Expanding voices: Empowering communities through local radio

Hem/Nyheter/Expanding voices: Empowering communities through local radio
With its many diverse and vibrant communities, Ethiopia’s access to inclusive mainstream media is a challenge. The country struggles with language barriers and low literacy rates along with poor access to information in rural communities. Community radio addresses these issues and bridges the gap by providing a platform that amplifies local voices, languages and cultural expressions. By supporting the development of community radio, Fojo also supports equal access to information throughout Ethiopia.

Fojo has been instrumental in supporting the development of community radios in various regions of the country. As part of the media viability support programme, four community radio stations, namely: Hawassa Industrial Park, Kore, Wogeta FM, and Debre Markos community radios were selected. The stations received various types of support, from in-house mentorship to equipment support and training from both local and international consultants.

Each of the selected stations developed a plan to implement a project that was centred on on-air output, dealing with issues in ways they have been unable to previously and strengthening their links with the community.

Wits Radio Management Certificate Course following the first training sessions in December 2022, the second session of the Wits Radio Management Course was given in Addis Ababa in March 2023. 15 community radio managers from 13 different stations were trained. The training courses provided valuable insights and practical knowledge to enhance the programming and sustainability of the community radio stations. Feedback from participants was impressive, saying that the course helped them greatly to improve their respective stations´ performance in terms of organising strategic documents, formatting programmes, revenue and income generation mechanisms.

Equipment support

Debre Markos University Community Radio, FM_97.7, Wolayta Community Radio, FM_96.6, and Koore FM_92.3 community radio stations have received radio equipment and some much-needed equipment purchases linked to the programme planning, including telephone hybrids, solar energy equipment, desktops, tablets, condenser studio mics, sound recorders, and Wi-Fi dongles with an annual subscription. By integrating these modern tools, the stations can now create engaging and high-quality content.

“Our community radio station is now able to reach our audiences with no power interruption. We used to go off air often due to longer blackouts, but the support has now solved this huge challenge with solar power support,” says Jhon Kebede, Koore Community Radio Manager.

On-site training and mentoring support

To build capacity, the four partner community radio stations have been receiving mentoring and training support from local and international consultants. The training sessions covered various topics, such as programming, journalism, income generation, and technical issues, along with practical components that included drama production, vox pops and magazine show planning.

Thematic Support

To improve their programming and sustainability, community radios have recently received training in programming, content development, investigative journalism and community radio sustainability. The training sessions were very successful and resulted in the production of a magazine program. Besides that, training focused on strategic planning for the stations’ short-, medium- and long-term goals was also delivered.

In addition, to develop a strategic planning document for Hawassa Industrial Park Community Radio, a consultative workshop and meetings with journalists and management was held. Zelalem Tesfaye, consultant of the programme, says:  “The workshop was the major prerequisite of the strategic document to analyse the station’s internal strengths, weaknesses and external opportunities and treats (SWOT).”

Through these continuous efforts, Fojo empowers community radios to advance their broadcasting, which would enable communities to express ideas, ensure access to vital information and provide a space for voices that may previously be silenced by facilitating dialogue on crucial local issues.

Sofie Gullberg, Fojo´s Programme Manager in Ethiopia, adds, “supporting community radios in Ethiopia is a key priority for Fojo. We believe that community radios promote freedom of expression and provide a platform to access information for communities across Ethiopia. Our holistic support system focuses on management, content development and equipment purchase. We believe that the programme has contributed to a stronger community radio sector, to decrease polarisation and ethnification and to be a vehicle for community dialogue and local acebuilding.”

Fojo has been supporting community radio as part of its Media Viability Programme (2022-2023) with training, mentoring, and direct support. We remain committed to increasing access to media and information in Ethiopia and supporting community radio as a powerful tool for change.