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Farm Radio Weekly is a news and information service for rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is published by Farm Radio International.

Issue #314

HIV and AIDS, 16 Days of Action, and positive responses to the Ebola outbreak

Welcome to Farm Radio Weekly!

In issue #314, FRW looks at how people living with HIV suffer from stigma in Congo-Brazzaville, the difficulties of getting justice for survivors of gender-based violence in Kenya, and education on the radio for students in two countries involved in the West African Ebola outbreak.

There have been marked improvements in HIV treatment, and legislation has been passed to protect people living with the virus. But many people living with the virus are still exposed to stigma – along with their loved ones. Our story from Congo-Brazzaville investigates one initiative to restore dignity and hope.

It is estimated that one in three women in Kenya will suffer gender-based violence before the age of 18. To compound this tragedy, justice is hard to come by: victims are not getting the help they need from the criminal justice system. Our story looks at some of the issues involved.

Authorities in Sierra Leone and Liberia have closed schools to prevent the further spread of Ebola. But students are still receiving lessons – by radio!

December 1 is celebrated internationally as World AIDS Day. We are dedicating our Resource and Script of the Week sections to providing you with useful information. Please use this content to update your audience’s awareness of HIV and AIDS.

Next week, Farm Radio Weekly will be taking a publishing break. But we’ll be back better than ever! To celebrate FRW’s seventh anniversary, we are improving the accessibility of our website and re-launching it. Find out more in the Action section below.

We wish you a great week! Until next time,

-the Farm Radio Weekly team

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Congo-Brazzaville: Stigma still a barrier for mixed HIV status couples (by Privat Tiburce Massanga, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Fénelon Mboumba sits under a mango tree cradling his newborn baby. He knows all about the stigma faced by those living with HIV. In his home village near Mossendjo in southern Congo-Brazzaville, villagers still struggle to accept those who live with HIV, and even those who live with an HIV-positive partner.

Ibouanga Madeleine is married to Mr. Mboumba. Because she lives with HIV, the couple were forced to relocate to the city of Brazzaville.

Mr. Mboumba says that living with other people’s negative attitudes is often more difficult than dealing with the virus. He adds: “My wife was pregnant and suffering from tuberculosis. We already had two kids. My friends and family pushed me to separate [from her] because she presented clinical signs of HIV.”

Although criticized, mocked and publicly humiliated, Mr. Mboumba insists he would never leave his wife because of her HIV status. The couple abandoned their cassava fields and moved to the city to escape villagers’ ridicule.

Tears stream from Mr. Mboumba’s eyes as he says, “I doubted [our HIV statuses until] the day when we came to Brazzaville to take the tests. The tests showed that I was negative but my wife was positive.”

After a short silence, he gives a wry smile and adds: “The relatives who had hosted us [in the city] no longer wanted us in their home. We spent two weeks sleeping under the stars, not knowing where to go. It was very difficult until someone told us about the Association Femmes Solidaires. [The association] took us in and helped us.”

The association encouraged Mrs. Ibouanga to start anti-retroviral medication, or ARVs. Three months later, her baby was born healthy – she had not passed the virus on to the child.

Sweeping the porch of their new home, Mrs. Ibouanga praises the association. She says: “I cannot thank the association enough. It renewed my taste for life. This trial has shown me how my husband supports me and how great is the ignorance about this disease. I suffered more from other people’s discrimination and mockery than I do from the virus that is eating away at me.”

Emma Tsoulou is the executive director of the Association Femmes Solidaires. The association gives moral support to women facing stigma because they are living with HIV. It also provides social assistance by taking the women in and feeding them.

Mrs. Tsoulou explains the association’s mission, saying: “When these women arrive, it is up to us to explain to them why they have experienced [stigma] either in their neighbourhoods, or from their extended families, or at home. We bring women together to talk; we create a space where women who have suffered similar problems can comfort newcomers.”

Each woman has different needs. Sometimes the association simply provides shelter. It may also offer financial support so a woman can buy food or even start a small business.

Mrs. Ibouanga is grateful for the association’s help. She is also convinced of the benefits of HIV testing, and of anti-retroviral treatment. She says: “I must [now] be a spokeswoman for the fight against HIV and AIDS. Since I stated ARVs, I have put on weight. I must follow doctors’ advice in order not to have a relapse. I was told that I could return to my village if I come back to the city every three months to stock up on drugs. I want to recover my children, and my fields.”

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Kenya: Lack of justice for victims of sexual violence (Trust)

Ms. Ayaimba could not believe it. A man walked into her office and demanded that his daughter be returned to him. He had been arrested just two days previously for raping the three-year-old girl.

Ms. Ayaimba is a local government official in an impoverished Nairobi neighbourhood. According to medical reports, the three-year-old girl had a torn hymen, bite marks, bruising and cuts. But the police officer who had released the man and accompanied him to Ms. Ayaimba’s office insisted that the girl be returned to her father.

Ms. Ayaimba says, “How could I give the child back to the father who was raping the child day and night?” She adds, “An uncle of this man, who is a very senior government officer, came to me and told me: ‘If you don’t produce the child and drop this case, I will make sure that you are fired.’”

