For the last two years SAPEP has been working with BBC Media Action on a project called MAKE: Media for Advocacy and Empowerment which aims to bring about development through the use of media by giving people a place to share their views. It sounds like a basic idea but if the rural communities can't ask things like 'what happened to that Rural Electrification scheme you started 20 years ago, I want to use my toaster!' then the government has very little incentive to do what they promise in the elections. This project, in the Monze and Mazabuka districts takes place in the form of public debates that are recorded and broadcast on local radio stations; the station involved today is called Radio Chikuni.
The topic of discussion today was freedom of speech and several guests, including the district commissioner, were invited to talk on the topic and had questions put to them by the audience. Some fantastic arguments were brought up by the 140 or so members of the community with gender equality a major subject of debate. From this perspective it was great to see a 50/50 mixture of women and men at the discussion and to have an environment where both sexes can debate their views on gender equality and freedom of speech. SAPEP use their skills in working with the people in these rural areas to suggest subjects of debate to the BBC as well as mobilising the community to engage in the debate itself. It was also great to see what 'UK aid' actually meant in the real world. You see politicians and T.V. hosts debating the quantity of UK aid but no one seems to actually say what kind of projects are supported by it. Well now you have at least one example to bring up at a dinner party and sound ever so well informed.
Here is the debate in full swing, on the left is the District Commissioner. On the far right is a Monze town resident who frequently brings sense and reason to the often over-enthusiastic rambling arguments of the radio call in sessions which are a daily feature on Sky fm, another local radio station.