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Awakening the voiceless, Capitalising on nineteen years of Swiss Cooperation support of community radio in Benin, SDC

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The media, when used effectively, promotes awakening and open-mindedness in communities, as well as strengthening civil society in citizen watchdog missions, and public au-thorities in their mission to provide public services. For this purpose, the media plays an important role in changing behaviour in respect to gender equality, health, education, agricultural practices and adapting to climate change. It also contributes to the consolidation of democracy, economic development, to the fight against poverty and simply to citizens’ welfare, not to mention its role in peacekeeping and so-cial justice.

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Awakening the voiceless, Capitalising on nineteen years of Swiss Cooperation support of community radio in Benin, SDC

  1. 1. Recommandations for technical and financial partners • Select the implementation partner rigorously. • Support the implementation partner with external perspectives (backstopping). • Facilitate and accompany both the implementation partner and nation- al stakeholders in networking. • Anticipate technical, institutional and financial sustainability from the plan- ning stage of the programme. • Develop a detailed sustainability plan at the beginning of the final phase. • Persuade central government to award a grant to community radio sta- tions for their contribution to broad- casting information nationwide. Impressum : Publication Bureau de la Coopération suisse au Bénin, Cotonou April 2016 Editors SEREC Sàrl, François PARVEX, www.serec.ch Alain TOSSOUNON, MSc. Journalisme et Médias, Cotonou, tossounon@gmail.com Illustrations Constant Tonakpa, constanttonakpa@gmail.com Translation Sarah Dunn, sarahdunntranslations@gmail.com Publication Calligraphy.ch SA, Sierre, www.calligraphy.ch Layout Jenny DAYER, compo@calligraphy.ch Paper Offset PlanoJet - FSC For further information : Bureau de la Coopération suisse DDC et Agence consulaire Lot 117 Zongo Ehuzu, rue du PNUD, Immeuble voisin au Corps de la Paix 08 BP 0123 Tri Postal – Cotonou Republic of Benin Tel. +229 21 31 47 37 +229 21 31 47 38 +229 21 31 47 39 Fax +229 21 31 47 55 cotonou@eda.admin.ch cotonou-ac@eda.admin.ch Education Recommandations for community radio RECRUITMENT Committed and reliable staff: knowledge, social skills and know-how DEVELOPMENT Anticipating financial, technical and institutional development: individualised action plans, supportPROGRAMME MANAGEMENT Precise planning, rigorous management of project cycles, consideration of diverse needs of community radio, communication with partners TRANSVERSAL FACTORS Mainstreaming of all factors: gender, governance COMMUNITY RADIO–TOWN COUNCIL RELATIONSHIP Subtle balance to be found between independence and collaboration. Facilitate, involve administrative officials TRAINING Ongoing training campaign throughout: community radio, local, national and implementation partners WORK TOOLS Endowments conducive to sustainability : real estate, facilities, infrastructure NETWORKING AND DIALOGUE Simultaneous networking at all levels with parallel skills reinforcement COMMUNITY RADIO Rigorous management: quality journalism, cash flow, staff, administrative body, archiving. Provision of methods and tools Education MANAGEMENT Must be irreproachable in order for community radio to play its role (confidence) COOPERATION Create viable critical masses SUSTAINABILITY Anticipate financial, technical and institutional sustainability STAFF Recruit quality staff and train them PROFESSIONALISM AND ETHICS Journalistic quality Editorial independence INTERACTIONS Exchange to innovate, horizontally and vertically CURIOSITY Awaken curiosity MOTIVATION Sustain motivation PARTICIPATION Involve listeners NETWORKING Involve key partners in the area from the outset SOCIAL MOBILISATION Stimulate community learning Broadcast in local languages Community Radio success factors Awakening the voiceless Capitalising on nineteen years of Swiss Cooperation support of community radio in Benin Listening to a programme on local public management together under the palaver tree The DDC Swiss Cooperation has supported these three powers for democracy. Firstly, the programme mobilised local communities to create and manage community radio sta- tions. Next, it supported the development of these radio stations. Finally, it facilitated relationships between community radio sta- tions and national public authorities and rep- resentation bodies. Principles of action Prioritising social mobilisation The programme priority has been continuous social mobilisation at all levels. Injections of knowlege have been organised in different forms throughout. It should be noted that Foreword The media, when used effectively, pro- motes awakening and open-mindedness in communities, as well as strengthening civil soci- ety in citizen watchdog missions, and public au- thorities in their mission to provide public servic- es. For this purpose, the media plays an important role in changing behaviour in respect to gender equal- ity, health, education, agricultural practices and adapting to climate change. It also con- tributes to the consolidation of democracy, economic development, to the fight against poverty and simply to citizens’ welfare, not to mention its role in peacekeeping and so- cial justice. Prior to audiovisual liberalisation, a result of the law passed in August 1997, the Swiss Cooperation decided in 1996 to help cre- ate a network of independent, strong and long-term community radio stations to serve communities in Benin. At the end of the programme, these covered a population of 4 million inhabitants. It also supported the creation of a support structure at a national level, in order to obtain a coherent system of private and public operators. Basic model for the programme’s intervention It is often said that in order to be balanced, democracy must be based on a balance of three powers ; civil society, the press and public authorities. Community radio has a vital role to play in our country’s democracy. (Lambert Dogo, President of the HAAC Private Sector Media Commission)
