South Sudan’s ‘Rising Stars’ of Loreto Girls Journalism Club

Mary Jukudu interviews Loreto deputy principal, Nelson Kiarie.

Loreto journalism club member interviews the school’s deputy principal.

RUMBEK, South Sudan – It’s eight a.m. Monday morning at Loreto Girls Secondary School, 10 kilometres north of the violence prone capital of Lakes state. The girls line up in four straight rows for their weekly assembly.

Two students march toward the flagpole and unfurl the South Sudan horizontal tricolor flag of black, red and green. They begin to sing the national anthem in unison. Some put a hand over their heart.

Loreto student Mary Jukudu holds an audio recorder in one hand with a pair of headphones covering her ears. She has a look of determination as she presses the record button.

The national anthem ends. Jukudu approaches Deputy Principal Nelson Kiarie.

“I’m here to ask you a few questions. My first question is about the journalism club at Loreto. How do you feel about it?”

Kiarie looks surprised. This interview is the result of a weekend of oral storytelling and radio journalism training conducted by Internews.

“I think it’s a very good idea that young people like you have an opportunity to express themselves,” Kiarie said. “This is where we get leaders. You learn how to communicate with the public.”

Jukudu thanked Kairie for the interview and moved along to Samuel Gitau, known as Loreto’s disciplinarian.

“Why do all students fear you?” she asked playfully. The assembly of students and teachers laughed and applauded her audacity.

Last year, Loreto student Aruai Kedit founded the journalism club. In 12 months, it has grown to include more than 50 students and is now one of the school’s largest clubs.

Members write stories ranging from early childhood marriage to the need for girl child education to inter-communal violence among Dinka clans in Rumbek. It will all soon be published in the school’s forthcoming magazine, aptly titled Rising Stars.

“It makes me happy to see other girls want to be journalists. I trained them how to edit their stories,” Kedit said.

Candacia Greeman is a teacher at Loreto Girls Secondary School. She supports the journalism club and wants to see these girls become confident young women.

“I believe that journalism allows youth, especially girls, to give voice to issues that concern them. It also builds their self-confidence and their ability to eloquently present an idea or story, “ she said.

Greeman invited Internews multimedia journalism trainer Adam Bemma to work with the club after a few members expressed their interest in learning practical skills in radio journalism.

She hopes this three-day Internews training will help students learn how to eventually produce a radio science program specific to life in South Sudan, featuring Loreto’s primary school science club.

“The students have reported that they now understand how to conduct an interview. They are also aware of the ethics involved in journalism and the types of personal qualities they would need to develop to be effective journalists,” Greeman said.

Founding members of the Loreto journalism club.

Four of the Loreto journalism club’s most active members. All are aspiring journalists.

Plans for the Loreto journalism club, or “J-club,” to begin producing multimedia content, from audio to photos to online stories, began with this training. Members feel confident in their ability to tell stories and to share them digitally across multiple platforms.

“When Ms. Candacia said a journalist named Adam Bemma was coming to teach us something about journalism. I was like ‘let him come and we’ll see what he can teach us,’” Kedit said. “I’m very happy, I’ve learned many things. I hope he will come back again and teach us more.”

*Loreto J-club will soon receive Zoom H2N audio recorders from Internews to begin its radio science program, and to continue recording traditional and contemporary stories from elders and youth in-and-around Rumbek. All radio content created will be shared with Mingkaman 100 FM, also based in Lakes state, South Sudan.

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Nepal’s daughters on CBC TWTW


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Mingkaman Together: A radio special to ease tension in the community

Majok Guet on air with Mingkaman Together

Majok Guet on-air at Mingkaman 100 FM.

MINGKAMAN, South Sudan – “It’s not about my tribe, it’s not about my cows,” sings Afro-Jazz musician Mer Ayang. “I’ve got lines, I’ve got dots, I’ve got marks on my face. Darling please don’t you see I’m a South Sudanese.”

