A community listeners’ club is “a group of men and women who wish to listen to radio programmes actively and systematically with a view to discussing the content and above all putting into practice the lessons learned”. – definition agreed on by participants at a workshop organized in 2008 by FAO-Dimitra in Lubumbashi (DRC), in preparation for the creation of new clubs.
It all began in 2003, in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during a meeting between FAO-Dimitra and Samwaki, a Congolese non-governmental organization active in South Kivu and interested in creating a space for exchange and discussion between rural women in the region.
This first meeting paved the way for a series of training and collaboration activities between Dimitra and Samwaki, leading up to the creation of community listeners’ clubs in South Kivu in February 2006. In 2009, a similar initiative was launched in two regions of Niger, while other listeners’ clubs were created in Katanga, DRC.
The power of information and of using rural and community radio for development is well known. Radio is a media that can reach highly dispersed rural communities and be a tool for education, awareness-raising and agricultural extension, as well as a means of diffusing information and entertainment.
Perhaps less well known is the use of community radio as a participatory media for information and communication that focuses on action. This was the idea behind the community listeners’ clubs set up several years ago by the FAO-Dimitra project and its local partners in Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Inspired by the radio-clubs set up in the 1990s, today’s community listeners’ clubs go way beyond collective listening: they offer a mechanism for opening up dialogue and a tool for empowering rural communities. The clubs are spaces that stimulate mobilisation, dialogue, sharing of experiences, collaboration and above all action among men and women stakeholders in development. Community rural radio is the preferred media channel for disseminating information and facilitating communication, sometimes together with mobile telephones (as in Niger). As a result, the listeners’ clubs become a catalyst for exchanging experiences, for expressing opinions on the information delivered and for taking decisions on how to act.
Their internal functioning varies according to the context and country, but it generally follows this pattern:
1. Identification of a subject/theme: Listeners’ club members discuss their particular development priorities and choose themes they want to investigate in more detail. This process and the discussions that follow are facilitated by leaders, often women, who have been chosen and trained for this role.
2. Producing the programme: Once the theme has been chosen, the community or rural radio is contacted and the programme prepared by the radio staff. Radio stations also receive specific training to help them fulfil their role as a channel for discussion and provide the best possible response to the process as it develops. They deal with the selected issue so as to provide a response to the request made.
3. Active listening: The programme is broadcast and active listening can begin. Listening methods may vary (group,individual, live/prerecorded, etc.).
4. Dialogue and discussion: Discussions are organized within clubs and with other clubs, with local authorities and all other stakeholders. Support from an outside woman or man expert is sometimes offered, for example in discussions of themes such as HIV/AIDS, nutrition, agricultural inputs, etc. The radio
records and broadcasts the exchanges to fuel the discussions.
5. Decision-making: Discussion and dialogue lead to decisions for taking action.
6. Finding means of action: Members investigate means of action (human and financial resources, partnerships, etc.).
7. Actions: The actions planned are put into practice.
8. Feeding back the experiences: The experience, including the results, difficulties and successes, are documented and restituted to the communities.
(Source: See “Community listeners’ clubs. Stepping stones for action in rural areas”. Also available in French: “Les clubs d’écoute communautaires. Un tremplin pour l’action en milieu rural”. (Dimitra, 2011))
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