In November 2007, the BBC World Service Trust (WST) launched a radio discussion programme in an effort to support the peace process and good governance in Nepal. Developed in cooperation with BBC Nepali, "Sajha Sawal" (or, "Common Questions") seeks to spark dialogue between those in power and members of populations that have traditionally been excluded, including women and those living in rural communities.
This initiative uses the medium of radio to create a horizontal dialogue related to peacebuilding and political participation. The 45-minute show explores key issues affecting people's lives with a specially invited audience each Sunday at 21.00 local time. It is broadcast on the BBC Nepali Service and its network of 35 FM partner stations, as well as a network of over 20 community radio stations. Guests from the world of politics, legal affairs, business, or culture answer questions from the audience. A BBC reporter on location in rural Nepal also brings stories, views, and questions from hard-to-reach communities across the country. The idea is that, by involving women and rural dwellers in interactive dialogue with Nepalese leaders, a respectful and educational exchange can take place.
For example, in cooperation with Purbanchal FM (which the Trust identifies as Nepal's first all-women's radio station), the Trust organised its first panel discussion featuring Prime Minister GP Koiral. Recorded in front of a live audience of secondary school students and people from rural communities in Eastern Nepal, the audience raised their concerns with the Prime Minister for over an hour. Questions focused on issues such as violence in Nepal's troubled Terai region, the possibility of a military coup, and why the government has not done more to curb violence against women or to provide roads and ambulances in their regions. Pre-recorded questions and comments gathered from community groups across Nepal were also played out for the Prime Minister's response. Kantipur and Nepal One television stations sent camera crews to record the programme, and featured it as a bulletin in their headline evening news. Kantipur later broadcast the entire programme as a prime-time television special.
In the case of this first broadcast, the recording doubled as a training opportunity for the station, which was only recently established. As the initiative continues, training and capacity building of stations throughout Nepal will remain a core focus of the project.
In addition, listeners groups will be set up in rural areas in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)'s Decentralized Local Governance Support (DLGSP) network of 20,000 community-based organisations (CBOs). The purpose of these face-to-face exchanges will be to discuss and debate the issues covered in the radio programmes.
Conflict, Democracy and Governance, Women.
Future programmes will feature discussions with the leaders of the 2 other main political parties in Nepal, as well as a panel of leading female political figures and the key negotiators in Nepal's 2005 peace agreement; the latter programme will focus on the role of women in Nepal and the status of the peace process.
BBC World Service Trust, BBC Nepali, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Decentralized Local Governance Support (DLGSP).
"Rural communities question Nepalese Prime Minister", sent to The Communication Initiative on December 4 2007; and BBC Launches Debate Programme in Nepal, January 8 2008.