30 December 2012

Tanzania: Another Legacy Left Behind By Late Nyarugendo

WHILE most citizen journalism efforts in the U.S struggle to get recognition, similar efforts taken around the world, including organization such as Kivulini Women's Rights Association (Mwanza), Radio Afya (Mwanza) and ABC Foundation (Musoma), who have started introducing similar training for youth and domestic workers will also become popular.

According to the late Nyarugendo who was the CEO of ABC Foundation, the purpose of training this segment of the society in the Lake Zone region is because domestic violence is rampant in the region and the media is trying its best to expose such infringement of rights to the decision makers and policy makers and the society in general.

However the Citizen journalism is meant to complement these efforts. Borrowing a leaf from The Middle East, the Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera, which is training citizen journalists in the use of new media technologies, says that it is not creating the news agenda but wants to amplify it. Some critics of the citizen journalism are against such training for no apparent reasons.

These are people who think that the African continent is stagnant. I was disappointed by a Western Journalist who kept shutting me out in our interview, maintaining that citizen journalism is not relevant in Africa and Tanzania in particular. I should state here that if such training is directed to youth and domestic workers it becomes a catalyst for people to talk and discuss such violence.

Those who perpetuate violence on children and innocent women are afraid that the citizen journalism will empower these two segments of society to expose their evil behaviour. Citizen journalism should be taught to all those youths in villages and semi urban areas.

Recently I was told that abuse of power or excessive use of power is rampant in rural areas. It appears that there are no checks and balances in such remote areas. Those in position of authority with impunity can put residents in lockup for days with no one protecting these innocent citizens or any form of interventions.

Let us agree that once the citizen journalism tempo hits in every corner of the country and with the use of SMS text messages any violence conducted even in the most remote area of the country will be known. Village and rural communities have some Youth Engagement projects, which can be used as one of the major pillars of violence prevention, taking into consideration that the youth are the fathers of today and tomorrow.

Some people out there will always say that it is all about empty talk. I want to assure you that the aforementioned organisations have already conducted some pilot training on citizen journalism in Mwanza and Mara. I was invited to witness the training two years ago where for the first time I was able to make a long lasting friendship, with the prominent human rights activist, the late Mr Nyarugendo.

For those who want to try this citizen journalism recipe, here are the outlines that you can follow with the help of media experts. For example, from my own experience in the said projects in the two regions, that I was able to learn from the late Nyarugendo was the commitment of such organisation in conducting the training.

According to Citizen journalism experts, using one-hour everyday to brainstorm with the youth on various issues that emerge in their communities, emphasizing that their role is that of a watchdog can have great impact. During the brainstorm session that I was able to attend in Mwanza and Musoma two years ago, the youth were very much interested in addressing community services that are problematic.

Domestic violence did not come up in their proposals to write a story in the small project that was given to them. Each student had the opportunity to propose a topic that they want to investigate and write about it. The majority chose to write on problems of utilities, services and environment degradation. The consultant who was training them reminded them to write on everything that is affecting their communities.

Emphasized was the importance of using the tools of analysis such as solution focused approach, human and women's rights knowledge, use the knowledge of laws that they have learned as well as the entrepreneurial and research skills. What the forces of evil have achieved is to delay the process of empowering youths in the two regions by eliminating a man who died in the course of protecting domestic workers and women who were denied their basic rights.

But it is another time for us to remember Mr Nyarugendo who died mysteriously. We all believe that one of the legacies he has been able to leave behind is citizen journalism at the grassroot level. Are we ready to join such forces to empower youths.

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