Change Communications through its Project, " Youth Click for Peace" organized a training seminar on: Peace Reporting on Community Radio for 20 journalists operating in the West Region. This was from the 27-29 of November 2020 in Bafoussam.
One of the engagements Change Communications undertook as the implementing agency of a 2-year UNDEF-funded project, “Developing Democratic Culture in Rural Communities Using Radio in Cameroon” was to train female community radio broadcasters and get radio stations produce programs on women-connected issues.This need to be gender-sensitive in radio training, programs and programming components of the project was more than elsewhere relevant in the conservative, predominantly Muslim northern regions of Cameroon where over 80% of the female population cannot read and write and cannot even speak nor understand French.
Photo: CC June 2013, Some of the women trained in Maroua, Far North in June 2013. Their programs have started “emancipating” both men and women listeners even though some men are still resisting change.
After about 14 months of broadcast of radio programs on women in the lingua franca of the area, we went to some localities – Meiganga, Moroua, Mora, and Kousserie – to find out how the women were reacting to the programs.
Interestingly, many more women listen to radio in the Far North Region now for several reasons. Ramatu, a mother of 4 speaking in Fulfulde says: “We understand the programs on radio quite well now. The speakers (journalists) speak in our language (Fulfulde). Also, our daughters who work there (trainees of the project) talk about problems that touch us the women. It was not like that at first. Another serious problem we have now is this bad people (Boko Haram) coming from Nigeria. They can attack us at any time. You know they like to take away our girl children. It’s good our soldiers from Yaoundé have come to drive them way and kill them. But, we still have to listen to radio all the time to know what’s happening”.
Amateur Photo: Even when busy with household chores, Ramatu and her children listen to the radio.
On her participation in interactive programs on women’s issues, she disclosed that, “at first my husband could not allow me to even listen to some of the programs. He said the journalists of our radio station were speaking like crazy people; they were encouraging women to be stubborn to their husbands”. Ramatu discloses that with time, “he has started to change. He says that some of the discussions are useful. When other women started calling by telephone and asking questions, he said to himself, ‘let people also hear my own wife talking on radio’. He then asked me to call and also talk on radio”. However, Ramatu complains that, it is expensive calling to participate on radio programs using the mobile phone. “We don’t have money to buy credits”, she says. She observes all the same that, “some husbands still refuse their wives from calling to talk on radio. Some of those women told me that, they hate that kind of behavior from their husbands. They will also like to talk as we are doing”.
Amateur Photo: Radio FM Meskine, Ramatu says, her husband has changed and now wants her to be calling frequently on interactive radio programs to discuss issues of public interest. But, her problem is that, calling on radio by phone is expensive.
The logo of UNDEF, the funding agency of the project “Developing Democratic Culture in Rural Communities Using Radio” has turned out quite unexpectedly to be one big attraction and success story of the project. Young people in rural areas like it. “Porter les Nations Unis! Je ne suis pas n’importe qui, 0.k !/Wearing the United Nations! I’m not just anybody O.K.!” remarked a new member of the Democracy DebateClub (DDC) of Lycée d’Abong Mbang, in the East Region of Cameroon . To the young people, wearing the UNDEF logo on a T-shirt is attention-capturing and prestige-generating.
A logo highly coveted by young people in rural schools in Cameroon.
The station manager of Radio Metung in Abong Mbang, and high school principals in Lolodorf and Mamfe say, they intend to extend membership of the beyond 10 as initially established since many more students want to be members. Joseph Obi, radio station manager in Mamfe in the South West of Cameroon says “we will go even further to take a strategic measure intended to consolidate sustainability by admitting more students from lower classes and less from terminal classes as members. This will enable us have members stay on to maturity in the club. We can even have senior and junior debate clubs. That’s one other way to satisfy as many students as we can”.
"Proud to have UNDEF on us"
Joe Obi, station manager of Voice of Manyu (VOM) at forefront on photo, intending to discuss the possibility of creating another debate club in Government High School Mamfe.
In the locality of Meskine in the Extreme North Region, new members are also admitted into the school club as some have completed and left the school.
Photo: Democracy Debate Club in Maroua (with Talla Josephine, Staff of Change Comm, second from the right and members)
“Adversity is the mother of invention”, it is often said. True to fact, some radio stations located in remote rural communities of the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, and partners in the implementation of the UNDEF-funded project, “Developing Democratic Culture in Rural Communities Using Radio in Cameroon”, are showing extra-ordinary ingenuity in their efforts to overcome technical limitations in the production and broadcast of programs which entail listeners phoning in to participate.
