Community radios to revolutionize the national discourse

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the herald

Political Editor Lovemore Mataire-Group

When heavy rains hit the Chibuwe area of ​​Chipinge, a video circulated showing a local woman with her knees sunk in water, reporting on flooding in her area.

There were no domestic media cameras or foreign media networks. But reporting from a local community social media project in Chipinge showed the importance of localized information.

It is those who live in an area who can account for it more accurately than any outsider.

The recent licensing of several community radios across the country by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) is based on the maxim that it is the locals who know the developments in their areas.

Recognizing the need to empower local communities through information as it is disseminated, the Second Republic has made deepening and broadening access to information one of its key deliverable priorities.

It is no wonder that as part of expanding access to information, the BAZ, which falls under the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, has since 2021 issued 14 licenses to community radio stations across the country.

Some of these awarded licenses are now operational, an initiative that should revolutionize the distribution of communication in outlying areas not normally covered by mainstream media.

The newest addition to the block is Nyangani FM, which was recently commissioned by Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa to Nyanga Country Club.

Never before, since independence, has such a development occurred in the province of Manicaland.

Minister Mutsvangwa urged the station to take advantage of content derived from the rich history of the liberation struggle experienced in the region.

Minister Mutsvangwa said the radio station should be able to promote sustainable development as well as local languages.

The issuance of 14 licenses to community radio stations is a real milestone and a testimony to the sincerity of the Second Republic in liberalizing the media space in the country.

This sincerity is illustrated by the fact that the commissioning of Nyangani FM followed the launch of Avuxeni FM in Chiredzi a few weeks ago.

According to UNESCO, radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity and serve diverse communities by offering a wide variety of programming.

The prevalence of community radio stations in Zimbabwe is consistent with the government’s decentralization policy aimed at empowering local communities to decide development priorities in their localities.

Unlike mainstream media, which are largely influenced by commercial interests, community radio stations are generally unaffected by such idiosyncrasies as they are non-profit entities governed and serving communities.

They constitute an integral third pillar of the media, alongside commercial and public broadcasters, and an essential element of a healthy and pluralistic media sector.

Indeed, the objective of community radio stations is to address social problems such as poverty and social exclusion at the community level, to empower marginalized rural groups and to activate democratic processes and development efforts by Classes.

In line with the decentralization policy, community radio stations give a voice to people who do not have access to mainstream media, speed up the information process and contribute to the free flow of information and support creative growth and democratic spirit at Community level.

The decentralization policy is anchored on values ​​and principles that guarantee equitable sharing of local and national resources, including strengthening the participation of local communities in decision-making processes.

Given budget constraints, community radio stations offer ideal platforms to engage underrepresented groups to make development initiatives responsive to the needs of women, youth and people with disabilities.

As Zimbabwe plods along its Vision 2030 development trajectory, citizen participation and access to information remain important pillars to realizing this vision of an upper middle income society.

While the opposition political parties are obsessed with the negative policy of condemning everything undertaken by the government, the masses are aware of the positive initiatives carried out by the Second Republic.

They are aware that the licensing of community radio stations is in itself a devolution through the decentralization of information platforms to corporations and will build a holistic, participatory and inclusive information flow process in a transparent and responsible.

Communication for development expert Vivienne Marara says community radio is by far the best catalyst for dialogue and participation at a very local level, in a way that enables societies to collectively identify local solutions to local issues.

“With the way society has progressed, it is no longer just the prerogative of leaders to seek solutions to development challenges, but the role of every citizen to ensure that they are actively involved in national conversations. and local,” Marara said.

Like decentralization, community radio stations are an important communication tool for development that enables people-led and owned development interventions, which are an essential ingredient in the pursuit of inclusive development.

Decentralization and community radio stations catalyze the empowerment of marginalized and underrepresented societies to become proactive in determining their development agenda.

There is no doubt that the new dispensation led by President Mnangagwa is delivering on its promise to “leave no place and no one behind” as it moves towards an upper-middle-income economy by 2030.

The opening of the airwaves is one of those promises that come true.

Minister Mutsvangwa reinforced this vision when Avuxeni FM went live when she said, “We say that information about disasters and other events in Zimbabwe should reach all parts of the country in real time. We will continue to devote more resources to improving transmission in rural areas so that all of our people have access to radio and television services.

Apart from strengthening national cohesion, Minister Mutsvangwa believes that community radio stations play a vital role in the development of local languages ​​and traditional values, as the focus is on a specific geographical location using the medium of communication. common in this region.

It is encouraging to note that UNESCO is supporting government efforts to establish community radio stations in disaster-prone areas such as Chimanimani and Chipinge by providing equipment with financial support from the Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP) financed by the World Bank and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

In addition, radio stations will be part of early warning systems for disasters such as cyclones.

Support should also be given to the training of community radio volunteers to improve their skills in presenting content adapted to the needs of the areas they serve.

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