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A role for media: Empowering local voices in development debates

Mina Akrami's picture

“All human and development processes rely on the flow of information and communication between individuals and groups,” begins a PANOS paper. For communication helps donor countries, NGOs, development organizations, and other actors to understand the needs of the poor in developing countries, to form partnerships, to build consensus, and to facilitate change.   

Kindness Nehwon and Moses Kowllie work on producing a piece in the studios of the Liberian Media Initiative, which creates and produces radio and television shows, informercials and PSAs Media can play a crucial role in facilitating this flow of information. As outlined in a POLIS report, media can work to both build public awareness and support for development issues. It can also work to build a pluralistic public sphere where actors working in the field of development are constructively critiqued.

Public awareness is beneficial for both the public in donor countries and the recipients of aid in developing countries. As explored by a Guardian, media can help the public in donor countries understand how their money is being spent and that complex problems such as food insecurity require solutions that take a long time to demonstrate results.

To individuals, communities, and societies affected by the problems of poverty, terms such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are of little significance as these individuals are more concerned with daily struggles than global targets, elaborates the POLIS report.  Media can assist these communities in understanding how such targets could improve their daily lives while creating space for them to question these targets or other development strategies. It also provides a medium for them to push for development targets that are more aligned with the reality on the ground.

The Katine project is a clear example of media’s role in building public awareness in donor countries while giving the locals in the recipient countries a voice. Established by the Guardian and the Observer, Katine supports the African Medical and Research Foundation (Amrf) and Farm-Africa in Katine, Uganda.  According to Katine website, the project helps raise funding for the two organizations while providing readers insights into how the funding supports Amrf and Farm-Africa, the successes and failures of development work, and how the lives of  Katine locals has improved. Katine also reports on the locals’ feedback on Amrf and Farm-Africa, giving them a voice in the development process.

The Global Press Institute (GPI) also empowers local voices. Unlike Katine, however, GPI more directly empowers local voices by making them active agents in communicating about both the problems of and solutions to poverty. Using “journalism as a tool for development,” GPI empowers, educates, and employs women in developing countries to report the stories of their local communities. These women are GPI’s journalists. These reporters’ coverage of issues, often unexplored by foreign correspondents, empowers local voices, furthers transparency, and affects the global audiences’ perception of their culture and people. GPI reporters also increase access to information due to their contact with invaluable local sources. 

Women in the GPI training-to-employment program complete training and receive a job offer to work as a reporter for the Global Press Journal, the online publication of GPI. The institute has employed close to 160 women in 27 developing countries. Along with increasing transparency and empowering local voices, these reporters bring about a positive impact in their communities by reinvesting their wages on their families.

GPI and media projects such as the Katine project are creating a vibrant public sphere, creating pathways for the inclusion of poor and women in debates on how to achieve lasting development. And so, as the world moves towards adoption of sustainable development goals, media could play a key role in empowering local voices.
 

Video: The Value of GPI Journalism
 
 



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Photograph by Ken Harper via Flickr

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