The volume of the song reduces slowly over the radio. The voice of Mingkaman 100 FM host Majok Guet comes in: “Welcome to Mingkaman Together, a special program to ease community tension.”

Sept. 7, 2015, protesters claiming to be the original inhabitants of Awerial County were demanding jobs. The young men were upset that humanitarian agencies had South Sudanese working for them who come from neighbouring states and counties.

Mingkaman is 130 kilometres north of South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

The protesters stormed the gate at Mingkaman’s humanitarian hub, where Mingkaman 100 FM is based. The radio station manager, Joseph Ngor Deng, was attacked by the protesters.

“I was sitting at my desk when between 10 and 15 people came in and carried me outside the office,” Ngor Deng said. “They took the belt off my pants and began punching and kicking me.”

The protesters forced their way into the Mingkaman 100 FM studio, assaulting both the cleaning lady and Good Morning Mingkaman host, Achol Kur.

“I was forced out of the studio and beaten with a stick,” Kur said. “I received bruises and had to go to see a doctor. He prescribed me pain medication.”

Kur and Ngor Deng are now feeling much better. Both quickly returned to work at Mingkaman 100 FM, the community’s flagship radio station.

All throughout Mingkaman, radios are heard in almost every home and shop.

Guet’s voice comes through the speakers at Mingkaman’s bustling market: “Internally displaced people are South Sudanese who fled violence during the December 2013 conflict. The displaced people living in Mingkaman come from Duk, Twic East and Bor counties in Jonglei State.”

In January 2014, Mingkaman was a sleepy, little, village. Following the outbreak of violence in Jonglei state, 100,000 South Sudanese crossed the White Nile, one of the two main tributaries of the Nile River, into Lakes state.

Today, Mingkaman is a bustling town with markets, roads, community centres, health facilities, a new port and bank. Guet continues: “With the arrival of IDPs, humanitarian agencies have contributed to this development.”

According to protesters, the main reason behind the Sept. 7 attack on Mingkaman’s humanitarian hub and radio station, was because they fear displaced South Sudanese living in Mingkaman are receiving preferential treatment when it comes to obtaining work.

Protest leader, Wuol Abiar Wuol, apologized on-air for the assault on Mingkaman 100 FM staff. He went on to apologize to the community and humanitarian agencies for using violence to try to gain more jobs for those claiming to be “host community.”

Guet addressed the lingering questions posed by his listeners: “Who belongs to the host community? Is it those who have lived their entire life in Mingkaman? Or only those living here before the 2013 conflict – when IDPs started to arrive?”

These are not easy answers to find. Guet hopped on a motorbike and drove from the radio station to Mingkaman town centre. He approached men and women, old and young.

What he heard next surprised him. It turns out information from the humanitarian agencies is slim to none these days in Mingkaman. This is a drastic change from 2014, when IDPs settled into the sleepy village turned commercial hub.

Nuol Gak Ajak listens to Mingkaman 100 FM.

Nuol Gak Ajak listens to Mingkaman 100 FM.

Nuol Gak Ajak, 52, is a father of seven who listens to Mingkaman 100 FM. He told Guet that more radio programs with targeted information from agencies is needed.

“This program brought us together. Mingkaman FM is the only source of information we have now,” Ajak said.

Rhoda Nyanyeth, 23, is a mother of two. She also listens to Mingkaman 100 FM.

“This program showed us that we must live together in a peaceful way. We must open our doors to interact with everyone around.”

Guet’s voice comes back in to sign off from the radio special Mingkaman Together. The sound of a strumming guitar comes over the radio speakers. Mer Ayang’s soulful voice returns: “I’m Warrap, Upper Nile, Jonglei, all the states. People please don’t you see, I’m a South Sudanese.”

*Due to feedback received from the community, Mingkaman Together is now a regular monthly program, creating a conversation between humanitarian agencies and the community, only on Mingkaman 100 FM.

