A cardinal element in the community development strategy is “people’s participation”. It has emerged as one of the central ingredients in development in the recent past for many reasons. First, participation of people provides an effective mean to mobilize local resources, organize and tap the energies, wisdom and creativity of people for development activities. Secondly, it enables prior identification of community needs and helps to customize development activities to meet these needs.
Above all, participation of the people provides legitimacy to the project or activity promotes commitment on the part of the people in the implementation and assures sustainability. Recent experience in development activities suggests there is a significant correlation between the level and intensity of people’s participations and the increase in the success of the activities.
It is against this backdrop that most people considered the introduction of the Radio Listener’s Club by Panos Institute, West Africa (PIWA) as a laudable venture. PIWA in partnership with the National Forum for Human Rights (NFHR) have been working with specific groups that were already in existent in five locations, Kenema, Bo, Mile 91, Makeni and Freetown, known as the Radio Listener’s Club. The main aim of PIWA and NFHR is to strengthen the communication capacities of Human Rights Organization in Sierra Leone. The setting up of the Radio Listener’s Club is to give an opportunity to community people to be heard, by local authorities and decision makers. Create a forum where local people can exchange views and promote local or communities competencies in the management of local affairs and local initiatives to reduce exclusion or poverty.
The main objectives are to contribute to raise of communities concerns on Human Rights and development and amplify communities or citizens voices through local media-community radio.
Eastern Radio FM 101.9 in Kenema has been involved in the Radio Listener’s Club programme long before PIWA and NFHR initiative and they have done tremendous work in the various listener’s club communities through their agricultural project, like the building of agricultural stores, dry floors, supply of seedlings, water dam that supplies a large community in Kenema city and live broadcast from those communities. In Mile 91, the voice of the people RLC had thwart chaos on two occasions; the first one was on a murder case when two teenage girls allegedly killed a 17-years old pupil. Pupils in the murder boy school had wanted to draw the issue between the two schools, as they vow vengeance of their college’s death on the alleged killer school. The news spread like wide fire and there was total panic in the Mile 91 community as parent, pupils and teachers flew for their lives, it was the voice of the people listener’s cub member who went on the air to calm the situation down. Their next intervention was what could have boiled down into religious conflict between the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect and the Christian Community of Mile 91. This issue was also settled in an amicable manner by the voice of the people RLC members.
Since the setting up of this radio listener’s club in the five location, media radio listener’s club in Makeni voice of the people RLC in Mile 91, 3K’s RLC in Kenema, Muyepeh RLC in Bo and concern RLC in Freetown, members of each club have debated/exchanged views on their various communities radios. (Radio Makeh FM 91.0 Makeni, Radio Gbath FM 91.0 Mile 91, Eastern Radio FM 101.9 Kenema, Kiss 104 FM Bo, and Radio Democracy FM 98.1 Freetown) on the following human rights issues: teenage pregnancy, children in conflict with the law, kangaroo courts, sexual and gender-based violence, child neglect, domestic violence, rape, the festive season and the law, poverty reduction, constitutional rights and responsibility of citizen to name but a few.
Local newspapers, like the Awareness Times, Awoko, Democrat and the investigator have done publication of supplement of Human Rights such as “An open letter to young victim of sexual and gender-based violence, access to SGBV Justice VS. SGBV Justice to access, taking action to prevent sexual and gender-based violence lives of woe devolution rights, gender-based violence in post conflict Sierra Leone, etc.
CSAP-SL and National Coordinator- Radio Listener’s Club.