BBC Media Action's blog

A brush with Somalia's people smugglers

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Author: Mohammed A. Gaas, May 18 2016 - I came home from work to find my wife, visibly worried, standing at the gate. She had news about my teenage nephew.

"Abdirisaq hasn't come home yet. Something must have happened to him. He’s never been out beyond 6pm", she stressed as she flexed her fingers.

I tried to calm her but as the evening progressed, I had no choice but to go out and look for him. The first place I checked was his friend’s home, only to find out that his friend was missing too.

I checked the hospital and the central police station in vain.

It was now approaching midnight and my search was unfruitful - he was nowhere to be found. We spent the long night calling relatives and thinking of places he might have gone.

Illegal migration

Our biggest fear was that he had decided to migrate, like so many young men in our community, and was on his way to Ethiopia. The practice of illegal migration is known here as ‘tahrib’.

Many young men like him dream of destinations in Europe, Canada, Australia and America, hopeful of a better and brighter life.

The next day, I left at dawn accompanied by a police officer, driving towards one of the main migration points at the border town of Toog Wajale.

On arrival we were told by an immigration official that he suspected my nephew had already left with people smugglers.

I tried to persuade him to accompany us in our search.

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Developing the talent of Somali journalists

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Author: BBC Media Action's Abdillahi Jama, May 5 2016 - As a Somali journalist, I’ve seen a lot. As the 1991 civil war erupted in Mogadishu, bombs and bullets interrupted my journalism studies. Finding it impossible to finish - despite being in the final stage of writing up my thesis - I packed my bags to return to the relative safety of my family home in Somaliland.

On arrival, I found that war had weakened free-speech in Somaliland. There was no room for independent media and journalists were regularly harassed.

Imprisoned for setting up an independent newspaper

That’s why I helped set-up 'Voice of Hargeisa', Somaliland’s first independent newspaper. It was seen as a direct affront to the government of the time and I was imprisoned for a month along with my team. Only with the help of lawyer, Raqia Omaar (sister of former BBC Correspondent, Rageh Omaar) and a swell of public support, were we finally released.

Finding a job at Radio Hargeisa in 1992, I worked my way up the ladder from reporter to Head of Programmes.

Now, I work as a producer for BBC Media Action, helping develop Hiigsiga Nolosha (Inspirations for Life), an interactive radio show for Somali youth covering important subjects, such as relationships, unemployment and migration.

It’s at BBC Media Action that I met Sakariye, a talented young reporter employed by BBC Media Action as a radio station mentor, to strengthen the production and editorial skills of my old employer, Radio Hargeisa.

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A life-changing TV show

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Author: BBC Media Action's Bidhya Chapagain, May 5 2016 - I had first met Ujeli on a chilly morning outside a temporary shelter on top of a hill in Selang, Sindhupalchowk, just northeast of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. The encampment of rickety houses was home to 300 families, displaced from nearby villages by Nepal’s 2015 earthquake. Ujeli, a 15-year old girl, was one of the residents.

We’d spotted her playing with her friends while we were filming a special episode of Sajha Sawal (Common Questions), about improving accountability in Nepal's post-earthquake reconstruction efforts. The programme featured a Q&A between a government minister and villagers, who noted that the provision of adequate education and clean water had been slow. The minister promised he would highlight their issues in cabinet.

I found Ujeli very clever and full of dreams. She aspired to complete her education but was deeply worried she’d be married off before she had the chance.

She hoped, one day, of visiting the ‘tall buildings’ of the city. Her story touched thousands once the episode had broadcast and as a direct result of the programme, a benefactor offered her a scholarship to study at a school in Kathmandu.

I met Ujeli again last week, one year on from the earthquake that had destroyed her home and so many others.

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"Gifts and lifts": one reason girls drop out of school in South Sudan

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Author: Manyang David Mayar, April 26 2016 - In South Sudan, it’s not uncommon for older men to offer girls and young women gifts of transport, mobile phones and cash with the expectation of them starting a sexual relationship in return. This sometimes has disastrous consequences for their education.

Rose, aged 16, was a committed pupil before a relationship with an older man caused her to drop out of school. On her way to school one morning she arrived at the bus station and found there was no transport. She was stuck and didn’t know what to do when a man in his thirties cruised by in his car and offered her lift. Desperate not to be late for her morning lessons, she accepted the lift and jumped into the man’s car.

Rose, now 29, told her story to Florence Michael, a producer of Our School, a radio programme which discusses the importance of girls completing their education in South Sudan.

“On our way, he asked for my name, I introduced myself then he did the same,” Rose said. “Reaching school he asked me if we could meet again.”

Over the next few months, the man continued to give Rose lifts to school. He didn’t stop there. He gave her a whole variety of gifts, including money and a mobile phone. Not long after that, the man asked for something else.

He asked Rose to be his girlfriend. A few months later she was pregnant.

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A true partnership

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Author: Jackie Christie, April 20 2016 - Working together, BBC Media Action and the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) have transformed a shabby studio into a HD home for KBC’s flagship politics programme, Beyond the Headlines.