This demonstration of capacity to innovate under difficult situations, was verified last September 2014, when Djibrilla Kongbi from Change Communications was on the field for routine monitoring of project implementation activities, and discovered how some of the stations were grappling with technical limitations. It was, and is, interesting how it all began for some village radio technicians to become so ingenious and dexterous in their efforts.
Last year in the months of June and July 2013, Change Communications carried out a milestone activity of the project which consisted of training 200 rural radio broadcasters, (231 trained in the end) on how to produce democracy-promoting programs, (interactive and discussion programs). But, one of the major challenges ahead was that, a few of the 70 radio stations involved in the project had limitations at the level of studio equipment to receive live calls from listeners and automatically exchange with them. This pushed some technicians into thinking and action.
Nformi Bouba, technician, explains that, “When our station manager returned from training, he called us together and told us that, it was very necessary for us to start programs that would enable listeners to call and take part. We had to something. That’s why I reflected and did what you are seeing now”.
Photo: Change Communications, Sept. 2014 Nformi Bouba, the village radio technician at work in Sky FM Radio, Ndu, Cameroon
Bouba explains that, in the past, broadcast from their radio, was limited to reading announcements and local news because of technical limitations. Guests were brought live into the studio to talk on health, agriculture and community development issues. Such programs were virtually studio monologues on “do this, don’t do that, it means this, it means that, it doesn’t mean this, it doesn’t mean that, etc etc. The listeners could not ask questions. It was not possible. It was sometime boring”.
And out of sheer ingenuity, it is possible now. The village radio technician went in for some scrap materials – (cables and appliances seen on photo above), and refitted them up into a fairly operational technical facility with the help of his lap top. The table and chair on which he sits and all else in his small “technical room” is hand-made from local material. And now the situation has changed. “I am really happy because, our radio is now lively. During our interactive programs, I receive calls from listeners saying all sorts of things. Sometimes some are even angry you know. Some get really hard on these local big men, (local government officials). It’s all exciting you know. Yes, I’m happy”.
In another station, the mobile phone is used in a rather new way by the journalist in the studio to make the production and broadcast of interactive programs possible.
After the training, Sky FM Radio introduced interactive programs on the menu. To overcome a technical limitation, the technician simply designed an adapted hand-made microphone stand.
Photo: Change Communications, (Sept. 2014)
Kwah Emmanuel Bobga of Sky FM Radio Station anchoring an interactive program using simple adopted studio technics and technology
The locally-made mike stands of wood are positioned in such a way as to enable the journalist to receive calls from listeners by mobile phone and re-inject the voice of the caller on air through the mike, (see photo above). This method is widely used by our partner radio stations. But, Kwah Emmanuel complains that, “It is quite expensive you know. You need lots of air time credit to run the program for one hour. But then, it has changed our station quite much. People call”.
However, he is hopeful: “We are thinking of going in for some kind of arrangement with some interested mobile phone service company to bring down the cost for us”. Adopting studio technology in village radios in Cameroon to produce democracy-promoting programs is quite an unexpected positive result of the project on using radio to develop a democratic culture in rural communities.
However, some of our partner radio stations have well-equipped and functional studios.
Photo: Change communications, Sept. 2014
Modern studio of CBC Radio station
(Photo: CC Sept. 2014)
Radio technician in action in a fairly “normal studio” during an interactive program
(Photo: CC Sept. 2014)
Djibrilla of CC, (first from left), discussing with a radio technician and journalist during the monitoring field visit
It has been noticed that, young women in some rural communities are now getting more and more interested and mature in community radio broadcasting. This development was noticed during a field visit to partner radio stations in the UNDEF – Change Comms project. In Ndu, Mburli Yvonne, 22 years old, trained by the project in 2013, proudly confirms that, “many of my friends are asking to know how I got into broadcasting. I tell them that, before now, there was no girl doing broadcasting here in our native language. But when the people of Change Communications came here, they said they were going to train journalists. They insisted that, the station manager must bring along a girl, otherwise, they would not accept him in the training. So he took me along. I was trained, and after the training he could not allow me to stay idle. So, I started work. Since August 2013, I have been working. I am really happy. People in the village appreciate what I’m doing even though they sometimes criticize me for mixing our mother tongue, our language of broadcast with English. But, I’m working hard to improve. There is this book, (Hand Book) they gave us during the training; I consult it regularly when I’m producing my programs. It is very useful. I’m improving every day”.
