Ordinary citizens engaging within their communities and countries to take action on development issues

Coping and Change in Protracted Conflict: The Role of Community Groups and Local Institutions in Addressing Food Insecurity and Threats to Livelihoods

A Case Study Based on the Experience of Practical Action in North Darfur
Susanne Jaspars
May 1, 2010

Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG)

This Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) Working Paper, published by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), presents the findings of a study carried out in Northern Darfur in November and December 2009


ODI e-Newsletter, May 2010.


Radio Salus

Radio Salus (derived from the Latin word "salut", meaning salvation) was established in 2005 at the National University of Rwanda as a result of a project implemented by the United Nations Educational

Communication Strategies: 

Radio Salus broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and organisers say its programming reaches the entire population of Rwanda, as well as neighbouring communities in DRC and Burundi.

The radio station team, which includes professional journalists and journalism students, produces a variety of news, educational, and entertainment programming broadcast in Kinyarwanda, Swahili, English, and French. According to organisers, each week more than 25 different programmes are broadcast on a broad range of topics including education, agriculture, health, HIV/AIDS, Rwandan history, news, conflict management, sports, and coffee (a long-established, but not well understood industry in the country).

In advance of the August 2009 elections, journalists from the station received training specific to election coverage, including election laws and rules, understanding the Rwandan journalists' code of conduct during elections, the professional standards of free and fair elections, and covering elections independently and professionally.

According to the radio station, the training of students and professionals at the radio station has become a key determinant in diversifying media programming in Rwanda and in building confidence in private radio as a viable means of mass media. Radio Salus has reportedly also managed to empower Rwandan youth, women, and disabled people. Through its educational programmes on economy, environment, HIV/AIDS, health and history, organisers say that it has become a socio-economic development tool for many Rwandans. For example, Radio Salus has contributed to educating local small businessmen and women on how to advertise their products and services. In addition, it has supported and promoted young artists by giving them the opportunity to publicise their new songs.

Development Issues: 

Democracy, Media Development.

Key Points: 

As of November 2008, more than 100 young journalists had received training through Radio Salus, and many students continue to work there as trainee journalists. The station's sports programme has been rated the top radio programme in the country.

Partner Text: 

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Contact Information: 

National University of Rwanda website and UNESCO website - both accessed on January 12 2010.

Khabar Lahariya

Khabar Lahariya (Bundeli for "News Waves") is a weekly rural newspaper written, edited, illustrated, produced, and marketed by a group of women - most of them from marginalised tribal, Dalit, Kol, and

Communication Strategies: 

KL's collective process of production takes place over a 2-day writing, editing, and illustrating workshop. Many of the dozen or so women on staff were beaten or sexually abused as children, married off young, endured abusive marriages, and/or faced struggles in obtaining an education and/or a divorce. Considerable effort is made, therefore, to develop their literacy skills as well as to build other capacities - for instance, their ability to move around and interact with various people in the public sphere, their levels of information and understanding related to politics, and their writing and editing skills. According to KL, "Designing the journalism workshops for rural women with little exposure to mainstream media has been exciting and challenging. The workshop content has included discussions around what constitutes news, as well as the practical aspects of identifying sources of news, gathering information, validating news sources and conducting interviews. The workshops have adopted a hands-on approach, where participants gather news, do interviews and then file their stories. An exposure to different styles of writing is also provided."

Not only do the women write the stories, they edit, handle layout, proofread, and solicit ads for KL's 2 editions. Written in the local language, Bundeli, KL provides a mix of news, information, and entertainment specifically for its Bundelkhandi audience, which is rural and which has mostly low levels of literacy. The 8-page newspaper covers current political news and stories on the functioning of panchayats, the bureaucracy, schools, and hospitals in the region. Its reportage of violence against women and marginalised sections of society critiques the tendency of contemporary media to sensationalise such incidents. Specifically, there are pages on current news (Taaza Khabar), national and international news (Desh Videsh), women's issues (Mahila Mudda), panchayati raj, "news from here and there" (Mili Juli), regional news, governmental news (Sarkari), and an editorial page (Hamaar Sandesh). Recent stories included alleged bribery at health clinics, a bureaucrat reported to be siphoning off money meant for widows, and a piece on the brother of a powerful politician who built a house, blocking water that had gone to Dalit farmers nearby and destroying their livelihood. Through these types of stories, KL staff hope to help their fellow underprivileged readers know their rights, understand what government programmes, are available and teach them how to apply for assistance.