I think it’s fair to say that the development community has a tendency to overuse the ‘p’ word. I’ve seen it used to describe a variety of relationships, however slender or remote. My experience of working with Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) over the last few years would suggest that occasionally, these relationships earn the description of a true partnership.

We had worked with KBC for two seasons, when they broadcast BBC Sema Kenya, a groundbreaking political debate show which helped people ask their leaders questions, and in doing so, help hold them to account. During this collaboration, staff at KBC benefited from exposure to new production techniques, among them, moderating debates and developing compelling scripts.

Both sides felt that if our capacity strengthening was to come to fruition KBC should produce their own show. One year later, and without fanfare, the first show Beyond the Headlines aired on KBC Channel 1.

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Meaty issues on the radio

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Author: Ehizogie Ohiani, April 8 2016 - A meal without meat is as good as no meal for most people in Benue State, North Central Nigeria. Considering its importance, one would expect that hygiene surrounding the preparation and sale of meat would be held in the same high esteem. This is not the case.

A murky mix of flies, blood, water, muddy walkways, sweaty bodies and smoke combine to make the abattoirs in the marketplaces of Benue State a perfect breeding ground for disease. Lack of adequate sanitation knowledge, lack of enforcement by market associations and insufficient supervision of animal slaughter by qualified veterinary officers conspire to create major health challenges for communities.

I was at Harvest FM, a local radio station in Benue State, to train producers. We were brainstorming ways we could use their popular early morning show “Good Morning Benue” to help serve the public interest. For the producers, an obvious choice was to discuss hygiene in abattoirs.

The programme explored a number of problems in the state’s local abattoirs: an absence of toilet and handwashing facilities and the practice of washing meat with untreated water sourced direct from the River Benue.

Identifying dirty meat

Listeners were invited to question the studio guest - a respected local veterinary doctor. One listener fielded a particularly challenging question:

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Tackling cholera through radio in Kenya

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Author: David Njuguna, April 6 2016 - Last year Kenya was facing a devastating cholera outbreak. It started in the capital, Nairobi and by June 2015, a total of 4,937 cases and 97 deaths had been reported nationally.

According to public health officials, the spread of cholera in Nairobi particularly affected people living in slums. Frequent bursting of sewer lines, poor sanitation facilities and heavy rains played a major role in the outbreak. Poor hygiene practices – such as not washing hands before eating or preparing food – also contributed to the spread of disease. The outbreak eventually petered out, but the environment and practices that contributed to the spread of cholera continue to pose a threat.

In a quiet courtyard, away from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi’s Kawangware slum, a community radio station was planning a response.

Local radio

Mtaani Radio, run by a team of volunteers, was a hive of activity when I walked into their studio last week. They were recording content for ‘WASH Wednesdays’, a show looking at ways listeners can improve their health and hygiene. The show, reaching over 100,000 people in the Kawangware community, was just about to start.

“It’s time we the people of Kawangware demanded our constitutional right of access to clean water from the government. This will go a long way in reducing outbreaks of water-borne diseases” said Kamadi, editor and presenter of the show.

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One year on from the Nigerian elections: "no violence, just vote"

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Author: Osebi Adams, April 6 2016 - This time last year, I wasn’t sure what the future held for me as a young Nigerian. Not because I was worried about a job or a family since I was already working as a researcher for BBC Media Action and planning a wedding with my fiancée. Instead, with elections looming, I was worried about my country. In 2011, over 800 people were in killed in post-election violence. In 2015, many people feared even more violence and death - and some even talked about the possible breakup of Nigeria.

I remember my mother calling one morning suggesting I move from Abuja, the capital, to her home town in the south which she believed would be safer until the elections were over.

But with BBC Media Action I was helping work towards peaceful elections with the active participation of groups usually marginalised from the voting process: women, youth and people living with disabilities.

No violence, just vote

One of the ways we contributed was by producing radio and TV public service announcements (PSAs) in English, Pidgin, Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. These PSAs, ‘no violence - just vote’ and ‘turn up and vote’ encouraged young people to vote peacefully. They were broadcast across Nigeria in the months leading up to the elections, were posted on social media, and even played before movies at cinemas in some big towns.

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Crowd-pleasing radio

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Author: Amensisa Tefasilasie, DATE 2014 - The Jember team pulled in the crowds when they set out to meet listeners face to face in Ethiopia’s Amhara region.

Mother-of-two Addisie Beryihun visits her local market occasionally but today she’s in for a surprise. At the upper end of the crowded square, above the rows of colourful stalls that sell virtually everything - from clothes and animals to dried red pepper – is an improvised stage full of dancers. The Jember radio roadshow has arrived in Chagni, a town in Ethiopia’s north-western Amhara region.

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"Please, ask my husband"

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Author: Aniqa Hossain, March 23 2016 - Women in Bangladesh tend to see political debate as "men’s business" but the female viewers of BBC Sanglap are an exception.

Discussing politics over a cup of tea at a roadside stall is common practice for men - but not, it seems, for women - in Bangladesh.

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