(Photo: CC Sept. 2014)
Mburli Yvonne: Change Comms insistence on gender balance during trainings incidentally made her get a job. “I’m improving every day”, she says.
In another case, a young women broadcaster indicates that, she has grown mature in handling interactive programs on the local radio. It was not easy when she just started. “I think two or three months after our training, I started anchoring an interactive program. It was hot. In fact, some listeners were violent on air. Some asked a small girl like me should be discussing some topics that ought to be handled by men, and not “baby girls” like me. That was annoying you know. One man out of the studio asked me whether; “talking like a man” is what they taught us during the training. In all of that, I kept calm. Now, nothing really bothers me. I do enjoy the programs. You see, many different people are saying so many different things, curiously about the same topic. Some people even continue with arguments and arguments in their homes and drinking spots, (beer parlors). Quite interesting you see”.
Tata Relindis, 20 years old, now quite mature in managing the cross fire of interactive programs as a young woman in a man-dominated socio-cultural setting.
Programs and programming in seven community radio stations working with us (Change Communications) in the implementation of our project: Developing a Democratic Culture in Rural Communities Using Radio Cameroon have been affected by spillovers of the civil war in the Central African Republic (CAR), to the east, and periodic incursions by the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram from neighboring Northern Nigeria to the west.
The radio stations slightly affected by Boko Haram activities in Northern Cameroon are Sava FM in Mora, FM Demsa in Gashigah and Echoes des Montagnes in Mokolo. Each of these localities is found less than 20 km away from the Nigerian border where the Islamic terrorists are operating. In fact, a French Priest Georges Vandenbeuch was on November 13, 2013 kidnapped from his home, a dozen kilometers away from where the radio house, of “Echoes des Montagnes) is situated. In early January of this year, Cameroonian soldiers launched an offensive in the small locality of Bankie, against Boko Haram terrorists fleeing heavy bombardment by the Nigerian air force. Bankie, the battle field is less than 20 kilometres away from Mora where one of our partner radios, Sava FM is found. None of these radio stations has suffered any attack from Boko Haram, but their broadcasts schedules have been disturbed.
Equally affected by conflicts are our partner stations in the East region of Cameroon which shares over 1000 kilometers of borderline with the CAR where a civil war has been raging for over 12 months now. The radio stations directly concerned are situated in the Cameroonian border localities of Garoua-Boulai, Batouri, Ndelele, Kentzou, and Yokadouma. In fact, our partner stations in Garoua-Boulai and Kentzou were recently forced to suspend broadcasts because the two localities were directly attacked by Seleka rebels from neighbouring CAR. In other stations, interactive programs were suspended for some time for security reasons. It was feared that, rebels could seize the opportunity on air and intervene to cause confusion and disturb the peace inside Cameroon territory. For the same security concerns, broadcast periods were shortened, especially as concerned night broadcasts.
However, it is important to note that, in some of the stations affected, the journalists Change Communications trained, are showing a good mastery of one of the modules in the training content, that of: “managing dangerous talk on air”. It was a module to initiate the trainees on how to manage a dangerous live incident on air, or manage a broadcast session during difficult circumstances. Some of the former trainees are at the moment ably using the radio to assist the government, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugies (UNHCR) in the border localities with the Central African Region. Radio messages intended to guide arriving refugees on what to do and what not to do are broadcast on radio. According to Cameroon’s Interior Minister Mr. Rene Sadi, there are 52000 refugees settled in 205 camps along the border with CAR. It is not an easy business to carry out messages on air to an aggrieved and devastated audience like the refugees. Some of the broadcasters are expressing the wish to have more specialized training in dong broadcasting at the rural level under conflict circumstances or situations.
In any case, the situation at Cameroon’s borders with the CAR and Northern Nigeria is gradually coming to normal following robust security and military measures taken by the government of Cameroon. It is our greatest wish that the situation gets to quite normal to enable our partner radio stations involved to attain some of our objectives – broadcast as many interactive and debate programs as possible within the project time frame. These are among key expected outputs of our project.