Boosting development with radio listening clubs

Meaningful sustainable development is only attainable if the processes and policies pursued involve ordinary citizens, particularly the underprivileged, and adequately respond to their development needs and aspirations.

Senior Programme Officer
Environment and Natural Resources Management
Panos Institute Southern Africa
PO BOX 39163
9028 Buluwe Road,
Woodlands
Lusaka, Zambia
Tel : +260 211 263 258
Fax : +260 211 261 039
Cell : +260 97 7 763603 / 96 7 763603
Ema

May 27th, 2013

Meaningful sustainable development is only attainable if the processes and policies pursued involve ordinary citizens, particularly the underprivileged, and adequately respond to their development needs and aspirations.

In southern Africa, countries not only face the substantial challenges of poverty, inequality and under-development but also the challenge of how to ensure that the majority of people, who continue to be on the margins of development and political processes, are provided with the necessary information – and, critically, the platforms – to actively participate in defining the kind of development they desire.

Malawi is a typical example. In an effort to turn around the country’s socio-economic problems, the government has embarked on stringent but essential macro and structural reforms in the past year, such as devaluation of the currency by about 50 per cent. In addition, President Joyce Banda’s government has rolled out an Economic Recovery Plan (ERP), which seeks to address a few priority areas that are ‘pro-growth’ and expected to result in ‘quick wins’, including social protection programmes, such as the Farm Input Subsidy Programme, public works, school feeding, scholarships for girls, and cash transfers.

It is imperative that the intended beneficiaries of these interventions are properly engaged and provided with an opportunity to add their voice to the processes that are intended to address their socio-economic plight. However, little effort has been invested in this critical area – until now.

With support from the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA), the (PSAf) – a communication for development organisation working in the SADC region – took up the challenge and set out to create platforms for informed and inclusive development-oriented dialogue among and between citizens and duty bearers through a project called (RPCD).

This programme, which is also being implemented in Mozambique and Zambia, will see the establishment of radio listening clubs (RLCs) in six community radio stations – namely Dzimwe, Nkhotakota, Mzimba, Voice of Livingstonia, Usisya and Mudzi Wathu. Each of the radio stations will work with between five to 10 RLCs.

RLCs are an effective communication tool to amplify the voices of marginalized groups and communities, especially when the listeners participate actively in the whole process, by raising their own key development issues, discussing them publicly, exploring options and seeking external support for possible solutions.

And through the community radio stations, these issues are brought to the attention of relevant decision-makers from local to national level. In this way, the voices of remote communities can reach the ears of the government in Lilongwe – and influence the thinking of key policy and development planners.

People who would otherwise have no way of contributing to development and policy are able to communicate through these radio listening clubs – and to influence policies affecting them. Indeed, Panos has witnessed a number of positive impacts from other radio listening clubs – and is certain that similar successes will flow from the Radio Platform for Community Development project in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

The original version of this article appeared in the Daily Nation in Malawi.

Contacts

  • 1 Hood Avenue/148 Jan Smuts; Rosebank, GP 2196; South Africa
  • T. +27 (0)11 587 5000
  • F. +27 (0)11 587 5099