For several decades now, radio has been one of the most appealing tools for participatory communication and development in communities. Community radio in particular has become the most potentially participatory medium with its roots in the community which guarantees that communication processes play a central role in the lives of members of a community. Community radio should therefore be viewed as an important element of a collective community communication system as it plays a major role in bridging the communication gap among local people.
Its potential and instrumentalities for role performance, capacity development and its ability to respond to the communication needs of individuals and institutions cannot be underestimated. Outstanding among its noble intentions is its potential to spread the social benefits of community development through the promotion of indigenous initiatives. Furthermore, it is through community radio’s corroboration with other media that communities are empowered to understand their responsibilities and rights in building democratic societies. In the case of Malawi, the many requests for community radios by communities attest to this.
The first UNESCO assisted community radio in Malawi, Dzimwe Community Radio Station, was established in 1998. It is located in Monkey Bay in Southern Malawi. A second one followed, Nkhotakota Community Radio Station in the Central Region of the same name, Nkhotakota and then a third followed on the watery district of Likoma/Chizumulu Islands.
Currently there are six community radio stations in Malawi established with financial assistance of UNESCO namely, Dzimwe and Nathepa Community Radio Stations in Southern Malawi, Nkhotakota Community Radio Station in the Central Malawi, Likoma/Chizumulu Islands, Usisya and Chirundu in Northern Malawi.
Now and again UNESCO, through the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO, provides assistance for capacity building
Recent capacity building assistance for community radios
Capacity building for the coverage of gender based violence
It has become increasingly apparent that women in marriages and intimate partner relationships, such as boy/girlfriend relationships, couples living together and in the general population, have emerged as social groups that experience a lot of what is now commonly referred to as gender-based violence. The acknowledgement that violence against women is a cruel, dangerous and an inhuman social phenomenon whose prevalence is on the increase, is probably one of the reasons that led to the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
In Malawi, like in most countries around the world, women, regardless of race, nationality, class or age are victims of physical, sexual and economic violence or even of feminicide. Gender based violence is a major obstacle to the realization of the potential women have to contribute to the development of their societies by taking part as equal partners.
The media has the potential to play a lead role in changing perceptions of gender-based violence in that in turn it can help galvanise a move for change.
It is in view of the problem of gender based violence and the important role the media can play in reducing incidences of gender based violence that the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO organised training in coverage of gender based violence. The objective was to impart skills and knowledge that would enable community radio broadcasters disseminate information that would lead to creating better awareness of gender based violence and its effects in order to reduce its occurrence thereby enabling women to fully contribute to the development of their communities. The training targeted the two community radio stations of Dzimwe and Nkhotakota.
Capacity building for community radios for sustainability
Under the 2016/2017 Participation Programme UNESCO has provided financial assistance to enable community personnel acquire skills and knowledge that will enable them operate their stations sustainably. The specific objectives are to impart:
- skills and knowledge that will help participants run their radios sustainably;
- skills in providing gender sensitive radio programmes; and
- knowledge and skills on how to write successful project proposals
The first training has since been carried out. Participants came from Likoma/Chizumulu, Usisya and Chirundu community radio stations. The second training will target Dzimwe, Nkhotakota and Chirundu.