community-centred media

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

"You kept your promise!"

By Jon Hargreaves

 What a joy to be back in the remote Maharashtran village of Kahandol in time to celebrate the inauguration of their two new wells.  Just four months earlier I had been standing on a dried up riverbed with my Indian colleagues, Shilpa, Sam and Akshay and the head of the village, Patil Ramdas Warde.  Ramdas told us how the drought had brought great hardship to his village, with only 28 days of water, and he asked us if there was anything we could do to help.

HCR began working with Seva Social Welfare Foundation (Seva) in January 2018, with a vision to use a community-centred media approach to transform indigenous tribal communities, known as Adivasis, who are some of the most disadvantaged people in the country.  “In the last 10 months since the first audio programmes were distributed we have seen a dramatic decline in many illnesses as people have changed their habits around water, sanitation and hygiene,” Shilpa Shinde Seva’s chief executive told me.  Besides monthly health camps, the community have been receiving creative audio programmes on “speakerboxes” (Mp3 players) which have already brought about significant change on a range of issues ranging from health and hygiene to livelihoods and the importance of educating female children. 

But it was the water crisis that has focused the attention of the Seva team for the last four months.  With support from HCR and the very generous gift of British family with a passion for India, the Seva team facilitated the sinking of two wells and tanks that will mean the village will never lack for water again. 

New wells and water tanks mean the people of Kahandol will never run out of water again.

New wells and water tanks mean the people of Kahandol will never run out of water again.

After colourful tribal dances and music played on traditional instruments followed by a community meal, Ramdas turned to me and said, “This water has given the gift of life to this community for generations to come.  You came back.  You kept your promise.  Thank you!”

 

In September we will be facilitating a major evaluation to assess how the project has impacted the community with a view to scaling the project up to reach many more tribal villages across the state and then across the country.

If you would like to support this project or would like further information please contact hcruk@h-c-r.org.

"Electric fan was no better than a handheld fan!"

by Hazeen Latif

Picture this: a village with around 120 households; men, women, children and elderly all living together in conditions very few would dare to live. As the night falls the world beyond the village illuminates with lights glowing from house windows and on the streets. Cool air wafts from air conditioners and fans are blowing. But this village in KPK looks like a campsite with candle lights getting dimmer and dimmer as night get deeper.

 “We can’t sleep at night as the children cry of mosquito bites and heat,” says a local resident. Because of low electricity voltage and power cuts, electric fan speed is no better than a handheld fan. The problem was caused by a 25 kVA transformer with weak and rusted links, which connected the village to the national electricity supply grid. The transformer has been repaired over two dozen times and cannot be repaired anymore.

But thanks to our partner’s community radio program “Naway Saher”, which highlighted this issue before summer reached peak temperatures, a brand new 50kVA transformer has been installed replacing the older one. The voltage is very stable and community houses are much happier places to be. Residents say “this good fan speed is much better than hand fan!”

New transformer in Majukay village, May 2019. HCR Pakistan

New transformer in Majukay village, May 2019. HCR Pakistan

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.