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Voices for Peace Connects Communities in the Face of Violence

Voices for Peace Connects Communities in the Face of Violence

Voices for Peace Connects Communities in the Face of ViolenceIn June 2017, a spate of deadly attacks on the Niger-Burkina Faso border shook up entire communities. The attacks, allegedly committed by violent extremist groups from Mali, occurred in spite of stringent security measures imposed by local authorities as part of a state of emergency. In response to the attacks, the Voices for Peace program worked with local radio stations to foster dialogue by providing a safe platform to connect communities with their local officials.

The interactive Voices for Peace radio broadcasts, which include roundtables with local leaders followed by call-in segments, were immediately useful in connecting diverse members of the community. “These kinds of discussions with the population and especially our youth are key to combatting extremism,” said a local authority from the Tera region. In addition to its regular radio shows, Voices for Peace works with 44 local radio stations to support four public information campaigns aimed at fostering dialogue on emerging issues linked to extremist violence in Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

Equal Access’ approach is characterized by our signature Generative Communication Ecology, which utilizes media programming and direct community engagement activities as a catalyst for communities to share their perspectives, unanswered questions, and ideas via feedback loops that ensure programming is culturally resonant and useful. Our approach to social change positions community members as resources and change agents rather than passive recipients or “targets.” This is “generative” because community members inspire the solutions, contributing meaningfully to locally-driven violence prevention and social change initiatives. Their ideas, opinions and voices form the major part of our radio programming, either directly through calling in – or via SMS and Interactive Voice Response (IVR).

The radio call-in programs in Niger illustrates how vital the generative model is in building bridges between different members of a community. For example, some residents called in to express frustration with security measures. A local village chief said, “Closing the markets has resulted in famine. People invested everything in their crops. Right now is the season when people take advantage of the markets […] but if that is forbidden, what will the population do?”

The radio program enabled local leaders to express themselves through the broadcast, and community members to “talk back” through the call-in show. Without this two-way flow of information and ideas, local authorities would not have understood the impact of the market closure. By creating a mechanism for community members to express their worries and frustrations, Voices for Peace and partners helped avoid further deterioration of the situation and lessened tensions in a community at-risk for radicalization.  

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