Ethiopia: Community Radios in Sensitizing Societies

As we turn the historical account of technology, radio is the oldest and popular means of communication and efficient platform that can transcend nations towards prosperity through sensitizing societies with myriad of information and helping them betterment their lives.

Particularly, because it is being accessible to the vast number of people mainly the agrarian and pastoralist communities, even in areas where electricity is unavailable, radio is a vital medium to disseminate information and sensitize new practices.

Community radio is of paramount significance in creating a civilized society through promoting harmonious existence and exchange of experience among agrarian societies. The platform is easily operated by illiterate and the pastoral community. The Ethiopian Media Authority manage to boost community radio in every corner of the country with the aim to access information in places where alternative media is unable to be broadcasted due to various circumstances.

Radio approach is also a key component and strategic input incorporated in agricultural and health extension of Ethiopia aspiring to improve the livelihood of the peasantry under taking a wide range of interventions in the areas of sanitation, hygiene, nutrition and maintaining peace and security.

The Ministry of agriculture in partnership with development partners has put in place a radio approach platform to achieve stretching goals of advancing life standards of the rural community. Accordingly, the platform has been gone operational mainly involving rural women and financing the sector with appropriate facilities. Various programs have also been designed identifying complications that would be solved through the launch of the service among rural community.

Meanwhile, remarkable results have been gained in terms of improving society's nutrition hygiene and sanitation. One of the interventions made in the platform is sensitizing housewives with life-changing information including disseminating nutrition related information, scaling up best practices which can be immersed upon the society.

With this same purpose, recently, the former Ethiopian Broadcast Authority and the current Ethiopian Mass Media Authority has distributed radio apparatus for remotely settled citizens to grant the right to information. In community radio, the public enjoy opportunities to express their feelings, share experience and evaluate the accuracy of information as they are active participants and owners of the programs. More particularly, credibility of information disseminated through radio and public led programs made community radio critical for all-round social change.

Needless to say that community led media and communication along with identification of agenda and target is integral in resolving disputes, advancing the lives of the agrarian through implementing programs of human interest and public engagement. Since the public are the owner and active participants of the media, it gives opportunity for the society to evaluate credibility of contents as they are speaker and listener of programs.

In Ethiopia where democracy is at its infancy stage and while there are various elements with varied interests for personal gain, the need to launch community led contents and prioritize fundamental interests of the citizenry outweigh identity politics and tribalism. Hence, the media is still believed to be a mandated and responsive institute to up line the country towards renaissance. This could not be practical and would remain to be figment of imagination and tentative gesture if there is a failure to involve segments of the society far from media and prone to be deceived.

Desalegn Aynalem, Lecturer of Media and Communication in Jimma University and currently working his PhD in Media at Addis Ababa University said that community media are media that are not commercially driven but typically devised to raise social awareness through producing contents that give information, and providing a platform for others to involve themselves in the program, express views, ideas and opinions freely.

It is an ideal alternative media for people with limited or no access to media as well as to those whose interest cannot be covered by other media. As to him, community media bases on the concept of Democratic Participant Media Theory which posits on the expansion of small scale media platforms at the grassroots with bottom up and horizontal approach whereby its operation and management is handled by the community where the media operate.

Ideas and issues for discussion come from the society not from the government or central authority. Hence, local problems are solved with local solutions and indigenous knowledge, he said. Desalegn further said that since community media focus on local affairs, it is an ideal platform where the community bring its issues and concerns of priorities for discussion and render possible solutions as well. Besides, its easy organization and ease of bureaucracy makes it feasible for the community to come with issues and societal affairs whenever it is needed and put it for public discussion and decision.

Community media is an ideal platform in nations like Ethiopia where diversified nations nationalities and peoples with diversified and uniquely complicated problems exist. The societal problem in a certain area may not be similar to another area, thus, they will have their own platform to prioritize their own affairs. The other compatibility to Ethiopia is manifested in the country's multi-linguality. Communities can use their own native language, he said.

According to documents of Farm Radio International (FRI), radio is the world's most popular mass medium especially important in rural Africa, where people rely on it for information. Available to practically everyone and broadcast in local languages, radio has the power to transform lives and whole communities for the better and, combined with digital technologies; it is more powerful than ever.

Thus, it is advisable to launch intensive community radio approach and adopt innovative digital solutions to make the world's most popular communication tool more entertaining, effective and interactive, thereby ushering peace than ever before in Ethiopia.


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