“Thanks for calling into the show. Can you tell us your name and where you’re from?”

“Sure. My name is Seynabou Baldé, I’m from Saré Yoba Diéga. I’m on the Community Management Committee here, and I wanted to say that the theme you are talking about on today’s show is very pertinent.”

Seynabou Baldé lives in a rural village in southern Senegal that completed Tostan’s three-year, holistic Community Empowerment Program (CEP) in 2013. A few weeks ago she called into the hour-long radio broadcast that Tostan supervisor Binta Diao conducts every Wednesday from the RTS radio station in Kolda, Senegal.

That day the show was discussing Community Management Committees (CMCs), democratically-selected groups of 17 members that are created in each of our partner communities at the start of the CEP to lead the development of their community, both during and after their participation in the Tostan program. Seynabou was the fourth of six individuals who called into the show to give their input on that day’s topic of conversation. Each show has a different focus, with subjects ranging from the importance of keeping communities clean in order to prevent the spread of certain illnesses to ways to reduce adolescent pregnancy. The themes Binta discusses are those that are taught throughout the CEP, and using radio helps to maximize the number of people who can benefit from this information.

The radio shows do not exclusively target Tostan partner communities; their themes are also relevant to communities who are not participating in the CEP. During the show on CMCs, Binta talked about how creating an action plan will not help a CMC if they do not follow it, and she noted that a CMC cannot be a dynamic organization unless all of its members are actively contributing to it. She said that the group’s members need to have the courage to speak directly to those who are not contributing, reminding them of the importance of their role in the organization; if the member’s enthusiasm does not increase, the group should then proactively seek out a replacement.

This was one of the problems Seynabou called the show about, confirming that she finds this problem relevant to the CMCs. Ila Kandé was another caller to the show, but unlike Seynabou, he is not a member of a CMC or a participant of the Tostan program. Ila is a delegate chosen by the mayor to represent his neighborhood in the city of Kolda. His participation in the radio show reinforced that the discussion of the effective functioning of a CMC could apply to any organization, be it a community development group or an association of delegates.

The radio is an excellent resource for diffusing information far from its source. During Binta’s show on CMCs, one of the callers was from a village over 200 kilometers away from Kolda, and the broadcast could also be heard in parts of Guinea-Bissau and The Gambia.

Binta Diao’s Wednesday radio broadcasts are not the only Tostan shows on the Kolda airwaves, though. Finté Boiro, the assistant coordinator in Tostan’s Kolda coordination, also hosts radio broadcasts on a community radio station. The themes of his shows are linked to those of Tostan’s Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) module, funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. In the 16 shows he has hosted in the past six months on TEWDU FM, he has discussed a variety of topics related to early childhood development, including ways to teach children about their environment and the importance of reading to children.

During one of his October shows, Finté addressed the necessity for parents to have empathy when interacting with their children. The day after the broadcast, a woman approached Finté. She was from the village in which Finté had worked as a Tostan facilitator, guiding the community through the CEP, in 1998. She told Finté that she had listened to his latest broadcast and that it had changed the way she viewed her relationship with her son. Up until then, when she asked her son to do something or was reprimanding him, she would criticize and insult him. She thought that was what she needed to do in order to motivate him to change his behavior. She was finding, however, that this approach was having the undesired effect of teaching her son to disrespect her in return. Finté’s radio broadcast encouraged her to reevaluate her strategy and showed her the importance of empathy. She told Finté that from now on she planned to try to see things from her son’s perspective in the hopes of being better able to guide his behavior and encourage his positive development.

Used as part of a wider strategy of organized diffusion, Tostan’s radio shows exponentially increase the number of people that are able to receive the information that participating communities learn about during the CEP. Not every community has the opportunity to participate directly in Tostan’s education program, but, via the radio, they can still learn about ways to improve the efficiency of the groups operating in their community or about new techniques that will promote their children’s development.  

Story by Allyson Fritz, Regional Volunteer, Tostan.