Government figures show that one in three Kenyan girls experience sexual violence before the age of 18. But, according to campaigners, many survivors of sexual violence in Kenya are denied justice as a result of an “epidemic” of corruption and intimidation.

Doctors, lawyers, police officers and community workers at a recent Nairobi seminar on sexual violence charged that the criminal justice system functions poorly.

Suspects try to bribe and threaten police, judges and survivors. Public ignorance, stigma and poverty are additional challenges. Poor families often bow to pressure to drop the case in return for a few banknotes.

One police officer says: “I have been threatened on several occasions. I have had some cases where the complainant disappeared mysteriously. [Two complainants] have been killed.” Kenya’s police investigators are overworked. Morale is low, and they lack the training and proper equipment required to collect and safely store evidence.

Edigah Kavulavu is a lawyer with the Kenyan section of the International Commission of Jurists. He says: “People are not well informed about preservation of evidence. Also, [with] the taboo associated with rape, [many victims] will go and take a bath and … [thereby] destroy the evidence.” A forensics expert adds that sometimes crimes can only be solved by trying to match the DNA of a baby born to a victim of rape with DNA from the rapist.

Most victims of sexual violence are children, and most of the perpetrators are people they know. One doctor treated two sisters, aged six and seven, after they were raped. The doctor says: “[The perpetrator] paid a goat to the father and the case went away. Justice is never found, people are not prosecuted and the perpetrator is likely to repeat the same offence.” The doctor adds, “Some of [the survivors] are just afraid of going to the police. The family should be assisted to go to court and get the perpetrators prosecuted.”

But it is not easy to get justice, even for the courageous. Cases can drag on for years and survivors and witnesses run out of time, money and stamina. Prosecutors find it difficult to connect the survivors’ stories with poorly gathered evidence, or link the suspect with the assault.

A lawyer says that if the crime was badly investigated, and the evidence collected incorrectly, it is difficult to secure a conviction.

Ms. Ayaimba refused to hand the three-year-old rape victim back to her father. Two years later, the girl is safe and the case is in the courts.

Editors’ note: Ms. Ayaimba did not supply her full name to the investigating journalist.

To read the full article on which this story was based, What price the rape of a child? In Kenya, impunity can be bought with a goat, go to: http://www.trust.org/item/20141111115659-zgoko

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Sierra Leone and Liberia: Radio stations broadcast school lessons

Authorities have closed schools in Liberia and Sierra Leone because of the Ebola outbreak. There is no immediate prospect of reopening classrooms, so a growing number of students are receiving their lessons on the radio.

Tuan Tarper is a teacher in Monrovia. He says, “If a child stops learning for too long, you will see that child begin to decline.”

Maxim Blateen is the director of communications for Liberia’s Ministry of Education. He says: “In the midst of Ebola, the Ministry of Education has embarked on this program because we want our children to be engaged academically … we wanted to bring them something to keep them learning.”

Dozens of local FM stations are broadcasting 30-minute lessons at least twice a day. The broadcasts are aimed at children aged six and older. More than one million people in Liberia have tuned in since the programs first aired in mid-September.

In Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is partnering with aid agencies to target more than one and a half million schoolchildren. Forty-one stations broadcast four one-hour lessons daily.

Many lessons are purely academic. But others focus on health and hygiene to help stop the spread of Ebola. Each lesson is followed by an assignment.

Many children appreciate and enjoy the radio lessons, but most say it is not the same as going to school.

Hannah Bangure is an 11-year-old student at Services Primary School in Freetown, Sierra Leone. She misses spending time with her teacher and getting help on assignments. Ms. Bangure says, “For me, the lessons … on the radio are basic … but [they are] helping me to stay in touch with my education, rather than just playing all the time.”

Thirteen-year-old Mary Cole is a student at the Paynesville Kindergarten School in Liberia. She says, “It isn’t easy. This is radio, so you have to listen attentively to what they are saying. But we are getting it gradually.”

Education officials are aware that radio lessons are not a perfect solution, but they say they are doing the best they can, and adjusting as they go.

Mr. Blateen says radio lessons are currently the only way to help children remember the things they have already learned. He encourages children to listen to the radio, and think about and learn from the lessons.

He also wants teachers to help raise awareness of Ebola. He says: “They need to engage themselves and work with the community to fight this deadly Ebola, because that is the only way we will resume our activities and reopen schools.”

Mary Cole hopes this will happen soon. She says, “The government does not want us to be infected, so the decision [to keep schools closed] is in the right direction. But I am missing school very much. I hope Ebola will go so I can return to school.”

To read the full article on which this story was based, School lessons by radio in Sierra Leone, Liberia, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100838/school-lessons-by-radio-in-sierra-leone-liberia

To hear an audio piece on radio lessons in Sierra Leone, go to: https://soundcloud.com/irinfilms/school-lessons-by-radio-in

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FRW news in brief

1- Botswana: Court ruling allows LGBT rights group to register organization

In a groundbreaking decision, the Botswana High Court recently ruled that members of a rights group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT persons can formally register their organization.