Because politics in the traditional sense is historically not a domain in which women belonging to marginalised communities have engaged, KL initially did not report on political news. When the women decided to "blank out" the Lok Sabha election because they felt under-confident and lacked information, organisers conducted a "crash course" on politics, then planned and produced 3 "election specials" with the team. The special issues contained interviews with local candidates from different political parties, as well as information and opinion pieces.

KL's objective of reaching out to villages in which other forms of information and entertainment are limited has led to its being sold not only by reporters and other newspaper agents but also at small shops and tea stalls in the block headquarters and in remote villages and hamlets. Staff members, paid between US$60 and US$140 per month, spend several days each week carrying copies to distant villages, some accessible only by hiking trails. (One 23-year-old staff member explains that "It's hard enough to reach many of these remote areas. Then you have to stay and sell the papers [for 4 cents].") In the remote communities, they pick up stories from readers or from residents petitioning for justice in courts and government offices. Thus armed, they return to their weekly editorial meeting with a minimum of 5 ideas and hash out among themselves what stories will make it into print. Other recent efforts to expand KL's reach have included increasing its periodicity (it is now a weekly publication) and registering the paper as an independent legal entity to enable the group to function as an independent production unit.

Development Issues: 

Women, Rights, Media Development.

Key Points: 

KL's newsstand price covers less than 20% of the operation's US$67,000 annual operating budget. The difference is covered by Nirantar, a New Delhi-based civic group specialising in gender, literacy, and development issues. The group conceived of the project and believes it can serve as a model for other communities in India. In 2008 the KL group registered as an independent organisation, Pahal. Pahal is now, with Nirantar's support, finding its feet as "one of the only rural women's media collectives in the country."

Caste is a social institution that is probably here to stay, the KL women say. But they believe that, if you are educated and know your rights, people are more respectful. They claim that, as Indian society changes, affected by urbanisation and internal migration, a more liberalised economy and political shifts, the grip of this restrictive system is slowly weakening.

Disha Mullick, a Nirantar programme coordinator who helps train prospective reporters, said that the very act of doing a job at which they ask challenging questions of high officials, rich locals, and derisive politicians is empowering. Organisers claim that KL "has enabled rural, Dalit, newly-literate women to enter and transform the public arena of media and information creation, a space traditionally dominated by 'upper-caste' men....[I]t strengthens grassroots democracy and challenges gender and caste relations. Its investigative style of reportage not only makes it popular with its readers but is also important in putting in place a culture of accountability and transparency. Several reports published in Khabar Lahariya have enabled people to act and demand redress." One reporter commented on the benefits that learning how to use technology have brought: "This job has really helped me stand up and be independent," said Kavita, age 30. "A year ago, I never even imagined something like a computer or the Internet existed."

Nirantar won the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) King Sejong Prize for Literacy 2009 for KL. Click here for details.


"India - Dalit Women Find Their Voice Through a Newspaper", Los Angeles Times, October 25 2009, by Mark Magnier - forwarded to the Women's United Nations Report Network (WUNRN) listserv on November 9 2009; and KL website, December 28 2009.

The Impact of the BBC World Service Trust's Afghan Woman's Hour: Results from a National Survey in Afghanistan

Anurudra Bhanot
Emily LeRoux-Rutledge
October 1, 2009

BBC World Service Trust

This 68-page report is an evaluation of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service Trust (WST) radio project Afghan Woman's Hour (AWH), which seeks to empower women by broadcastin


Email from Emily LeRoux-Rutledge to The Communication Initiative on November 3 2009.


