A platform for debate in Southern Sudan
Hostilities in Southern Sudan officially ceased in 2005, marking the end of Africa’s longest-running civil war.
Since then the country has begun to move slowly along the road to recovery, beginning the process of reconstructing its infrastructure and a population shattered by the conflict.
The semi-autonomous region is one of the poorest in the world.
In January 2011 a referendum will be held to determine whether or not Southern Sudan will break away from the North and become Africa’s newest independent country. However, internecine conflicts threaten the fragile peace needed for a successful vote to take place.
The BBC WST is working with community and state radio stations across Southern Sudan to bring people from different backgrounds, genders and religious affiliations together on air.
“If you marry your daughters early, you can get a lot of cows for them. If you get them married at a later date, the number of cows will be reduced”
We are helping to create a dialogue about the common issues faced by these communities, searching for common ground which unite them.
Funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the BBC WST’s Voice and Participation project is supporting radio stations over an 18-month period with training, mentoring and equipment.
The aim is to help broadcasters to produce programmes that answer the demands of their audience, provide fair coverage for all voices - regardless of tribal or political affiliations - and bring marginalised groups, such as women and disabled people, onto the public airwaves.
Working in partnership - Rumbek FM
Khalid Dnnaa, the BBC WST’s Deputy Country Director for Sudan, leads the roving production team which works with 10 stations across the region to develop programmes that serve local audiences.
Khalid and producer Mayen Deng coached staff at Rumbek FM to broadcast a debate programme on early marriage.
The debate brought together traditional elders, a local doctor and a UNICEF representative to discuss the issue.
Some of the economic reasons behind families marrying their daughters early came to the fore during the discussion.
“If you marry your daughters early, you can get a lot of cows for them. If you get them married at a later date, the number of cows will be reduced,” said one person.
Opinions and questions recorded in the market and streets of Rumbek were included, and points of views from men and women from all walks of life were debated by the panel.
The programme closed with a testimony from a young woman who was married at 15. She told the audience of her mental and physical struggle to cope with being married to a much older man, as well as having children and a household to run at a young age.
This type of public interest discussion was completely new to Rumbek FM. The station aired the programme twice and staff members were surprised by the response it provoked.
For the first time the journalists reported that people stopped them in the street to talk about the programme and asked when more would be aired. Audience feedback has been incorporated into plans for the next series of discussion programmes.
The BBC WST will return over the next 18 months to hear how Rumbek FM continues to address the issues that concern all members of its community.
It will do this with all partner radio stations in Southern Sudan.