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South Sudan: Reporting in the time of cholera

Rhoda Ateng at Bor hospital

Mingkaman 100 FM health reporter, Rhoda Ateng, at Bor state hospital.

BOR, South Sudan – Rhoda Ateng enters the gate at the Bor state hospital carrying her backpack with a radio recorder and headphones inside. She passes a makeshift cholera treatment centre, situated near the hospital entrance.

Peace has returned to the restive capital of Jonglei state, but residents’ lives have yet to return to normal.

An elderly man enters the compound, after Ateng, with the aid of a walking stick. He approaches the entrance of the cholera treatment centre and lifts up his right foot. Two young men spray it, then the other foot, with chlorine to disinfect the bottom of his sandals. The man washes his hands with the same liquid concoction in a basin and is allowed to enter for treatment.

Ateng scribbles into her notebook. To date, 114 cases of cholera have been confirmed since June 15, 2015 in Jonglei state. One person has died as a result of the bacterial disease that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. An outbreak of cholera is usually caused by contaminated water.

“I worked as a nurse before the conflict reached Bor. I used to give people proper hygiene information. There are many preventable diseases in South Sudan, but people lack correct information,” Ateng said.

In July, Internews hired and trained three new Bor community radio correspondents for Mingkaman 100 FM. Thousands of Bor County residents fled across the Nile River to Mingkaman, Lakes state in December 2013, creating a humanitarian catastrophe.

“The crisis” as it’s known to South Sudanese, displaced hundreds of thousands when President Salva Kiir accused former Vice President Riak Machar of planning a coup d’état, the overthrow of the government in Juba. Fighting broke out between forces loyal to Kiir and Machar on December 15, 2013.

Ateng, 27, lived in Bor with her husband and two children. Once the fighting reached the Jonglei state capital, she fled to Mingkaman with her family, leaving her job and relatives behind.

“When the crisis came I ran, by foot, from Bor to my village 40 kilometres away. My family decided we would go to Mingkaman for safety, so we walked to the river and crossed by boat,” she said.

To meet the humanitarian information needs of displaced South Sudanese, Internews set up Mingkaman 100 FM. The radio station’s logo is a barge, a flat-bottomed boat used to ship cargo along the Nile River. But in this case it symbolizes the connection of Bor, Jonglei state to Mingkaman, Lakes state across the river.

“Rivers and boats bring news and information, so does Mingkaman 100 FM,” said Nigel Ballard, Internews project director for The Radio Community, a network of six radio stations in South Sudan.

Rhoda Ateng at Bor market

Rhoda Ateng interviews a Ugandan market trader in Bor’s Marol market.

Ateng is Mingkaman FM’s health reporter in Bor. She returned to her hometown with her family last month. Mingkaman FM Bor bureau staff includes Peter Kuol, Chan Amol and Jacob Deng.

Kuol, 23, was born and raised in Bor town. His family returned from Mingkaman to Bor in December 2014, hearing that peace had been restored. Kuol waited to return since he was working as a child protection officer for Save the Children in Mingkaman.

“In South Sudan literacy is so low. The country has been at war for so many years,” Kuol said. “I want to educate the community to send their children to school. This will help South Sudan develop.”

Kuol is Mingkaman FM’s education reporter in Bor. He believes it’s the only tool worth investing in. That’s why he left his job in Mingkaman and returned to Bor. Over 70 percent of South Sudanese cannot read or write. This is one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the world.

Radio can play a huge role in supporting a community’s education initiatives. Mingkaman 100 FM plays a critical role in educating the community on a range of issues including peace building, connecting displaced or lost family members, even where to locate services offered by humanitarian agencies.

Internews TRC Network Managing Editor, Chris Marol, went to Mingkaman in 2014 to see the humanitarian situation caused by the conflict. He saw a village turned into a bustling town, overflowing with displaced South Sudanese.

Marol knew immediately that Mingkaman would benefit from a radio station. He now sees Mingkaman FM serving the wider community by hiring new staff to report on Bor.

