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How community radios help improve lives of Tanzanians

WHEN Juma Gasala sent his Standard Six son to fetch water across a road at Ugwachanya Village a year ago, he had no idea that it would be the last time that he would see him alive.

The boy had a lot of dreams and had crossed the road to fetch water so that he could make it on time to school only to get hit by a speeding car, shattering all his dreams and leaving his parents and family in grief that will remain in their lives as long as they live.

Juma Gasala from Ugwachanya Village in Tanzania recalls the sad ordeal, saying before they were connected to a water system, villagers used to send children across the road to fetch the precious liquid.

“I am the first victim of the plight as I lost my Standard Six son, who was hit by a car when he went to fetch water across the road,” recalls Gasala.

He, however, sighs with relief, saying the village is now connected to clean and safe water, saving the lives of children like his, who would have lost their lives had it been that they were to cross the road in search of the precious liquid, thanks be to Nuru FM community which kept airing their voices as they shared their challenges, leading to a positive impact.

Mage Mgongolwa, another villager of Ugwachanya recalls how she had to wake up at 3am to fetch water at the same village, saying the situation saw most of the marriages go in shambles.

“My sincere gratitude should go to Nuru FM for cooperation and support to address our plight as whenever I tuned on the radio I came across a topic on water.  I believe this has been of great help and we now have the precious liquid in abundance,” says Mgongolwa.

Yesterday, February 13, the world commemorated World Radio Day and we had all reasons to recognise a great role played by radio, especially its coverage in rural areas all over the world, but specifically in Tanzania where community radios have been the voice for the voiceless, reaching the hard to reach and marginalised communities.

Nancy Angulo, Unesco National Programme Officer (Communications and Information), says for over a decade, Unesco has established and continues building the capacity of community radios in Tanzania.

“Unesco supported the community media network to reach over 16 milllion people, particularly in rural and hard to reach areas. A radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for a democratic discourse. At global level, a radio remains the most widely consumed medium.

"This unique ability to reach out the widest audience means a radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity, stand as an arena for all voices to speak out, be represented and heard,” says Angulo.

In Tanzania, radios, specifically community radios continue playing a great role in addressing various pertinent issues and sensitising the community on disease outbreaks such as cholera, malaria, Covid-19, as well as helping local government authorities to reach the most remote areas in their territories.

Richard Kasesera, Iringa District Commissioner admits that Nuru FM, a community radio station in his district has helped him a lot to engage with the community.

The DC has been using the community radio to address grievances of his people within his territory while at the same time sharing development issues with them through the same and so far, the impact has been huge in terms of the improvement of social services such as water and health services among others.

“The radio has a live programme, where people call to air their grievances with me responding to their issues.  This has helped a lot to unveil and bring to our attention issues which are pertinent to their livelihoods,” says the DC.

In some areas like Pemba, Micheweni District authorities have been using Micheweni Community Radio in various health campaigns such as vaccination where as a result, the district managed to surpass its target.

“Micheweni District was below 55 per cent when it came to vaccination where we used Micheweni Community Radio to air live awareness creation programmes on vaccination. 

Listeners were allowed to ask questions and got a response regarding the vaccines. The result of this approach and response from citizens through the radio made a number of children who came for vaccination to rise from 55 per cent to 80 per cent,” says Suleiman Faki Haji, Health Education Coordinator in the district.

Micheweni FM Radio has also been a great link between Micheweni District Hospital and the surrounding community where through its programme, the latter has led to an increase in the number of mothers giving birth in hospital and thus reduce maternal mortality.

“Among the 100 mothers who give birth in about three months, we hardly get any death. The mortality rate has gone down as community health volunteers around Micheweni have been advocating and urging people to go to hospital,” says Dr Mbwana Shoka Salim from the Micheweni District Hospital.

Radio programmes have also played a great role in women empowerment and in bringing about positive change in the lives of ordinary citizens in rural areas. 

Farida Athman Mahundi, a listener of Pambazuko FM Community Radio in Kilombero acknowledges to have benefitted through a women’s empowerment radio programme known as “Wanawake Kwanza” (Women First), where she got awareness that women can start something beneficial for their economic growth.

She convinced other women at Njelahela Village to start a savings group where in 2018, 20 women accepted her idea and set up a Njelahela Women’s Group.

The initial idea was to save money every week to help them get a revolving loan and obtain capital for business. Each individual member in the group contributed 10,000/- to make a total amount of 200,000/-.

This amount enabled them to open a bank account and register the group. They also started pig farming and indigenous poultry keeping where their capital has gone up to 11,000,000/-. The group is also one of the beneficiaries of the district’s Women Empowerment Fund.

All 18 women have been able to benefit from a revolving loan, supporting school fees and food for their families, while increasing capital for their individual businesses thanks to an idea that originated from the radio programme. There are so many success stories which emanate from the power of radio airwaves.

As we celebrate World Radio Day 2021, Unesco calls on radio stations to celebrate the 10th anniversary and more than 110 years of radio by serving diverse communities, offering a wide variety of programmes, viewpoints and content, and to reflect the diversity of audiences in their organisations and operations.

Indeed, radio anchors deserve an accolade for everything they do to reach us. A very Happy World Radio Day to all people on earth.

The author is a media consultant and can be reachable at rosemwalongo@yahoo.com and sangunangwa@gmail.com.

THIRD year students of the Dar es Salaam ...

Author:  Correspondent Rose Mwalongo

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