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Refugee radio journalists on air in Dadaab

Refugee radio journalists on air in Dadaab

19/03/2013 – In February Internews’ Humanitarian Information Service in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps began broadcasting a Somali language program on humanitarian issues. ‘Gargaar’ (‘Assistance’) is produced by local and refugee journalists and broadcast daily. Internews receives support from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) and USAID’s Office for Transitional Initiatives (OTI).

When Somali journalist Shine Jamac was forced to flee his homeland in 2009 he first sought asylum in Ethiopia. It was not long before his profession began to cause him problems.

‘When I was seeking asylum at the border a journalist asked to interview me because it was World Refugee Day. He asked me what I did for a living in Somalia, and I told him I was a fellow reporter. In Ethiopia they do not respect journalists, so when they heard this they put me in jail for 20 days,’ Shine says with a rueful smile.

After returning to Somalia, Shine again suffered from an unfortunate coincidence. Whilst travelling through al Shabaab territory on his way to Kenya he was recognised as a journalist by an old acquaintance.

‘This was late in 2011 when the Kenya Defense Force was just crossing into Somalia. The al Shabaab people captured us and thought we might be spies.’ Shine goes quiet after this. He prefers not to remember his interrogation.

Now, one year after arriving in the Dadaab refugee camps, Shine is working as a journalist again.

The world’s largest refugee camp is currently home to around 450,000 refugees, and the need for information on basic issues and services is critical. Internews is partnering with local Somali language radio station Star FM to broadcast a daily program on humanitarian issues in Dadaab.

The program, which began broadcasting in February, is called Gargaar – a Somali word for ‘assistance’ or ‘support’.  Issues covered on the show so far have ranged from access to basic services, child labour, changes to health delivery, traditional birth practices or the role of community leaders in camp management. For Shine the response has been overwhelming,

‘People in the camp feel that this programme is theirs. They feel this programme belongs to them.  Many people with problems come to me now to share them and this is giving me many ideas for stories to cover. For example, I spoke with a disabled man who didn’t have a wheelchair, so I did a feature story about people living with disability.’

Shine is one of 15 refugee journalists who have been trained by Internews as part of the Humanitarian Information Service (HIS) project. With the support of Star FM and Internews staff and funding from ECHO and OTI, these refugee youth are currently producing the majority of the show’s content. Levels of experience amongst this group vary, and for youth like Sahal Ashli Hussein, Gargaar was their first opportunity to hear their own work on the radio.

‘You can imagine how I felt when my story started,’ Sahal grins, ‘I was so happy to hear my voice. Everybody in my household gathered around the radio to listen together and they were also very proud.’

In order to measure the impact of the project a baseline survey was recently conducted to assess information needs and media usage in Dadaab, the results of which will be published shortly.  A similar study was conducted by Internews in Dadaab in 2011 which identified radio as a key tool for improving access to information in Dadaab. Monitoring and evaluation of the HIS project is ongoing.

The Gargaar program currently runs daily for a half hour, although this is set to expand once construction of a dedicated radio-station in Dadaab is complete. In the meantime, Shine is just happy to be a journalist again.

‘I’m very delighted that Internews has been able to take me back to something that I have done for many years. After I fled from Somalia to Dadaab I never imagined I would be able to do this again.’

Kate Gunn and Rafiq Copeland, Internews Dadaab

A grant from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) has enabled Internews to launch the Humanitarian Information Service (HIS) to help refugees access critical, life- saving information and improve two-way communication between themselves and aid providers.

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