AMPLIFYING COMMUNITY VOICES- AMANI FM RADIO
Amani FM radio station is licensed by the Communications Authority of Kenya as a non-commercial radio under the direct supervision of the Community Radio Council. The station offers broadcast services for community members of Tana River County. The main broadcast language is Swahili however; some programs run in local languages such as Pokomo and Orma.
The establishment of Amani was driven by the need to have alternative means of information to many people in the local community faced by high levels of illiteracy and widespread poverty. Low levels of internet usage and written media were less than ideal channels of information to the community. Besides, only the national broadcaster was available which was not focused on the needs of the community. The community did not have any information outlet to inform them about what was happening around them.
Amani FM, the first community radio in the Tana Delta region came to fill this information gap. The radio was established through collaboration with Health Communication Resources, a UK-based organization and The Sentinel Project. Launched just weeks before Kenya’s general election on August 8, Amani FM contributed to a peaceful election throughout Tana River County by keeping residents informed about relevant events, dispelling rumours, reminding everyone of the importance of peace, and encouraging patience as voters waited for the election results to be announced.
The radio station endeavours to empower the community and its target audience through the production and broadcast of high-quality and interactive radio programs focused on peacebuilding, community and national development.
In 2012 and 2013, the Tana River County was faced by violent conflict between the two major tribes of Orma (pastoralists) and Pokomo (farmers). The violence led to the killing of hundreds, displacing tons of people and many were injured. Many reasons were fronted as to the cause of violence such as historical injustices, competition for resources, ethnic politics and hate speech among other reasons. A research done by the Sentinel Project a Canadian based non-profit revealed that rumours also contributed significantly to fueling the violence. The research also found that there existed an information gap as most of the community members knew more about events happening at a national level as there was a national broadcaster but had very little information about what was happening in the neighbouring villages and county level. There was an information gap. One of the main reasons as to why Amani Center exists is to ensure the residents are the peace champions by providing a level playing field where all community members from different ethnic, political and religious backgrounds have a stake in the peace process by engaging in constructive dialogue, information sharing and leveraging on locally available ICT tools such as SMS and community radio to facilitate the process.
The Tana River County and its neighbours Garissa and Lamu have also experienced a series of terror attacks. The most affected populations have been the youth who are vulnerable to violent extremism and women who keep losing their youthful members of the families to extremist groups. Amani Center recognizes the need to use locally designed interventions to counter violent extremism. Presently the CBO has been certified by the National Counter Terrorism Center to conduct projects that assist communities in countering violent extremism.
YOUTH AND WOMEN EMPOWERMENT PROJECTS
Amani Center comprehensively employs capacity building as an integral part in addressing capacity gaps, on how to use the most readily available resources best suited to the organization’s goals embedded in a personnel development plan; with build-in incentives to apply the new skills; empowering/enabling trainees to train others in using available technology; clearly articulating the benefits to personnel development and the linkage of personal performance to team performance and overall organizational efficiency.
The organization tries to bridge the missing link of the untapped potential, comparative advantage & strategic resourcefulness of rural-based youths and women in the struggle towards realizing a supportive policy and social environment. We engage in capacity building training through community-centred media that enable these groups to have a voice in decision making, realize their human rights while advocating for equal rights in employment opportunities, access to essential services to victims of GBV and those who are affected by HIV/AIDS to ensure they live a productive and healthy life.
The high unemployment rates and increased levels of poverty inspired Amani Center to partner with Health Communication Resources and launched the Tuanze Biashara initiative which is a Swahili word for ‘let us start a business. The pilot initiative was designed to stimulate the development of ethical and sustainable micro-enterprises and entrepreneurship to alleviate poverty in the Tana River County. This project employs an innovative blend of media, social interaction, workshops and providing capital for startup businesses. The major objectives of Tuanze Biashara can be summarized as To stimulate, promote and encourage the development of entrepreneurship, which will result in the emergence of new, small businesses in Tana River County; To attract a new generation of potential entrepreneurs to listen to Amani FM with interesting and relevant radio programs that will encourage and help them gain insights into successful income generation; To encourage the use of Aid for Trade training material to stimulate viable entrepreneurial ideas that will result in effective micro and small businesses in Tana River; To help non-literate entrepreneurs by using radio and providing an audio option for use by community groups; To monitor, evaluate and learn from the field trial, to transfer to other parts of Kenya and the Swahili-speaking world.
Over the years, the Tana River County student’s performances have been below average. Adult’s literacy rate is low and school dropouts are on the rise. This can be attributed to lack of motivation to study, low priority given to the education sector by leaders, negative cultures that discourage education such as female genital mutilation, drugs and substance abuse, poverty among many other factors.
Amani Center uses different approaches in trying to address some of these issues. One of the interventions has been using the Amani FM community radio to ensure students learn while at home, promoting girl child education through school visits, distribution of sanitary towels and mentorship programs, running family dialogues that emphasize alternatives to negative culture such as FGM and early marriages and encouraging group learning.
Most of the secondary schools in the area are miles away from the villages and this seems to limit student’s study time. With partners, Amani Center is exploring the establishment of a community library and information resource centre that will provide a conducive environment for students to study in the evenings and over the weekends. We are also looking at the possibilities of having an online library where students can access resources at the comfort of their homes through mobile devices. Having a book bank built by the community for the community is a potential area that we are looking into.
In collaboration with partners and the Ministry of Health Kenya, Amani Center has been at the forefront in supporting communities get access vital life-saving information regarding the administration of vaccines such as Polio, HPV for girls while countering misinformation that arises in the process. During the COVID 19 pandemic, Amani Center used different information channels to support public health response towards the virus and this included Podcasting and production of content for Amani FM radio that focus on prevention measures, countering misinformation and demystifying conspiracy theories, episodes on mental health and anti-GBV campaigns.