Panos Institute Southern Africa has scaled up cooperation with community radio stations in Malawi to strengthen their use of local languages to amplify voices of the poor and marginalized on development issues.
From 16 to 19 April 2013 representatives of six community radio stations from across Malawi gathered in Lilongwe to discuss ways in which they can amplify local voices on development issues. The meeting was part of the Radio Platform for Community Development (RPCD), a regional project that PSAf is implementing in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique with funding from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).
Representatives of Dzimwe, Usisya, Nkhotakota, Mzimba Voice of Livingstonia and Mudziwathu Community radio stations used the meeting to discuss the best ways in which they could be transformed into community platforms that allow for diverse community issues to be discussed and debated for possible better societies. The participants emphasised the use of local languages as one of the powerful tools that could help them become effective platforms for public participation in development debate.
In opening the meeting on Tuesday 16 April, PSAf Board member from Malawi, Mr. Grey Mang’anda said community radio stations were greeat as allies for community development. He said a transformed community radio station could be the missing link in rapidly developing poor and marginalized communities through their improved development content and coverage of topical issues affecting their communities.
“PSAf works to transform media institutions into vehicles of development by building the capacity of media, especially community radio and their journalists into positive development agents,” he said.
PSAf is introducing a radio platform for community development project that will be implemented in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. The project, which is funded by OSISA, is aimed at building the capacity of radio stations to accept and encourage development content produced by local members of their community through radio listening clubs and other community groupings.
PSAf Regional Programme Manager for Media Development and ICTs Mr. Elias Banda said Malawi had a unique community media sector that works closely with the community they broadcast to. He said the fact that they use local language in their broadcast and programming makes the radio stations an easy partner to communicate development to the very least within the community.
“Most development programmes are hampered because of the barrier of language and the rejection of foreign players. But having a community radio that speaks and uses the local language and understand local culture puts community radio into a unique position to drive community development in their areas,” Mr. Banda said.
Through the project, PSAf will provide finance, equipment and training to the six radio stations to produce content and programmes on community development issues on health, education, agriculture and food security, environment and climate change, among others. The project will also facilitate exchange programmes between the participating community radio stations in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.
The Media Development and ICTs Programme of PSAf promotes the development of independent and pluralistic media in the SADC region so that there are many platforms for citizens to effectively participate in the development efforts of their communities.