Impact Assessment of East African Community Media Project 2000 - 2006: Report from Orkonerei Radio Service (ORS) in Tanzania and Selected Communities

Birgitte Jallov
Charles Lwanga-Ntale
January 1, 2007

This 52-page report is the result of an impact study commissioned by the Division for Culture and Media with the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida). It is one of three separate impact studies of three community radio stations supported by Sida via the East African Community Media Project (EACMP). The objective of the study was to identify the "most significant change" in the community served by the Orkonerei Radio Service (ORS) in Tanzania.


Communication for Social Change website on April 17 2009 and May 12 2010.


Wontanara (We Are United)

In an effort to help restore peace and address post-conflict issues, Search for Common Ground (SFCG) has collaborated with Guinea's national media institution, Raido Rurale Guinee, to produce and broa

Communication Strategies: 

According to SFCG, many of the issues addressed by in the Wontanara soap opera are rarely discussed in Guinean media. SFCG works with local partners to find culturally appropriate means to strengthen societies' capacity to deal with conflicts constructively: to understand the differences and act on the commonalities. Each 15-minute weekly Wontanara episode is produced in French and reproduced in the area's two local languages, Malinké and Guerzé. The plot revolves around the daily lives of a group of characters who meet in a Conakry café to discuss the challenges they face and issues of importance to them. According to the producers, Wontanara takes on tough issues in an entertaining way. Accompanying Wontanara is another 15-minute weekly soap opera, Kissidougou Feu N'est Pas Incendie (A Fire Is Not Always Destructive), which addresses human rights, corruption, governance, and HIV/AIDS. The organisation has negotiated broadcast on the state national radio station as well as private stations in Conakry and rural radio stations in 6 locations around the country.

Development Issues: 

Conflict, Democracy and Governance

Key Points: 

According to SFCG, the current political climate in Guinea is still influenced by the legacy of the general strikes and turmoil that swept the country in early 2007. In May 2007, Guinea's President Lansana Conté sacked Prime Minister Lansana Kouyaté after a government audit exposing presidential corruption leaked to the French periodical Jeune Afrique. Kouyaté's dismissal marked the end of an uneasy 15-month power-sharing agreement, which had been instituted to quell political upheaval in 2007. Kouyaté's sacking was accepted in many quarters due to his perceived ineffectiveness. However, his replacement, Ahmed Tidiane Souaré, is a long-time Conté supporter, and tensions again mounted following the announcement.

The political changes have been accompanied by troubling corruption and conflict within the police and military, SFCG explains. Increasing criminalisation of the security forces has become a problem, as they are implicated in the regional narco-trafficking boom by recent reports and a high-profile drug bust. It is believed that, as Guinea-Bissau is beginning to crack down on the drug trade, traffickers are finding fertile ground for operations in its unstable southern neighbour.

Of equal concern, per SFCG, is the fact that legislative elections that were planned for November 2008 were delayed for the fourth time in two years. In late August, the President of Guinea's Independent National Electoral Commission, the CENI, announced that the change of government in June and a lack of funding require that the elections be put on hold until 2009. Guinea's hopes of transitioning from the current uncertain period largely hang on how these elections progress.

Regarding the media environment in Guinea, research conducted by SFCG found the following:

  • Overall, the Guinean state continues to monopolise public media. However, there is no official state policy regarding mass media and communication. Most notably, there is no coherent policy with respect to the promotion of the government's good governance policy and initiatives. Consequently, the burden of awareness-raising often falls to local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
  • Guinean journalists are rarely trained to gather information from the populace via a participatory approach and are generally not asked by their news agencies to adhere to a particular system of journalistic ethics.
  • Public and media representatives alike express frustration with state-sponsored media outlets in Guinea. Frequently cited concerns include the non-responsiveness of state-run media to local stories and their failure to address topics of genuine relevance to the population.
  • Old and outdated equipment also impedes effective communication between the state, civil society representatives, and the people, especially in the rural interior of the country where distribution networks are less well-developed.

