making processes of married couples. Dramas prompted family communication about values such as honesty and tolerance. One man said ‘I’ve learned from the drama that wives have a great role in the family so I should appreciate their hard work’. RG programs resolved a conflict between duck owners and rice farmers (ducks ate the farmers’ rice), and inspired leaders to reconcile two families quarrelling over land. 

People said RG made them aware of harmful practices to environmental resources, such as cutting down trees, and using dynamite or poison for fishing. A project to install community toilets was organised in one community after they had used an RG program to identify cleanliness as a problem. One lady reported that her children began washing in the evening: “I didn’t ask them, it’s RG who taught them of this health practice”.   Another person spoke of better community relationships because of RG: “Our corn used to be stolen before we were able to harvest it. But now we do not fear because no one steals them anymore. The youths who used to give us problems stopped doing bad things”. 

Community members participated in radio programs on health, livelihood or community issues. Community leaders were given opportunities to discuss issues on air with community members and for the first time women, people living with disability and those with little education were included.  

Why is this A BIG DEAL?

Radio programming is a widely recognised communication strategy for health and social development internationally. Community radio provides advocacy, education and information in a diverse range of initiatives for public health and disease, democracy and politics, peacebuilding, empowerment of women, human rights and so on. 

However, and this is a big however, such approaches rely on the skills of professional media workers and service providers, as well as wide-scale, well-funded systematic community development interventions. Participatory communication along the lines of RG does not easily fit the mindset of big funders who shy away from politics or power-dynamics in communities.  And so they limit communication to the dissemination of messages and evaluate message-related factors such as audience reach, message comprehension and recall.

This study is evidence that a local level community-centred radio and their volunteers is powerful way facilitating dialogue, livelihood and participatory communication outcomes in contexts characterised by sustained conflict, disadvantage and disempowerment. 

If you would like to learn more about this project, about Realistic Evaluation (RE) practice or take part in a webinar on RE, then please contact us via our contact page.

[1] Original Article: R James, E Romo-Murphy, M Oczon-Quirante. A Realist Evaluation of a Community-Centered Radio Initiative for Health and Development in Mindanao, Philippines. Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health DOI: 10.1177/1010539519870661

[2] There is not enough space to fully explain RE in this blog. A good starting point is the classic text: Pawson R, Tilley N. Realistic Evaluation. London: SAGE Publications; 1997.

Two years of promoting peace

Two years ago a small team from HCR set up a community-centred radio station in the remote town of Garsen in eastern Kenya’s Tana River County, training a team of volunteers from different tribal groups. Ahead of the August 2017 elections, the station was designed to promote peace and social development in an area that had all-too-often experienced violent conflict along ethnic lines.

Today, two years on, Amani FM has become a vibrant part of the community and a powerful voice for peace, as was seen this week as young people came out to celebrate in a number of “Peace Caravan” road shows around the county, culminating in a football tournament.

Crowds gather to watch the Amani FM Road Show,  Amani Ni Mimi , or Peace Starts with Me

Crowds gather to watch the Amani FM Road Show, Amani Ni Mimi, or Peace Starts with Me

Hundreds of people turned up during the week to watch short peace plays and hear local leaders calling the community to reject violence and work together. Under the theme Amani Ni Mimi, or ‘peace starts with me’, community members shared their stories of the pain they experienced during communal conflict, saying that it must not happen again.

“Amani FM has shown us a good example of how to make Tana River a peaceful county,” said one community leader, “

The Amani FM birthday celebrations culminated in a football match between the community and the Rapid Deployment Unit of the police force in a demonstration that together the people of Tana River can live in harmony, stand against ethnic violence and eliminate extremism to make the County a great place to live.