“Giving information on socio-economic issues, peace talks and peace dialogue can [allow] the community [to] build a peaceful coexistence,” Marol said. “Having radio where a community of listeners can discuss issues that matter to them most is another way of keeping people informed.”

Ateng exits the hospital and begins to walk back to the Mingkaman FM bureau office located near Bor town’s lively market. Traders have already returned to Bor to resume business.

“I need to stop by the market to check commodity prices. Many people are unable to afford basic food items due to the economic situation in the country. I need to cover this story for Mingkaman FM,” she said.

*Mingkaman 100 FM Bor bureau launched its weekly radio program called “Panda Bor [Our Home]” airing Saturdays. The station’s signal now reaches deep into Lakes and Jonglei states, two restive areas of the country afflicted by communal violence.”

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My Community, My Radio, My Mahad: The story of a Juba IDP settlement

Riak Akech learned how to record audio and conduct interviews.

JUBA, South Sudan – “I enjoy doing the radio program because it makes me feel like a journalist. I would like to learn more about journalism,” said 18-year-old Internews trainee, Riak Akech. “There are many things I don’t know. By talking to my elders at Mahad, I can learn so much more.”

Mahad is an Islamic primary school located behind a mosque on Konyo Konyo Road in the heart of Juba, South Sudan. The school’s administrator, Nur Kur Nyang, allowed displaced South Sudanese to settle on the school’s property over one year ago.

Most of Mahad’s displaced residents come from the restive states of Jonglei and Upper Nile, where much of the early fighting took place when the conflict between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar began on December 15, 2013.

Akech moved back to Juba earlier this year from Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp. Her family fled her home in Eastern Equatoria state of South Sudan across the border to Kenya when fighting started.

She returned with her family six months ago and started working for Terre des Hommes, a non-governmental organization providing psychosocial support for the children in Mahad. This includes providing a Child Friendly Space, where kids living at Mahad are able to play games and learn in a safe and secure environment.

I taught Akech how to record audio and conduct interviews in the community. She learned so fast that by the end of the first week, we had an audio program ready to air for Mahad residents.

We called it My Mahad and episode one featured Nur Kur Nyang and others in the community talking about the history of settlement at Mahad.

“It was giving them voice,” Akech said. “It helped people by letting them talk about the issues they face.”

12-year-old Akur Mayen Kur is an aspiring singer. His angelic voice is featured at the beginning of the first two episodes. His insightful lyrics welcome people from around the world to Mahad, and call for peace in South Sudan.

Kur also helped out with recording messages of love and peace from Dinka women elders in Mahad. They were sending these messages to family and friends in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state. He also loves to listen to My Mahad on the community’s Freeplay Radio.

Each group at Mahad: Dinka, Anyuak and Murle, received a wind-up, solar-powered radio. I also gave one to the TDH-run child friendly space to play for kids, all eager to listen to My Mahad.

The youth in Mahad don’t have access to school. Only a lucky few are attending afternoon classes outside of the community. Most youth are left idle in Mahad with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Mahad is almost entirely made up of women and children. Of the estimated 3,000 internally displaced people living here, over half are kids.

A Mahad youth peace group performs street theatre and marches through the community to educate and inform the women, and few men around, taking a break from the afternoon heat.

The Mahad youth group listens to the mini-drama they performed in episode six

The Mahad youth group listens for the first time to their mini-drama in episode six.

In My Mahad episode six, a peace building drama performed by this youth group expresses the need to avoid tribalism in South Sudan and makes calls for reconciliation as well as an end to the current conflict.

Akech conducted dozens of interviews over the course of the month of June. It became a community-supported humanitarian information audio program that was played on the radios via SD card. Each episode was loaded on to SD cards and played at various collective points in Mahad.

The SD card with all the up-to-date episodes stayed with each radio, so it could be played continuously once we began recording the next episode. Once a new one was finished, we would reload on to each card.