According to Monica Tabengwa of Human Rights Watch, “The court’s ruling is a significant victory for the LGBT community, not only in Botswana but elsewhere in Africa where LGBT groups have faced similar obstacles to registration.”

In upholding the application, Justice Terence Rannowane of the Botswana High Court ruled that, although same-sex sexual relations are illegal in Botswana, freedom of association, assembly, and expression are important societal values. He added, “Enjoyment of such rights can only be limited where such limitation is reasonably justifiable in a democracy.”

To read the full article, go to: https://www.ifex.org/botswana/2014/11/14/basic_freedoms/

2- West Africa: One in seven women at risk of dying in childbirth in Ebola-hit countries

Women are dying in childbirth at an alarming rate in countries hit by the Ebola epidemic. Aid agencies warn that as many as one in seven are at risk because helpers fear contact with bodily fluids.

The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 800,000 women in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia will give birth in the next 12 months. Some 120,000 of these could face life-threatening complications and tens of thousands die, according to a group of 13 leading UK charities, including ActionAid.

Korto Williams is the head of ActionAid in Liberia. He says: “We have to do more to [prevent this]. We have to ensure that pregnant women get the care they need or we will see the rate of maternal deaths skyrocket.”

To read the full article, go to: http://www.trust.org/item/20141111000016-1mypz

3- Central African Republic: Crisis leads to ‘information blackout’

The Central African Republic is caught up in the worst humanitarian and political crisis of its history, with almost half its 4.6 million people in need of emergency aid.

The ongoing violence and turmoil in CAR has led to an information blackout. The country has poor mobile phone connectivity and the largely rural population relies heavily on radio. But the national broadcaster has ceased broadcasting and many other radio stations have been looted and shut.

According to Reporters Without Borders, three local journalists have been killed. A recent report by International Media Support found that “Central Africans are living in complete darkness as they have no access to information.”

To read the full article, go to: http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/11/central-african-republic-chaos-and-self-censorship-stalk-nations-journalists/

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Call for applications: African Great Lakes Reporting Initiative

The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) is accepting applications from women journalists to participate in one of two international reporting fellowships, both tentatively scheduled to take place February 13-23, 2015.

The African Great Lakes Reporting Initiative will provide training and support for in-country women journalists, as well as opportunities for international correspondents to work in regions of East and Central Africa that receive limited media coverage abroad. The fellowships include security training to help journalists stay safe in the field.

As part of the initiative, the IWMF will lead delegations of six journalists each to Rwanda and Uganda to cover under-reported economic and rural development issues.

The first three days of the fellowship include comprehensive security training and briefings by regional experts. Fellows will then participate in one week of independent in-country reporting and group activities, and will have the opportunity to interact with key stakeholders and local journalists.

Woman journalists and freelancers with at least three years of professional experience in print, broadcast, or digital media are eligible to apply for the fellowship. Applicants must be able to demonstrate support from an editor or have a proven track record of publication in prominent media outlets.

Non-native English speakers must have excellent written and verbal English skills in order to fully participate in and benefit from the program.

The IWMF will pay for fellowship-related expenses, including travel, lodging, meals and fixers/interpreters, unless the journalist’s news organization wishes to assume these costs.

For more information, visit the IWMF website at: http://www.iwmf.org/our-impact/african-great-lakes-reporting-initiative/

The application form is available here: http://www.iwmf.org/our-impact/african-great-lakes-reporting-initiative/application/online-application/

The deadline for the first round of applications is December 20, 2014.

If you have any questions about the application process, write to: greatlakes@iwmf.org

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A change is coming!!!

Farm Radio Weekly will be taking a publishing break next week because new and exciting website developments are coming your way! We will feature a new look and a new name.

As of December 15, 2014, Farm Radio Weekly will be called …

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If you want to learn more and help us count down to our website launch and new look:

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Also, follow us on Twitter:

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Look out for an email soon with more details about the launch ― and about how you can win a prize by getting your colleagues to follow us on social media!

We can’t wait to unveil all the new changes! The countdown to December 15 is on.

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Community responses to HIV and AIDS

Our script of the week highlights community-based approaches to coping with the impact of HIV and AIDS.

One of the impacts of HIV and AIDS is that uninfected people must shoulder an increased workload. Africans have established a wide range of social support activities to deal with this issue. Sometimes these activities are initiated by the community itself, and sometimes they are started and/or supported by governments, NGOs or religious institutions. The wide range of strategies includes:

  • loans and savings clubs
  • shared child care
  • labour-saving clubs
  • funeral funds/burial societies
  • social support groups
  • community grain banks

Coping strategies that are developed locally are often the most practical and least expensive to implement. Broadcasters have an opportunity to promote and support local coping strategies by featuring them in radio programs.

This script features two hosts discussing a variety of approaches to the labour shortages that often result from HIV and AIDS. Please see the end of the script for descriptions of some of the coping strategies mentioned in the script.

http://www.farmradio.org/radio-resource-packs/package-73-hivaids-and-food-security/community-responses-to-hivaids/

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