#RealityCheck 2: Umoja – Radio for Peace in Kenya

04. Juni 2020   ·   Faith Chege

In this #RealityCheck, Faith Chege, Project Officer at “Umoja - Radio for Peace”, shares how COVID-19 has affected their work on community broadcasting. She explains how the radio stations provide crucial information about the pandemic to communities and argues that external actors should more effectively communicate with local actors.

1. What does your work on crisis prevention and peacebuilding normally look like? What kind of project were you working on before Corona?

The project UMOJA-Radio for peace started in 2016, just one year before the elections in Kenya, which is always a risky moment. The idea was to use community radio as a conflict moderator, as a peacebuilding tool to inform and educate the community members and stakeholders.

Our work on crisis prevention and peacebuilding normally consists of trainings and workshops for journalists and also other community “multipliers” like theater groups. Our journalists are trained in conflict sensitive reporting and in creating content in different radio formats. We mostly produce radio drama pieces that are dramatized by different community theatre groups. This content promotes cohesion and unity in our communities. It also highlights human rights topics like police violence or gender-based violence and civic education like access to health or public services.

We focus mostly on these four thematic areas: content production, capacity building, policy making and networking.

Before Corona, we were mostly engaged in trainings and workshops with our community radio stations all around the country. We started with 22 community radios in 2016. Now we work with 40 radio stations as we integrated 18 catholic radio stations which are also doing a good community broadcasting. The journalists are trained on different aspects of media activities and on themes such as conflict sensitive reporting, non-violent communication, fact checking and others. This impacts their work on the productions and the programing. We have also trained a group of colleagues to serve as trainers in our project. Each year we have new themes which help building the skills of the journalists. This year the main topic will be on multi-media story telling (if ever we can do some trainings this year).

#RealityCheck 2: Umoja – Radio for Peace in Kenya

Training held in Nairobi on fact-checking and content production
All Photos: Umoja Team

We also produce content that reflects the work of the Civil Peace Service (GIZ-CPS) and its partner organizations. This creates synergies and helps other projects to improve their outreach or to experience how they can work with radio. We engage our radios and theater groups directly when producing this content. This makes them feel responsible for the programs produced, as they reflect our communities’ life.

#RealityCheck 2: Umoja – Radio for Peace in Kenya

World Radio Day 2019                         Content Production Workshop

2. How has Corona influenced your work? What challenges and new opportunities are you currently facing?

The pandemic has had a great impact on our work, we had to halt all our activities. We are working mostly from home and having virtual meetings. Some of our radio drama productions were in the middle of being produced and by observing the government’s and ministry of health directives we had to pause.

We came up with a new strategy of addressing our communities by sensitizing them about COVID-19 through establishing a fact checking desk at Kenya Community Media Network (KCOMNET), which is the CPS partner organization implementing UMOJA-Radio for Peace. We verify messages, narratives and misconceptions to contain misinformation and fake news. The messages we are broadcasting with our 40 “member” stations are developed in different formats such as radio dramas, interviews and information spots.

Initially, this program was projected to run for two months. Looking at the different feedback that we are receiving from our communities, there are gaps that need to be filled. As the pandemic is unfolding we have extended this program and continue for the next two months with our information campaign. The fear of “the unknown” in our communities cannot be ignored.

Some of the challenges we experience result from the feedback we receive from the communities as well. For example, we had broadcasted a message on nutrition and one community requested of the station that was airing this message to provide food for them in order to stay healthy during the pandemic. Another community is affected by floods and people are displaced, they are in need of tents. We see the necessity of this humanitarian response, but that is something which we cannot provide, and it is outside our mandate.

We are looking at different ways of how to continue with our activities while observing the government directives, for instance how to conduct our trainings online and do several engagements with our journalists once the lock-down and curfews are over.

3. What kind of external support do you think is needed now? What can external actors like Germany do in your view?

The needs of our communities are different, but having the basics to overcome this pandemic should be the starting point. The communities are informed through our radio stations on what they should do during this pandemic but very often they cannot access even basic things like soap and masks.

Our radio stations also face different challenges: During this pandemic, they cannot access services as easy as before. When they have issues with their technical equipment, transmitters, computers, power supply etc. they cannot inform the communities and reach out to their audiences.

From the feedback we are getting, the communities in Kenya are affected socially, economically and health-wise during this pandemic.

External actors can partner with organizations such as GIZ-CPS and KCOMNET to reach out to these communities. The feedback from our colleagues in the different radio stations can be used as needs assessment and orientate other actors i.e. in the humanitarian crisis response. What we need very often is better networking, better synergies, and better communication between the players in the field.

Zivilgesellschaft Sub-Sahara Afrika Misinformation

Faith Chege

Faith Chege is a project officer at UMOJA-Radio for Peace, a project organized by the Kenya Community Media Network (KCOMNET). UMOJA – Radio for Peace is a project supported by the Civil Peace Service. @kcomnet