Well done team Amani FM - we’re proud to be associated with you. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Members of the Rapid Deployment Unit lift the trophy for the  Amani Ni Mimi  community football match

Members of the Rapid Deployment Unit lift the trophy for the Amani Ni Mimi community football match

Then: August 2017 and the Amani FM tower nears completion under sunny east African skies

Then: August 2017 and the Amani FM tower nears completion under sunny east African skies

Then: July 2017 at the end of the first Amani FM workshop ahead of the elections

Then: July 2017 at the end of the first Amani FM workshop ahead of the elections

Creative radio programmes like this one tackle the challenge of extremism and radicalisation of youth

Creative radio programmes like this one tackle the challenge of extremism and radicalisation of youth

Stations collaborate to end violent extremism

By Jon Hargreaves

HCR partner station Amani FM in eastern Kenya’s Tana River County, has joined forces with another community station to promote peace in this conflict-affected region.  The project “Amani Mashinani,” which in Swahili means peace at the grassroots, involves young people in the design and creation of feature stories and talk-shows that promote peace, using the airwaves of Amani FM in Garsen and TBS (Tana Broadcasting Service), in Hola.   Besides creative radio content, many on-the-ground activities involving youth are being planned around the district to encourage awareness of how conflict happens and how it can be resolved.

The initiative follows concerns that terrorist groups such as Al-Shabab have been trying to recruit vulnerable, unemployed young people in the eastern areas of the country, near the border with Somalia.

HCR Associate Kelvin Nyangweso, one of the architects of the project, says the radio stations are operated by young volunteers who come from different communities in Tana River and who have a good understanding of the dynamics and needs of their own people. 

“The radio stations will provide the youth with a platform to engage in planning and producing media content through a collective, participatory approach,” says Kelvin. 

Besides training the young citizen journalists in the techniques of “peace journalism” and communication that counters violence,  youth leaders in the county will also undergo training to help them prevent and respond to issues that threaten to destabilise their communities. 

Amani FM was established by HCR in July 2017 ahead of Kenya’s controversial elections, in an effort to promote peace and complement the work of Una Hakika which was set up to combat rumours, misinformation and fake news, the key drivers of conflict in Tana River County.

Volunteer journalists at Amani FM receiving training in peacebuilding and conflict transformation

Volunteer journalists at Amani FM receiving training in peacebuilding and conflict transformation

Spraying for peace ...

By Johnny Fisher and Hazeen Latif

These community volunteers in Majukay are amazing! Despite the intense summer heat and the fasting period, they got out and sprayed mosquito hotspots in their community to prevent Dengue fever infections.

Has it made a difference? This year we heard people saying, more people are gathering together again in the places where community happens. In previous years there were too many mosquitoes and people avoided their normal meeting places in mosquito season. People meeting together is a big win for peacebuilding and the mosquito numbers are down - that’s a big win in the battle against disease.

Local government funded the spraying activities after hearing HCR Pakistan’s partner Naway Saher (NSCSG) talk about community concerns on local radio.

'I am a resource for peace!'

Day 5 of #16DaysofActivism

By Stephanie Mooney

Radio Amani was launched in the conflict prone area of Tana Delta in the summer of 2017, ahead of the parliamentary elections in Kenya.  The purpose of the radio station is to promote peace and social development in Eastern Kenya’s conflict-affected Tana River (the northern region of Tana River County).

The station is serving a young lady called Busara* and the many women and men like her, survivors of violent conflict. Jon, the Director of HCR, met Busara during a focus group in a remote village. She kept staring at the floor, shy, almost embarrassed to be there. Many of the others in the group engaged in animated conversation, eager to share their experiences and opinions. But then her voice broke through... and the room was silenced. It was a bold, passionate voice, that was determined to speak out. "I am not a victim," she said, "I am a resource for peace!"

Busara shared how she had been a victim of violence during the time of "the massacre." She and her family had been through hell, but now here she sat in a group meeting, courageously willing to speak up. She shared how, with the support of family, community and trauma counselors, she had turned a corner and was now passionate to help others who had been through similar experiences.

In the setting up of this region's first radio station, the overwhelming message was, "this station is desperately needed and will be a vital part of helping the people of Tana Delta recover and rebuild." Dr Tecla, who runs trauma workshops among the communities of the Delta, told me that peacebuilding cannot really start until people have overcome the past, with forgiveness and grace’. Amani (peace) FM is amplifying the voices that need to be heard.

*Not her real name

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