The USAID-funded Peace through Development (PDEV) project in Niger and Chad works to improve local governance in target communities; empower at-risk youth to become active participants in their communities and the economy; and render superfluous ideologies that promote intolerance and violence. To this end, the carefully planned radio series and complementary media support activities designed and implemented by Equal Access spur dialogue on topics relevant to local communities; play a role in influencing social norms; forge connections between communities; and inspire positive action.
Equal Access’ staff of local media professionals create informative and entertaining radio programs and carry out community outreach activities based on proven methodologies practiced and refined over the past 10 years in our other international projects. The teams hold Stakeholder Workshops to gather important input for the radio programs, and Content Advisory Groups meet monthly to discuss and provide technical expertise for upcoming episodes. These meetings ensure the content of our programming is technically accurate and culturally appropriate as well as entertaining and engaging. In addition, Listening Clubs gather together thousands of listeners to share views on program messages amongst peers, and Community Reporters contribute to the series content and the presence of the program in the community.
Equal Access produces three radio series in Niger. Within these high-quality, national-scale radio programs, a range of issues are examined both to ensure continued variety and audience interest, and to address the full range of drivers that contribute to intolerance and conflict, including humiliation, corruption, perceptions of unfairness and a lack of means to address grievances peacefully. By promoting dialogue amongst the population, including among groups divided by tribal lines, vocational roles, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, or other boundaries, the programming succeeds in demonstrating a clear avenue for listeners to develop their communities through peace and stability.
All radio programs are produced using the Hausa language, spoken by the majority of the population in Niger. Additionally, two of the shows are translated and broadcast in three other languages: Tamasheg, Zarma and French.
Good Governance Radio Program
Hantsi Leka Gidan Kowa is a radio soap opera series focusing on good governance and addressing issues including transparency, corruption, tolerance and civic participation. This Hausa term refers to the first soft rays of morning sun that light up the entire house. The weekly series is created using the Sabido methodology and involves entertaining plots and characters with whom the target audience (30-60 year-old men and women) can empathize. Set in a fictitious village, the drama unfolds every episode to reveal common scenarios faced in Nigerien society such as malaria, alcohol/drug abuse, unemployment, education of women, and forced or early marriage. One of the strengths of fictional radio drama is the ability to create transitional characters who face similar challenges as the target audience. Throughout the series these characters evolve, gradually replacing their negative values with those of tolerance, dialogue, integrity, and good citizenship.
Youth Radio Program
Gwadaben Matasa (Youth Boulevard) is a presenter-led chat show centered on issues of importance to youth in Nigerand developed by youth for youth. Built on the unique and innovative methodology that EA has successfully implemented in countries across Asia and the Middle East, this dynamic and informative program elevates youth voices and empowers young people to take individual and collective action at the local level. Grounded with a core focus in imparting vital life skills, the show addresses peaceful ways of addressing grievances, tolerance, livelihoods information, problem solving and additional topics including HIV/AIDS, family relations, marital violence, hygiene, and the environment. Through the integration of life skills, the show deals with issues relevant to young people in Niger, addressing topics including HIV/AIDS, family relations, and marital violence, hygiene, and the environment. The format of the program includes an entertaining and informative combination of music, vox pops (sound bites from passers-by), interviews, and mini-dramas. Content collected by youth Community Reporters in all five target regions is also integrated into the show and each week an estimated 2.4 million young people tune in to the program.
To reinforce its connection with the audience, both series feature interactive elements such as competitions to win small prizes, as well as letters and SMS messages direct from listeners. The media teams weave this content into the episodes, allowing audiences to hear their input, therefore encouraging feedback loops and providing a platform for the voices of communities across Niger.
The religious tolerance radio series Sada Zumunci (Solidarity and Fraternity) promotes inter- and intra-religious dialogue in Niger. This magazine style series is co-produced by a local Islamic station. The series includes themes on the peaceful coexistence between religions, inter- and intra-religious friendships as vectors of ethnic stability; and the place and role of religious leaders in cultivating peace.
In a related activity to further support these avenues for collective dialogue on religion and tolerance, Equal Access also conducted a series of multi-day communications trainings and practical media simulations for religious leaders. With this training, these religious leaders are better prepared to engage with the media, thus strengthening their capacities to deliver tolerant religious messages.
FM Station Support
Equal Access supports FM partner stations through the delivery of a variety of trainings and equipment, to assist them and build their capacity to produce their own high-quality local programs around similar themes of good governance and tolerance. Some of the training includes digital audio editing, producing local call-in programs, integrating life skills into radio production and management skills.
To determine accurate figures of the broadcast reach of the partner radio stations, Equal Access visited over 40 stations in the PDEV regions in Niger, compiling technical information including the heights of the antennas, capacities of the transmitters, and GPS coordinates of the station. With this data, Equal Access was able to calculate the geographical coverage and estimated audience reach for each station and shared the information with the radio stations. For the first time this gave the radio stations a sense of their actual reach and this knowledge allows them to focus their limited resources in more targeted ways.
Interactive New Media
In addition to our dynamic media and community engagement activities, Equal Access is increasingly incorporating new media, particularly mobile technology, into our work. EA has been working with mobile platforms such as Frontline SMS, an SMS campaign management system developed specifically for use by non‐profits in developing country contexts, to integrate SMS campaigns with our radio programs and project activities. Using this cutting edge open source software our team in Niger is able to incorporate a breakthrough interactivity component that allows audiences to send specific questions, comments, or requests for information via text message (SMS). Information can also be sent out by our producers to listeners via SMS. Another new media technology that EA is implementing in Niger is interactive voice response (IVR). This engaging and simple audio format provides a valuable means for the program to be in touch with and responsive to the audience. In addition to receiving audience feedback, these new technologies, integrated with our radio programs and community engagement activities, expand the reach of traditional media and enhance audience interaction by making it more interactive, personalized and relevant. More on our use of new media is in this feature post on the National Geographic blog.