This news story is based on a Claim Your Water Rights project campaign organized End Water Poverty.
This is a global mobilisation campaign that aims to awaken people to the injustice of their situation and spur them to claim their human rights to safe water and sanitation.
People have the power to take on governments and contracted private companies who do not provide safe, affordable water and sanitation services.
You can read more: https://www.endwaterpoverty.org/Claim-Your-Water-Rights-FAQ
On February 13, Media for Community Empowerment (MECE) aired a radio show on Pambazuko FM, which is based in Kilombero, Tanzania. This marked the beginning of our #ClaimYourWaterRights campaign, in which we used local radio to raise awareness of people’s human rights to water and sanitation.
MECE produced and aired five radio shows in five different villages, one of which was Kikwawila. We met Alfonse Michael Gwawa, a 72-year-old man who since 1982 had been using dirty water from a well he dug himself.
Alfonse said water is scarce, especially in the dry season, forcing him to wait until spring. Even then the water he uses is not clean or safe. He drinks it with his family because they have nowhere else to get water.
Now six months after airing the radio show, the local government at Kikwawila village has managed to drill water for their citizens.
On October 19, MECE visited the village after being informed by Mr. Kondo Magengele who is the village chairperson, said that the village now has a well that is ready for people to use. During the interview, Mr Hamadi said that they had successfully dug a well after allocating village government funds, following a discussion at the village assembly.
He said that, three days after the radio show aired, village residents started bothering him by asking when the local government will dig a well as they realised that water is their human right after listening to our radio broadcast.
The chairperson said that 37 households are benefiting from the well while the village government tries to secure further funds to dig more wells in sub-villages.
One of the tools I used to accomplish this news project is to establish interview guidelines. This guidelines shows order of operation/production of the radio programs.
It also guides the sub format of the program and the possible sources to interview and their questions. The sub format like profile interviews, group discussion, vox pop, and one to one interviews with local government leaders.
The guidelines offer suggestions rather than instructions. Not included questions specific to gender, race, and social class for instance.
But listening and responding to people’s answers is far more important than following a set of guidelines.
I was using the techniques of asking more follow-ups questions. Since I have listening skills, the technique of listening during the interview can make people express their needs effectively and the radio program can be more interactive.
Another technique was being flexible during the interview. Some sources are hard to speak of. Being flexible by asking strategic questions like: CAN YOU SAY MORE or HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE SITUATION can make the source speak.
The technologies used in this project were radio stations, especially community radios based in rural areas. Many people who are living there prefer to hear their recorded voices get answered from their government leaders.
But also local media plays a crucial role in delivering credible, helpful information to the citizens. Critically, local media also gives communities a voice to communicate their concerns to local authorities and express solidarity with one another.
Other technologies used in this project were audio recorders to capture voices of the people during the interview. Camera for taking pictures and sharing through social media, as well as recording min videos.
What was the hardest part of this project?
One of the hardest parts in this project is to reach people who are suffering from the water crisis. In order to get the real voices, I have to travel a lot. I use a motorcycle to get to the villages, passing on the rough road. It takes 45 kilometres to reach the intended village.
In village towns, I have to go direct in areas where people are fetching water whether in wells, ponds, rivers or springs and it can take 10 kilometres.
So I can spend more than 50 kilometers to follow the voices of the people who are facing water challenges so as to raise them and the government can take action. So going back and forth takes over 100 kilometers on a motorcycle. Sometimes the risk is too high. I hire an unknown motorcyclist and pass in the middle of the forest.
The other hardest part is: As a journalist I can’t carry water in a bottle and take it to a village where they don’t have that service. I feel very bad. So I have to drink the water they drink from the well.
What can others learn from this project?
I believe learning is the process. Speaking with experience in my country, many journalists like to think of themselves rather than thinking of the problems that the community is facing.
We have been worried to raise the voices of development challenges that the citizens are facing. Many journalists raise the voices of leaders, financially people, musicians, politicians and others knowing that they will make money.
I believe there are journalists who raise the voices of society, but not many. I would like to see the number increase. I know many are afraid of being arrested by the government, but when you provide accurate and reliable information, you are in safe hands.
Journalists must be tough in rough conditions. I would also like journalists to learn to be creative. I reviewed the 17 sustainable development goals and decided to work on goal six which is: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all.
Through that goal, I can now produce interactive radio programs that engage people who are facing water challenges, amplify their voices and asks for government response. We now have ten years left to reach the sustainable development goals.
So journalists have a responsibility to ensure sustainable development goals are achieved in order to leave no one behind.