Power of community radios behind safe motherhood

MS Joyce Lage, a mother of three girls and a farmer has emerged as an inspiration of resilience and maternal strength.

Her inspirational story is evidence of the power of community radio and highlights the crucial role the community radios play in disseminating important information to diverse audiences.

Residing in Dodoma village, Nachingwea Ward in Ruangwa District, Lindi Region, a strong and remarkable woman Lage’s journey began with a challenging start.

She gave birth to a premature baby, Ummy Khamis, weighing only 1.6 kilogrammes. As her third child, Ms. Lage had doubts whether her baby would survive.

Struggling to understand the complications of raising a premature child, Ms. Lage found herself searching for guidance since she never had the experience before. Little did she know that a radio program on Ruangwa FM would become the source of helpful information that would transform her and her child’s life.

Tuning into the health program at Ruangwa FM, Ms. Lage heard a knowledgeable nutrition officer discussing the significance of breastfeeding for pre matured babies.

The advice was simple yet profound, her child needed to be breastfed every two hours. This became a transformation point for Ms. Lage and her child.

“In the year 2020 I gave birth to my third daughter who was born prematurely at 7 months, weighing only 1.6 kilograms. One day, I was listening to a Ruangwa FM radio program on community development, A Nutrition Officer from Ruangwa District Council was discussing the importance of breastfeeding for a child, emphasizing that the child should breastfeed every 2 hours,” Ms. Lage says.

She adds: “I thought to myself that I must continue following this program. I started trying to breastfeed even when the baby was asleep. Through breastfeeding, my child became healthy to the point that we were all amazed. She is now 2 years and 8 months old and weighs fourteen kilograms” says Ms. Lage.

Ms. Lage did not stop when the radio program ended, she made sure she was in contact with the Nutrition Officer whom she got her number through the radio and the officer kept encouraging her to keep on breastfeeding her child and she will experience the wonders of breastfeeding.

In one month of extensive breastfeeding Ms. Lage saw a dramatic change in her child’s health. She says until the fourth month, the child’s health amazed even the nurses when she took her for clinic schedule.

“I would like to encourage my fellow women who are going through challenges like giving birth to premature child not to lose hope. Taking care of a child, especially through breastfeeding, leads to good health of a child.”  She adds.

The information acquired by Ms. Lage was part of an intervention by the USAID Public Sector Systems Strengthening Plus (PS3+) Activity a five-year project funded by the US government and implemented through the USAID with support from the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) in collaboration with Internews, Boresha Habari and the President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PORALG)

By recognizing the influential role of community radio in disseminating information, they crafted nine messages aimed at encouraging citizen engagement, participation, and social accountability.

Among the messages were topics such as citizens’ rights to participate in village meetings, the availability of loans for women, youth, and people with disabilities, insights into the local planning and budget processes, and mechanisms for citizens’ feedback.

To enhance the effectiveness of the messages, USAID PS3+ and PORALG also conducted training sessions for journalists, teaching them how to customize radio messages to be engaging and relevant to local audiences.

For Ms. Lage, the impact was life changing. The health program not only provided her with essential knowledge but also empowered her to take control of her child’s wellbeing. Today, her child Ummy is proof of the power of accessible and right information.

Apart from having a successful motherhood journey through education from a radio program, Ms. Lage also enjoys listening to community development programs on the radio.

“Through the radio, I was motivated to attend meetings related to income and expenditures. I have also participated in the construction of the village office and the project to build school toilets, where we were inspired to volunteer, I therefore appreciate the improvements in radio because we receive information in a timely manner. My appeal is for fellow citizens to continue listening to the radio and follow up on the programs” she adds.

Lage’s story shows the importance of having informed communities through community radios. Through interventions by USAID PS3+, PORALG and other partner’s collaboration, individuals like Lage gain the knowledge they need to make informed decisions, finally contributing to a good welfare of their families and communities.

 

According to an association of community radio stations, the Tanzania Development Information Organization (TADIO) website, currently there are over 43 radio stations that could be described as community radio which reaches over 33 million people and covering almost 70 per cent of the area of Tanzania, therefore there is huge potential to use community radios to reach a large audience at a relatively low cost.

In Tanzania, radio continues to be one of the most listened media outlets, especially in rural areas as it is not only cheaper to maintain but also mobile where one can even go with it wherever they want, be it at a local joint, farm, motorbikes boat or a coffee spot.

According to the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) report issued in November 2022, Tanzania has 218 registered radios and online radio stations, a number which is good enough to relay relevant information on diseases outbreak, farming, climate change and all information relevant to development.

Recent statistics show that about 11 per cent of 2 million babies delivered at different medical facilities in the country per year are born prematurely. While over 50,000 newborn babies below 28 days die, whereas 27per cent of those deaths are caused by prematurity related complications.

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