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Africa

Namibia: "Community Voices" journalist wins award

"Community Voices" for community radio is a joint project by DW Akademie and the human rights organization NamRights. It focuses on raising awareness of participation and human rights. Sometimes it also raises eyebrows.

New insights put into practice: participants of the Community Voices project with Michael Tecklenburg, head of DW Akademie's Africa Division. Photo: Dani Leese/ DW Akademie

New insights put into practice: participants of the Community Voices project with Michael Tecklenburg, head of DW Akademie's Africa Division

Nobody – absolutely nobody – saw this one coming. At the Namibian Annual Music Awards (NAMA) recently held in Windhoek, the master of ceremonies opened the envelope to announce the winner of the 2015 Best Entertainment Journalist category. Prominent and smartly dressed DJs in the audience were confident they'd hear their name called. But they were taken aback when they didn't. "And the winner is … ," paused the emcee, "… Gospert Kaffer of Kharas FM in Keetmanshoop!"

Gospert who? Namibia's leading newspaper, The Namibian, called the decision a "shocker", and Kaffer was pretty surprised himself. After all, he'd trumped a string of national stars. "Unbelievable," he told DW Akademie afterwards, and pointed out that Kharas FM only had a broadcast range of 40 kilometers. "There I was among all those stations that have huge listenerships and can be heard 200 kilometers away. Gozzy, I said to myself, you've made it! You're standing on the shoulders of giants!"

Dialogues on democracy and human rights

Proud to be up there with the stars: radio host Gospert Kaffer. Photo: Dani Leese/ DW Akademie

Proud to be up there with the stars: radio host Gospert Kaffer

Those words resonate with Eva Georgia. She's a DW Akademie consultant in southern Africa and head trainer of DW Akademie's "Community Voices", a project promoting participation, human rights issues and civic education in Namibia's local communities. Georgia spent several months last year training and coaching Gozzy and ten other radio volunteers. Whenever they had moments of doubt she'd tell them, "Don't worry … one day you'll be standing on the shoulders of giants!

DW Akademie together with the Namibian human rights organization NamRights, launched the comprehensive training program for five community radios in November 2013, with funding from the EU Delegation to Namibia and Germany's Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The focus was on promoting democratic dialogue and participation ahead of Namibia's national elections held in November 2014, and on raising awareness of human rights issues. The project included comprehensive training for community radio volunteers, with four journalism workshops and eight weeks of intensive in-house training.

New, comprehensive radio programs

Motivated participants producing quality reports. Photo: Dani Leese/ DW Akademie

Motivated participants producing quality reports

The "Community Voices" project wraps up at the end of June, but an external evaluation study has already determined its impact. Between January and March this year it surveyed members of communities living in the five relevant Namibian provinces; it then compared the results with those of a baseline study conducted during the same time period in 2014. It found that awareness of human rights among those surveyed had increased by two percent while their awareness of specific political rights, such as the right to form or join a political party, had increased by six percent. As for DW Akademie's partner NamRights, the survey found that its visibility had jumped from 47 percent before the project started to 66 percent as it now stands.

Five community radio stations took part in the project: Kharas FM in Keetmanshoop (102.3 FM), Ohangwena Community Radio in Eenhana (94.1 FM), Live FM in Rehoboth (90.3 FM), Base FM in Katutura (106.2 FM) and a new station currently applying for a community license, Omaheke Radio in Gobabis. All stations now offer programming that includes platforms for debate and discussion. In the run-up to the 2014 national elections, the "Community Voices" journalists covered electoral and human rights issues to an extent that was unprecedented among Namibia's community media sector, and produced 26 debate programs and 114 election reports.

"Listeners at the local level have never been this well informed about regional political developments and their own human rights," says Dani Leese, DW Akademie's country coordinator for Namibia. "Across the country, voices that were once ignored are now being heard." The evaluation study found that feedback from the communities was overwhelmingly positive. One listener from the Khomas region praised his community station for "covering the electoral process perfectly."

Well informed about political developments

Focusing on elections and human rights. Photo: Dani Leese/ DW Akademie

Focusing on elections and human rights

The project's partner, NamRights, was instrumental in ensuring the quality of human rights information included in the reports and debates. "Quality information is indispensable if citizens are to make informed decisions, especially during electoral processes," says NamRights Founder and Executive Director, Phil ya Nangoloh. "We're delighted with the project results. Our links with Namibia's community radios have increased immeasurably, and to the benefit of both sides."

As for Gozzy, standing on the shoulders of giants is just the beginning. He's currently working on a business plan for a new talk show and is looking for suitable university courses to further his studies. "Community Voices' has helped me stand tall in my professional life as a radio presenter," he says. "It’s enhanced my knowledge, encouraged my love for the media and taught me that if we stand together, we can be the change that we need and are aiming for."

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