Violence, Power and Participation: Building Citizenship in Contexts of Chronic Violence

Jenny Pearce
March 1, 2007

University of Bradford

This 66-page Institute of Development Studies (IDS) Working Paper (#274) explores civil society participation in two contexts of chronic violence.

Contact Information: 

id21News, Number 251, July 2008; and "Ending the Culture of Violence in Latin America" on the id21News website.


Makkala Panchayats: Institutionalization of Children’s Participation in Local Decision-Making

Anirban Pal
November 1, 2008

Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, Erasmus University

This 9-paper reports on a children's initiative begun in 1995 in Karnataka, India - now adopted by the state government for replication - to involve children in regular local public decision-making an


Children, Youth and Environments 2008, Issue 18(2): pages 197-205.


Using Radio for Budget Advocacy: Stories from Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Georgia, Indonesia, Kenya, and Uganda

July 1, 2007

This article, published in the International Budget Partnership's bimonthly newsletter (Volume 39, May-June 2007), describes civil society organisation efforts to use radio as part of larger budget ad


International Budget Partnership website, Bimonthly No. 39, Newsletter, May - June 2007; and ACCU website, April 19 2010.


Ndizathuzomwe Civic Education Radio

Implemented in 1999, Ndizathuzomwe Civic Education Radio is a communication campaign for social change in Malawi.
Communication Strategies: 

The project uses participatory communication methodologies in an effort to ensure national dialogue around development issues. It works to facilitate people's participation at all levels of development efforts to identify and implement appropriate and sustainable policies, programmes, and technologies to reduce poverty and improve people's livelihoods.

Broadcast on MBC Radio One, the radio programmes follow a magazine format including village voices and panel discussions. To support the broadcasts, organisers have established more than 30 Radio Listening Clubs (RLCs) across the country, each of which assumes the role of facilitating development in their areas. One of the objectives of the RLCs is to involve the public in strengthening community capacities to intervene more directly in development initiatives and other national issues by creating debate on local problems, needs and concerns.

As suggested by the name of the programme - "Ndizathozomwe", which means "It is Ours" - the project is meant to provide access to all parts of Malawian society, with particular emphasis on the most marginalised. Community mobilisation exercises have focused on developing tools for assessing need. Structures have been established in communities to facilitate access for women, youth, the elderly, orphans, and people living with HIV/AIDS thus far.

Development Issues: 

Participatory Communication, Poverty Reduction, Political Development.

Key Points: 

Because of the ratification of the communications bill in Malawi, the MBC is required to operate in accordance with a series of democratic principles which present civil society with a chance to determine the content of broadcast material. To respond to this challenge, the MBC established a DBU that is designed to provide the MBC with a sustainable resource through which community-based programming will continue to be produced, encouraging a participatory approach to communication. The ultimate aim is to support democratic development by creating effective dialogue.

The DBU has entered contracts with a variety of partners to provide programming in various sectors. Nonetheless, the participatory ethos of programming remains the same. The communities define themselves, identify and prioritise their problems, and plan an active role in the development solution with service providers. As a result, 80% of all programmes are produced in the field.

In 2000, the project won the Rolls-Royce Award for Excellence in Broadcasting for Innovative Project Management, presented by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association. The project has also been featured in a number of international publications.

Partner Text: 

Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, University of Malawi, Ministry of Information, Malawi CARER, Project HOPE, Women & Law in Southern Africa, and Christian Services Commission. Funding provided by the UK Department for International Development (DFID)

Contact Information: 

Email from Alice Munyua to The Communication Initiative; Radio for Development (renamed Media for Development) newsletter; and Media for Development website, July 12 2010.

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