John Shiba – Swaziland

Date: July 5, 2015
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I am a farmer in Matsanjeni, in the Shiselweni region of Swaziland. I am a former Member of Parliament, and I took up an up initiative to set up Matsanjeni Community radio station to continue serving his community. I believe community radio station is a catalyst to development, and it will help people communicate to the wider community. It will disseminate critical information and entertainment for the community, especially for women and young people.

Young people who have received education and have graduated have an appetite for information. The radio station will be a source of information retaining them in the community to utilize the radio station. They need relevant and quality information sources that respond to their needs and interests. We are very far away. If we want to announce a funeral, we must drive to Mbabane, which is an hour away from Lavumisa. One has to also part with R10 for a radio announcement.
The radio will also give the community an opportunity to meet journalists covering community stories frequently. At the moment, the community only gets to interact with journalists in the region when the Prime Minister or the King is visiting.

I attended a Gender Links organised training session in Mbabane on the coverage and reportage of women in politics and gender-based violence. I am convinced that I need to involve women in the early stages of setting up the community radio station. Now, women come to the meetings that we hold and learn how to produce radio shows.

Since I am closely connected to the community, these relationships help me understand the issues that are important to the community. So far, the Matsanjeni Community has written its constitution and has formed a board of directors. All they need is a license now. They have received assistance from the UNDP to learn how to broadcast and the steps that are required to set up the radio station.

What the GL media training has added is a clear understanding of how to balance media sources, ensuring that men and women are represented. I am also inspired to help women in my area gain interest in elections, register and hopefully even find one or two candidates that we could feature on the radio. I will also use our regional meetings to call on women to step up and get involved in the elections.

I first attended a gender training in Ethiopia 10 years ago while in politics. Since then, I have witnessed the transformation within my community that can occur when men and women take the time to get together and discuss issues. When I was an MP, I organised meetings to talk about gender-based violence. In the meeting, we were seeing the men change from what they were doing before, abusing their wife and children. One lady confessed to harassing her husband too. In another case, there was a man sleeping with his daughter. Through talking about this, the former culprits came forward and started to deal with their crimes, understanding it was wrong. We would advise them how to go for counseling.

Teaching the community about gender issues has also led to people’s attitudes changing regarding traditional cultural practices. Women used to have to wear mourning gowns for two years when their husband passed away. It has now dropped to 6 months, because women can’t go to parliament and many other places whilst in black. Men have started to think differently about how these practices affect the women.

These examples motivate me to get the community radio station up and running so that I can reach many more people and see many more transformations. I hope that organisations like GL will continue to support his initiative even after the elections are over. I see the need to keep gender issues in the spotlight long after, and wish to continue learning about gender issues and media.


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