Using Radio to Promote Peace: The Tea Garden Tamils.Asia In the FieldPublished October 26, 2011 at 10:46 1 Comment
FrontlineSMS in combination with radio has great potential for use as a peacebuilding tool. Hussain Abdullah from FrontlineSMS:Radio recently spoke with Francis Rolt, who was previously the Director of Radio for Search for Common Ground (SFCG) and is the founder of Radio for Peace Building, to find out how FrontlineSMS has been used in efforts to promote peace building using radio and other media.
Radio for Peace Building is an organisation which provides advice and training on using radio for behaviour change communication, in particular for the peaceful transformation of conflicts in pre-, current or post conflict contexts. In this post, Francis describes Radio for Peace Building’s most recent support on an SFCG project working with the Tea Garden Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Francis told us about his recent work with Search for Common Ground. “SFCG is working with the Tea Garden Tamils, who are quite distinct from the Tamils in the North – a different sort of demographic – who came to Sri Lanka at a different time. As part of an inclusive citizenship project, we are helping to organise a series of radio talk shows and audio dramas.” The drama narratives and topics of the talk shows would be guided by the use of mobile to make it a truly inclusive project.
This work forms a part of the ‘Promoting Active Civic Participation in the Hill Country’ project, which sets out to build the leadership capacity of youth in the plantation community encouraging them to engage in community development activities. The audio dramas allow sensitive or relevant issues to be handled in suitable ways which are not strictly academic. For example, sensitive domestic issues can be explored in a drama set around a family, or sex education can be delivered through a show hosted by young people. This means that the target audience can relate to the issues covered and as a result there is more chance they’ll listen in.
Francis explained how SFCG are making use of the wide reach and low cost of the radio medium, so that the wider community can be involved in the creation of the show itself. “The Tea Garden Tamils all have radios, making it the most sensible communications option to use. Also, it is much, much cheaper to produce things for radio than for T.V: you’re talking about a 50 fold difference.”
It is clear that radio must be complimented with good community interaction. “SFCG will use FrontlineSMS to get feedback from the target audience about the programmes; to find out who was listening, to get feedback and to run competitions,” Francis continued that this interaction allows the community to retain ownership of peace building processes because “suggestions to guide the direction that the drama should take can come from the listeners themselves.”
“It’s not about having an idea about how peace can be, or how conflicts can be resolved and then telling all the parties involved that this is what they need to do. It’s more a question of helping communities to see their way through a process.”
By asking people to text in responses to simple questions regarding changes in behaviour, appealing to audiences can also be used to help to evaluate projects and help them resolve their own conflicts. Francis added, that for impact analysis, “FrontlineSMS can be very useful and very powerful.”
An interesting point that emerged when speaking with Francis, was that the peace building potential for radio is largely unrecognised by radio programmers. Francis explained, “Many of the people I have trained in peace building radio have come away saying, ‘Wow, I wish I knew all this before, we used to just make programmes and didn’t know what the possible impact was or what we could be doing with that.’ Often people are just making programmes and aren’t thinking about how or what they could achieve.”
Francis concluded by saying, “I had a message the other day saying that the training I provided community radio stations in Nepal had become popular, and has inspired more stations into running talk shows.”
The talk show model seems to have been very successful because of the way it let people discuss their issues in a controlled environment. It also legitimated the talk shows as another avenue for resolving disputes, “many of these radio stations are now asked by the police, who can’t resolve a local conflict to take on an issue and discuss it on their talk show.”
This work in Sri Lanka and Nepal has highlighted intriguing ways in which communities can use radio in combination with FrontlineSMS to help people produce changes in their society that they want to see and, in the above case, bolster community conflict resolution mechanisms.
To find out more about SFCG’s work visit: Search for Common Ground