Scaling-Up the Impact of Community Media in Zanzibar

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© UNESCO

With support from UNESCO, new local radios mark recent transformation in Zanzibar’s media landscape

On November 4, 2013, the rains showering Tumbatu did not stop the men, women, and children of the Island from coming out in full force, joining Zanzibar’s Second-Vice President and other honored guests to celebrate the launch of their new community radio, supported by UNESCO.  As part of UNESCO’s growing community radio programme in the United Republic of Tanzania, the launch of Tumbatu FM is a landmark in a chain reaction of positive developments that community media has brought to Zanzibar.

Since 2007, UNESCO’s support to community media has involved the provision of broadcasting and production equipment, technical support, mentoring, and capacity development for community media practitioners in ethical, professional, and gender-responsive programming, as well as support for advocacy and policy dialogue.  As recent project evaluations attest, impacts have been significant, including improved journalistic standards of radio practitioners, observed reductions in early marriages, stereotypes, and abuse of women and girls, improved health standards and behaviors, better agricultural practices, greater civic engagement of youth, and increased local participation in improving standards of living in underserved districts.

At a time when there were no community radios in Zanzibar, support began with targeted advocacy and exchanges with the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, resulting in significant changes in both  policies. The result was the launch of Zanzibar’s first community radio in 2010, located in Micheweni, Pemba. It’s specific aim was raising awareness for girl’s education to address high dropout rates, and helping build and maintain peace in 2010 (a time of political crisis in Pemba).

Micheweni is one of the districts with the lowest social-economic indicators, below Zanzibar averages.  Malnutrition, child labor, gender-based violence, and child marriage are among its many challenges.  UNESCO worked in close collaboration with the Government, the community, and the Pemba Press Club to provide equipment, capacity development, and technical support, while engaging religious leaders, Sheiks, and teachers in consultations, with additional support from the UN Joint Programme and development partners.  As a result, the radio provided a new platform for dialogue and behavioral change communication, catalyzing a whole host of other local developments. Through a girls’ education advocacy programme called Zinduka, noticeable improvements were seen as people’s perceptions about girls’ enrollment in school started to change. Government services also improved thanks to the radio’s immunization campaigns for children. After many years of food insecurity, Micheweni district was also able to stop getting food aid last year, as Agricultural Extension Officers have been using the radio to promote drought resistant crops.

The successes in Micheweni enabled UNESCO to work with the government and local communities to scale up the reach and impacts of community media in Zanzibar. Local champions have been critical to power these radios as forces for community development, filling critical access gaps for the hardest to reach populations. As a result, approximately 40 percent of Zanzibar and Pemba are now reached by locally relevant and representative broadcasting, opening channels to access information on issues that affect their lives, and to make their voices heard.