In honor of World Radio Day, here’s a look at how Tostan partner communities use radio programs as an effective way to spread knowledge about human rights and other important issues. One of the main factors for success is that the shows are for the community, by the community, making the information relevant and credible to listeners.
Three social mobilization supervisors from Guinea and the Regional Coordinator in Faranah received radio training at the Tostan Training Center in Thies, Senegal. This one-week seminar provided participants with the skills to host local radio programs, which have become an integral part of social mobilization efforts to supplement the human rights lessons learned during the Community Empowerment Program (CEP).
The partnership with three local radio stations in Faranah allows Tostan to reach a large number of communities in addition to the 40 directly involved in the Tostan program. In fact, social mobilization agents plan to reach an estimated 1.7 million listeners. Awareness-raising and new knowledge on human rights in other communities contribute to a vast movement for the abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child marriage.
Similarly, Niappa Ndiagne in the Kaolack region of Senegal hosted a series of three community-hosted radio programs to present content and themes from the Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) program.
The session began with an overview of the program by Ahmet Diakhaté, Tostan supervisor. Community members took charge of the hour-long show, discussing the importance of a holistic education without violence, parent/child interaction for better brain development, children’s health and rights, and the importance of registering births. He also broadcast a live demonstration of a young girl reading a Wolof children’s book. They closed the session by inviting local students to sing a cheerful song.
These shows were positively received by listeners because they allowed participants to speak for themselves and to extol the virtues of the program while reaching a wider audience. The Commercial Manager of the well-known station Sud FM cited these broadcasts as a high point of the year's programming because of their liveliness and honesty.
In The Gambia, Tostan staff ran their own radio programs, focusing on material from specific CEP sessions. For example, they held conversations about the consequences of early marriage and FGC and topics surrounding maternal health, such as the importance of pre- and post-natal visits. Radio sessions like this are a way to reach a wider audience within the region and reinforce information learned in Tostan classes. The radio messaging continued for the duration of the CEP.
Local radio programs are an essential tool communities use to transmit ideas that are important to them. For example, when social mobilization activities and inter-zonal meetings are planned, participants are often notified via radio. Likewise, leading up to public declarations to abandon FGC, social change is easier because a broader base of people have been made aware of the movement. Reaching people in their local languages is the most effective way to incite community-led change. Grassroots radio programs have long been part of the Tostan model and will continue to be a crucial component in the future.