Ugandan CSP Fellow Shares Experiences with Zim Women Journalists

Prossy Kawala with Zim women journalists
Prossy Kawala with Zim women journalists

Ugandan Community Solutions Program alumna, Ms. Prossy Kawala, facilitated a media literacy seminar for 19 Zimbabwean women journalists, most of whom are members of the PAS Harare-funded Women Journalists Mentoring Program (WJMP) Fellows on Thursday.

Ms. Kawala shared her experiences as a professional journalist working to design and implement community oriented news, information and current affairs programs in a challenging democratic dispensation. This engagement, she said, allowed communities to have a common understanding that enable them to act on their immediate situations to enhance democracy, accountability and transparency- all necessary ingredients of a healthy and free society.

Journalists should facilitate community participation beyond just writing
Journalists should facilitate community participation beyond just writing

Ms. Kawala is co-founder and director of Media Initiatives at the Center for Media Literacy and Community Development (CEMCOD) in Uganda. She visited Zimbabwe as part of the “partnering for stronger communities” program facilitated by IREX, a United States-based international nonprofit organization providing thought leadership and innovative programs to promote positive lasting change globally. Ms. Kawala participated in the IREX Community Solutions Program, a professional development program for emerging community leaders working in governance, conflict resolution, environment and gender sectors, in 2012. She spent four months working with Media Literacy Project in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.

Sharing CEMCod’s experiences in Uganda, Ms. Kawala said communities were willing to participate in shaping the news but most radio stations relegated these to “music requests and chat shows.” “We realized that listeners were willing to spend airtime and text messages sending musical requests and voting for their best videos and songs when they could use the same airtime to tell us about their life experiences as they are affected by government policies,” said Ms. Kawala. She emphasized the need for journalists to facilitate community participation beyond just writing to ensure access to information; creation of shared meaning and analysis of information as well as allowing communities to reflect and on outcomes of their reporting.

She said, as a result of media literacy interventions, her organization has spearheaded community engagement programs that are geared towards enhancing community participation in the media. A brand of citizen reporters has been developed with positive impact for both journalists and the media. Community reporters have reported on a number of youth and community issues in the areas they live. They focus on local issues like access to basic services like water, health and education.

She left her audience amused when she said that Uganda, which many understand has similar democratic processes to Zimbabwe, has over 250 radio stations.

Ms. Kawala said, despite delays in licensing of community radio stations, her experience in Midlands province in Zimbabwe showed that community leaders were willing to engage. “The local government officials I met were positive and willing to share information with communities through the various platforms created by Community Development Trust of Zimbabwe,” she said.

Ms. Kawala spent two weeks working with the Community Development Trust Zimbabwe which is implementing a project “Enhancing Residents’ Participation in Local Governance Processes.” The project is led by another Community Solutions Alumnus, Tobias Saratiel Mawonepi, and works to empower citizens by deepening their local knowledge on human rights, and equipping them with knowledge and skills to actively participate in local governance processes and monitor accountability and transparency in government processes.  The two fellows held several seminars to strengthen planning, implementation and evaluation processes as well as equip young people with relevant media literacy skills.

The WJMP Fellows is jointly implemented by the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Center and the United States Embassy Public Affairs Section and works to empowers women journalists through academic study and professional skills training to enable them to take leadership positions in Zimbabwe’s robust media landscape. – ZimPAS © April 27, 2016