Oct 3, 2013

A Radio Live Show Reenergizes the Dadaab Refugee Community;

A new innovative radio live show known as Gargaar has been established for refugees in Dadaab camps. Gargaar a Somali word for support is a daily broadcast from a studio based in Hagadera camp and wired live for two hours at Star FM between 8am and midday. 

The program has now been on air for about five weeks strictly addressing refugee issues. Star FM on which it plays is a huge network which covers an expansive region from Kakuma in North West Kenya, Nairobi and even up to Mogadishu in Somalia.

A baseline survey by Internews Europe which was conducted earlier this year confirms that radio is Dadaab’s most relied upon source of information. Up to 74% of refugees entirely rely on radio for information and this is one of the reasons why the program has been put in place.

Lifeline Energy, an organization that has in the recent past donated solar powered radio sets directly reaching up to 15, 000 refugees in Dadaab reveals that even though radio ownership in camps is limited, refugees love to congregate wherever there is a radio to obtain information about childcare, nutrition, health, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and even news from Somalia.

25 years old Mohamed Bashir Sheikh who is a regular Gargaar listener and a resident of Hagadera camp underscores to me the significance of Gargaar program. “Ever since I came to these camps in 1991, there has never been a refugee focused radio program. Gargaar is the first.”  

 The station’s program manager says that Gargaar only runs for two hours a day but this time is usually enough to air interactive discussions mainly about security, livelihoods and education. It is even made more interactive with a text message platform they call ‘Souktel’.

Picture:-A refugee listening to radio in Dadaab refugee camps-Picture by Fatma Sanbur-Internews Europe

In Dagahaley camp, Bundid Saney likes to listen to the program daily with his friends. He likes discussions about youth projects and he occasionally gets involved by sending text messages to Souktel. He says the program has been long overdue but now that they have it, it is as if God has finally sent to them a solution to the gap that has long existed in camps.

The program was instrumental during the recently concluded refugee leaders’ elections for which it provided live coverage. The elections which were largely well organised and peaceful relied on a massive mass information campaign which Gargaar helped to execute.

Reporters at Gargaar studios narrate to me how election candidates daily trickled into their studio to articulate campaign issues. Election officials from UNHCR and the Government’s Department of Refugee Affairs also utilized the live program to make sure the refugee community was well informed about the importance of the exercise while at the same time informing them the modalities of the whole process.

Even when polling in one of the camps appeared to get out of hand, security officials and indeed UNHCR’s Head of Operations in Dadaab were quick to allay fears and control the situation through the live program.

Five days after the conclusion of elections, I’m lucky to meet in studio the newly elected camp chairlady and chairman for Kambioos camp. As they prepare for their interview, they shortly engage me on what they plan to do for their people.

The chairlady says that she particularly wants to address the youth who were only recently settled in Kambioos camp from Somalia. She wants to urge them through Gargaar to make education their priority.

The chairman on his part tells me that in his many years of community leadership, he has never spoken to his constituents on radio. “We usually listen to overall issues in the two FM stations based here in Dadaab but now there is this unique Gargaar live program in this station that is not only interesting to listen to but also a good platform for us to openly discuss our own issues.”

The mere fact that the program is listened to far and beyond Dadaab camps seems to be another inspiring factor to the refugee community. At least according to Kambioos camp chairlady; they are now excited that their issues are being heard by the rest of the world outside refugee camps.

Besides inspiring the community, Gargaar also seems to largely exist for what it literally means- “support”. The program has so far offered job opportunities to more than a dozen trainee reporters from the refugee community.