Up to this point, Internews in South Sudan had only worked in Juba, Malakal and Bor UN protection-of-civilians sites to produce this kind of targeted programming. The Boda Boda Talk Talk program was started shortly after the conflict began.

At Mahad, a non-UN protected IDP settlement in the centre of Juba, we covered security, sanitation, education and health, all in the community’s three traditional languages (Dinka, Anyuak and Murle) including the two national languages (English and Arabic).

It was, at times, difficult, but we did our best to allow people to speak in any language they felt most comfortable with. This allowed us to record interviews with members from each group on different occasions.

During my time in Mahad I met a 19-year-old woman named Rimas with two young children from Nuba Mountains in Sudan. She was sharing accommodation with a Murle family.

A Murle family from Pibor, an administrative area located within Jonglei state of South Sudan, listens to My Mahad

A Murle family from Pibor, an administrative area in Jonglei, listens to episode four.

Rimas told me about her journey from Nuba to Juba, by foot, over two years ago.

Fleeing violence in Sudan, she made her way south via Bentiu, Unity state and Rumbek, Lakes state, only to discover more violence at each stop until she reached South Sudan’s capital city, Juba.

“There was fighting in Nuba, fighting in Bentiu and Rumbek. I came to Juba and the fighting started here,” she said.

Helen from Malakal, Upper Nile state shared with us a harrowing story of losing her husband and making her way to Juba with her children by boat along the Nile River, only to end up at Mahad which is only a short distance from the port of Juba.

Mahad is anything but a depressing place. The children are always playing and acting the way kids should act. The women are welcoming and always have a baby on their backs while cleaning, cooking or fetching water.

In fact, the organization that handed over camp management to the community last June, People in Need, told me an amazing story about how the community has risen to the challenge and completely taken over water distribution.

One South Sudanese pound (.10 cents) buys you a jerry can full of water. This money is then funneled back into the community.

Sanitation is still a big problem, as it is in most informal settlements, but the community is looking at ways to resolve this issue on its own.

Anyuak and Murle children playing at Mahad.

Anyuak and Murle children playing at Mahad, featured in episode five.

The My Mahad episodes were recorded and played for each group in the Juba IDP settlement of Mahad throughout the month of June, 2015.

Published @ Internews in Focus

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Kenya’s Community Reporters

Day one of a two day training for community media in Nairobi, Kenya

Day one of a two day training for community media in Nairobi, Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya – I believe in the power of community media to transform communities.

In my home country, due to the National Film Board of Canada’s Challenge for Change program from the 1960s to 80s, marginalized Canadians came together to speak truth to power through participatory filmmaking.

This tradition now continues in documentary film and on the community radio airwaves every day across Canada and around the world.

Today, social media is helping organize protests and spread information, but newspapers and, especially, radio still have the widest reach, making it the most relevant media to educate and inform marginalized communities.

Last year in Nairobi, I met with Kenyan community organizer and founder of the Shining Hope for Communities movement, Kennedy Odede.

The “Mayor of Kibera” as he’s referred to in the book A Path Appears, took me on a short tour of the SHOFCO office and its crowning achievement, the Kibera School for Girls.

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A girl in Nairobi’s Mathare slum teaches me how to capture an image with her toy camera

A mirror in Kibera

On the walk, Kennedy handed me the latest copy of SHOFCO’s monthly Ghetto Mirror newspaper. On the cover was a picture of its new Mathare School for Girls, located in Kenya’s second largest slum.

I had become quite familiar with Mathare as my friend Wairimu Gitau started an online radio platform for youth called Mathare Radio. Just like Kennedy, Wairimu was born and raised in a Nairobi slum.

The two realize that community radio and newspapers are a way to empower citizens to make informed choices and contribute to development in their respective communities.

