Building peace in the minds of men and women

UN inter-agency effort prepares community radio for disaster risk reduction

UNESCO, with support from Sweden, is working closely with members of UNCTS in Dar Es Salaam, Harare, Kinshasa, Nairobi and Windhoek to strengthen the capacity of 32 local and community radio stations in delivering humanitarian and disaster risk reduction information, advance their involvement in inclusive initiatives and communication for development (C4D).

The first in a series of workshops and C4D round tables has been completed in Kenya with the collaboration of UNISDR and UNIC to engage community media in the pursuit of disaster risk reduction. The three UN agencies met with Kenya’s community media practitioners in the eastern province of Meru within the framework of the Swedish supported project “Empowering local radio with ICTs”. The event brought into focus the vulnerability of an estimated 650 million disabled people worldwide, of which 1 million are in Kenya.

Six community radio and three mainstream media establishments were among the stakeholders that received an introduction to Kenya’s key actors in disaster risk reduction, as well as the national platform and coordination mechanism directed by the Disaster Risk Management Centre. A clear message was passed to ensure that the information needs of persons living with disabilities are covered through planned, inclusive and participatory approaches, particularly through community and mainstream media.

“Understanding the challenges of people living with disabilities is part of the learning process,” underlined Mary Casiraghi from Community Media Support. “Information on disaster preparedness and during emergencies has to include the language of the disabled and we all need to be responsible in making a safer society”.  

The national broadcaster, KBC, explained its governance structure and shared national guidelines on journalistic ethics in emergencies to more than 20 representatives present at the gathering. KBC is aware that a stronger national network is required to meet the country’s disaster risk reduction needs in an inclusive manner.

“More pronounced partnerships between the public broadcaster and the County Governments are needed to reposition regional radio programming resources,” said  KBC’s Henry Makokha, “Deeper working relationships with community radio stations are needed for authoritative grassroots interventions in disaster related matters,“ he stressed.

In the words of BBC Media Action’s Robert Powell, “Local radio stations have an important role to play not only in giving disaster-affected communities a voice to make themselves heard, but also to deliver timely, accurate and useful information to people affected by emergencies“.

Four community radio stations presented radio programmes during the event that were also aired the same day echoing the views of local authorities, elders, women and youth on disaster awareness. They demonstrated that the life-saving function of timely information prior to the occurence of a disaster is taken seriously by their audience and facilitates open debate as well as knowledge creation.

The event was not only about information sharing for Mwanedu FM’s radio presenter, Sophie Sangalia. It was an effort to build the capacity of media workers, to get them networked with key actors in emergency response, and to acknowledge media’s role in humanitarian affairs. “The event has not only created more interest and professional understanding related to natural and human caused disasters but also underlined the important role of the media in communicating with communities to inform, forewarn and help during disasters in view of the most vulnerable“.

Members of the NGO development community in Kenya also spoke emphasizing the importance of promoting inclusiveness, creating dialogue, nurturing resilience and equitable representation in the planning process.

“Building the knowledge and skills of community radio practitioners can make a difference in the way people think and act especially now when climate change is recognized as a major challenge that will aggravate vulnerability to disasters,” emphasized Jaco Du Toit, UNESCO’s Advisor for Communication and Information in Nairobi who organized the event with the assistance of Masakazu Shibata.

The workshop marked the International Day for Disaster Reduction which was celebrated in Kenya under the theme - Living with Disability and Disasters.