  2. 2. Sustaining motivation Sustaining motivation in both listeners and staff is crucial. Six factors are important in sustaining motivation. The two most impor- tant factors, which need to be simultane- ously combined in each individual, are the possibility to contribute and to grow. Pooling strengths In order to attain critical mass and thus reduce costs and better defend their interests, it is in the interest of community radio stations to form alliances. Cooperation between communities means an increase in the number of potential listeners, and perhaps also helps to facilitate relation- ships with town councils and political parties. The Federation of Community and similar Radio Stations in Benin (Fédération des radi- os Communautaires et assimilées du Bénin) (FERCAB) was created with support from the programme, with the aim of playing an important role on a national level through mutual aid and advocacy. In the field of gender equality, the RIF-Bénin association, which defends the inter- ests of women journalists, plays a crucial role. It has been funded ad hoc by the programme. Involvement of key players The involvement of town councils, even if they are often criticised on air, is essential. This is part of the « Three powers for democracy » process. Decentral- ised state services must not be forgotten, alongside traditional authorities, which have an important moral influence on the pop- ulation. At a national level, it is necessary to work with public authorities such as the HAAC and the Ministry of Communication of Information and Communication Technology (Ministère de la communication des Technol- ogies de l’Information et de la Communi- cation) (MCTIC), and with associations and NGOs which advocate on behalf of the press and journalists, such as the Union of Media Professionals in Benin (Union des Profession- nels des Médias du Bénin) (UPMB). Stimulating community debate Interactive programmes are one of the major components to have been set up by commu- nity radio. Subjects which interest listeners are gathered either to produce informative programmes or as a « grievance », to chal- lenge the authorities and suggest they take action. Radio stations thus play a role in ad- vocacy in favour of communities, and are di- rectly involved in the improvement of local governance. Anticipating financial, technical and institutional sustainability Radio stations must be prepared sufficient- ly early to be viable. Contrary to previously mentioned aspects, where a « one-size-fits- all» type of approach is sufficient, the prepa- ration for financial, technical and institutional sustainability requires a « tailor-made » ap- proach for each radio station or institution. Observed effects Public participation Community radios have had an extremely positive effect on citizen participation in life and progress in their region. It is estimated that 450 people are involved in running com- munity radios, an average of 40 per radio station. Additionally, each community radio receives over 2,000 calls per year, an annual total of over 25,000 calls from people of all ages. Emerging new talents Community radio has enabled many people to contribute to radio stations, and to grow. They have also become prominent in their region, becoming well-known, and in certain cases, recognised as opinion leaders. Among others, one very active listener has become mayor, and a radio station director has be- come an HAAC consultant. Radio stations have enhanced human capital in the areas they cover. Community learning Radio stations have fuelled the « spiral of knowledge ». They stimulate the develop- ment of expertise, for example, in the domain of agriculture, and also life skills concerning behaviour, for example, in health matters. By supporting FERCAB and RIF-Benin, the Swiss have proven themselves to be very far-sighted. (Kimba BA SEGUERE, Cabinet Director, Authority for the regulation of electronic communications and the Post Office (ARCEP)) basic training was organised for all those in- volved in any way with the projects. The directors of radio stations were auto- matically sent for around three months of training abroad before starting their job. This practice has turned out to be highly motivat- ing and efficient. Professionnalism and ethics The High Authority for Audiovisual Com- munication (HAAC), a constitutional body responsible for ensuring freedom of the press and radio, base their work on the Code of Ethics of the Benin Press (Code de Déontologie de la Presse Béninoise) edited by the Observatoire de la Déon- tologie et de l’Ethique dans les Médias (ODEM). User control Community radio stations are in the hands of their users and their interest groups. Most have been set up by interest groups : whether a retirees’ association, a development asso- ciation, a parents’ association or a growers’ assocation. Each radio station is run by an « Association for the Promotion of Commu- nity Radio ». Management is entrusted to a board of directors which has access to vari- ous commissions to help in its work. A Pro- gramme Commission plans programming that meets listeners’ real-time needs. Appointing qualified and reliable staff Employing quality staff is a key factor in a radio station’s success. People who are hired do not benefit from high salaries in relation to their training , but they remain committed to their community radio, simply due to their passion for their mission. Arousing curiosity By playing a « town crier» role, radio stations broadcast new facts to listeners prompting explicit learning processes and innovation in civil society. Systematic and ongoing training and capacity buildingPractical courses Pooling ideas and talents Study trips On-site meetings Negotiation as required Exploratory workshops Identification of subjects to be addressed Awareness Social mobilisation at every level Recruitment of committed and reliable staff Exchanging experiences They allow listeners to acquire and share knowledge, to develop new experiences and encourage capitalisation. Community radio represents a key progress factor, with wide- spread and long-term ramifications. Treasure trove of local knowledge In nineteen years, community radio has proved to be a treasure trove of local knowl- edge in the form of explicit memory, much of which is in local languages. It is important to build on this knowledge. Involvement The appropriation of radio stations by local stakeholders is crucial to ensure their sustain- ability. The involvement of public authorities too, as they constitute one of the three pow- ers of democracy, and can greatly contribute to their financial viability. Conversely, they should not be allowed to monopolise radio stations. The HAAC is very attentive to this matter. Gender equality The issue of representation of women on boards of directors and as employees remains a difficult one, due to sociocultural con- straints in the areas served by radio stations. Active women are criticised by locals. One positive outcome of the programme has been the support lent to RIF-Benin, a Non-Gov- ernmental Organisation which aims to promote and defend the interests of women journalists. The president, a member of the national radio ed- itorial team, started her career on a community radio station supported by the programme. Sustainability Technical sustainabil- ity should be ensured thanks to the investment which has been agreed on in recent years of the programme. Institutional and finan- cial sustainability require ongoing attention. Since the end of the programme in 2015, the tasks accomplished at the lnstitut Kilimand- jaro throughout the programme have been taken over by the FERCAB. Observed impact The observed impact can be summarised as follows : • Improvement of local citizen- ship and accountability • Revitalisation of rural economy • Better agricultural productivity • Better access to education and training • Better access to public services • Improvements in efficiency of public service provision • Diffusion of knowledge

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