In A Path Appears, Kennedy’s story of how he founded SHOFCO is shared by authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn: “He bought a cheap soccer ball and started a youth soccer club to unite young people, give them a purpose, and help them tackle local challenges…

Kennedy knew that he wanted not just a soccer club but a real movement, like the ones Mandela and King had led.”

Inside the Ghetto Mirror newsroom, Kennedy expressed the need and importance to train local journalists so they could better report on their community. I agreed.

My only condition was that we include Mathare Radio reporters so they could also benefit from any community media training.

Mathare Radio founder Wairimu Gitau

Mathare Radio founder Wairimu Gitau

Wairimu helped plan the training, as she’s also a dedicated journalist and media trainer. We decided to hold day one in Kibera and day two in Mathare. This would make it easier for everyone no matter where they reside (as Kibera and Mathare are on opposite ends of Nairobi).

I think it’s important in media trainings to cover the basics of journalism, what I call “Journalism 101,” but then it’s important to put it into practice by taking trainees into the community to look for stories and speak to residents, or “Community 101.”

By covering both slums we’d be able to gain a better idea of the common goals these two communities share.

Radio with roots in Mathare

Wairimu developed the idea to start a radio station in Mathare around the time of the 2007-08 election violence in Kenya. A lack of accurate news and information in the slum led her to launch an online radio platform.

Her purpose: to give voice to voiceless youth.

Ghetto Mirror newspaper editor-in-chief Liz Mahiri

Ghetto Mirror newspaper editor-in-chief Liz Mahiri

“I always knew I wanted to be a journalist. I felt the mainstream media wasn’t serving the Mathare community fairly enough,” Wairimu said.

She hopes to build a community movement, the likes of SHOFCO, which would include a radio station, a learning centre, and library for youth to find books on Kenyan and, more importantly, Pan-African history.

This is her goal. Mine is to support it. By developing the skills of reporters in the community, it can help empower others to share ideas on how best to make change, online or on-air.

During our afternoon reporting workshops, reporters pitched story ideas. The group decided to cover the most pressing issue: Kenya’s National Youth Service cleaning up Nairobi’s slums.

Equipped with pens, notebooks, an audio recorder and a video camera, we broke into three small groups to produce print, radio, video and photography for this community-focused story.

Media ethics for all

The result was overwhelming as most residents in Kibera and Mathare were willing to speak on the need for improved sanitation and how NYS was helping out in that regard. Ghetto Mirror reporter Eunice Otieno raised an ethical dilemma she faces often while reporting on Kibera.

“What should I do when conducting interviews and someone asks for money?” the 29-year-old mother asked us trainers.

Our response was to explain to this person that as a journalist you must never, under any circumstances, pay sources. Ethically this is wrong. We told her and the other trainees they should explain to residents that as community reporters they have a responsibility to give voice to the community.

This means they must go around and find different residents to speak on each story. If some refuse or ask for money, then it’s best to thank them for their time and find someone else to interview.

To provide a forum for dialogue, we started a Facebook page called Community Reporters, where media mentors like Wairimu and myself can keep the conversation with community media in Kenya, and East Africa, going online.

I believe this training gave the reporters a better understanding of their journalistic responsibilities, and made them realize they are all a shining hope for the future of community media in Africa.

The Community Media training for Ghetto Mirror and Mathare Radio took place June 27–28, 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Published online @ Medium

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Dharavi slum tours and poverty tourism in India

At Mahim Junction in Mumbai, India interviewing two Canadian tourists on the Dharavi slum tour.

At Mahim Junction in Mumbai, India interviewing two Canadian tourists on the Dharavi slum tour.

MUMBAI, India – ‘Slum tourism’ exists in many parts of the world and draws huge numbers of visitors, seeking to get a glimpse into the lives of the urban poor. But is it a modern version of a curiosity show or can it really help the community?

I put this story together while backpacking through India in early 2015.

This story aired on DW WorldLink June 12, 2015.

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#SouthSudan: Snapshots of Mingkaman. Bird lovers nerding out on a boat in the Nile River.

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