For some time, SAPEP have been partnering with the BBC and the Zambia Council for Social Development to run the MAKE Project. The aim of the MAKE (Media for Accountability & Empowerment) Project is to use media to give communities a voice and equip them with the information they need to address problems in their local area.
In March 2013, PEPAIDS Founder and CEO, Helen Allen, went along to see the project in action:
Every Saturday at 12:00 midday, a group of villagers from St Mary’s in Monze District gather under a tree. A group of citizens, carefully selected to ensure that there is a balance of men, women and youth of various viewpoints, that are representative of the wider community. Their mission: to come, to question and to conquer! They have no radio, so the SAPEP vehicle, doors wide open and radio on, full blast, is their media platform and Wilson Nyirenda, SAPEP CEO, armed with a dictaphone to record their feedback, is their citizen journalist!
Doors open and radio on full blast- SAPEP literally provides the vehicle for the group to listen to the show
Today the debate is about the problem of youth unemployment. The radio panel is made up of of politicians from different of parties and leaders of relevant civil groups. The debate is driven by the views and questions of ordinary people from across Zambia, who are enabled to phone and text in by funding from the MAKE project. Emotions run high as people press the Government representative for answers about exactly how they will deliver on their pledge to empower the 68% of the Zambian population that is youth. In the last 18 months, nobody has seen any tangible change…
Although, in this instance, the politician struggled to provide any satisfactory response, I learnt that this method of high profile debate, facilitated by the MAKE Project, has produced some outstanding change. Putting the media spotlight on a problem and alerting people to their rights, exerts a pressure that causes people to take action. Examples include everything from getting local Government to build a concrete bridge in Chikuni and address serious sanitation issues elsewhere; to equipping widows with knowledge of their rights, thus enabling them stop their late-husband’s relatives from trampling their crops and stealing their produce.
The MAKE meeting is an intense three and a half hours long. Delivered in the local language, to enable as wide a community participation as possible, and then diligently translated into English by the radio show host, I did my best to keep up! After the radio debate, Citizen Journalist, Wilson, facilitated a discussion on a new topic and recorded the group’s views and experiences on a new topic for the following week’s show.
I departed, with almost every cell of brain capacity exhausted, but hugely encouraged! This project was only possible because NGOs like SAPEP exist. SAPEP’s long-standing relationship with local communities and expertise in mobilising them to form action groups, provided the vital link in enabling these larger organisations to come together and deliver a project that gave a voice to the most vulnerable and made a meaningful difference to their lives. Without PEPAIDS and your support, it wouldn’t have been possible either!
Testimonies form the communities - Putting words into Action!