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20 Jan 2011
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Southern Sudan referendum
In the lead up to this week’s crucial referendum in Southern Sudan, six local radio trainees have been working together to give a voice to the people of the region.
From Sunday 9th January, voters in Southern Sudan will take part in a referendum deciding whether Sudan – Africa’s largest country – should be divided into two.

The referendum on Southern independence is the key outcome of a peace deal brokered six years ago to end the civil war between the North and South of the country. Implementing the referendum has been a huge challenge: the South has an extremely low level of literacy and little history of voting, and over 60% of the nearly four million registered voters need to take part in polling for the referendum result to be deemed valid.

The role of the media in helping people use their votes and follow the issues is critical. As part of the BBC World Sevice Trust's ongoing presence in Sudan, we partnered with the BBC World Service to train local journalists from 6 radio stations across the South, and produce a range of content for the BBC.

Over the past four years the BBC World Service Trust has worked in Southern Sudan with community and state radio stations to help strengthen the region’s media, and reduce conflict by raising awareness of common issues.
As part of an 18-month media training and development project, six trainees from two South Sudanese radio networks were chosen to work alongside journalists from the BBC Arabic and BBC African English services in December 2010.

This new project is working to build new skills and bring together people of different backgrounds, to raise awareness of both the referendum and issues important to the audience.
The trainees worked with BBC journalists, planning and producing material for a series of broadcasts.
The first time the services had collaborated in this way, the partnership utilised the unique local knowledge of the trainees and the logistical support of the BBC WST, resulting in material for broadcast on Network Africa and The World This Morning.
Looking to the future
As part of their newsgathering and training, the team investigated why the region’s economy is so heavily dependent on oil, with 97% of the government’s non-aid budget coming from oil revenue.

At Juba’s main market the trainees found out that the majority of goods are imported from neighbouring countries, such as Uganda. The discussion then focused on the potential for more self sufficiency and less reliance on imports.

Health- consistently one of the most important issues in Southern Sudan was another focus. Visiting the teaching hospital in Juba, the trainees reported on the challenges staff face. With only 130 doctors in Southern Sudan – 1 for every 80,000 people – there is a chronic lack of medical staff serving the region.

Yet the trainees found some cause for optimism, with the hospital over the past few years having seen a transformation in the care provided, and confidence that more foreign and locally-trained Southern Sudanese doctors would improve the situation.

After a week of gathering material, the training culminated in a live broadcast from the Juba University of South Sudan, centred on the trainees’ radio packages.
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Related links
A platform for debate in Southern Sudan
More about our work in Sudan
External links
BBC World Agenda - Training Southern Sudan’s journalists
BBC News - Q&A: Southern Sudan referendum
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