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Radio Program for Refugees in Dadaab Launches

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Internews’ Humanitarian Information Service in the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya launches ‘Gargaar’ (Assistance) – a daily Somali language program produced by local and refugee journalists.

Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013

When Somali journalist Shine Jamac was forced to flee his homeland in 2009, he first sought asylum in Ethiopia. It was not long before his profession began to cause him problems.

“When I was seeking asylum at the border a journalist asked to interview me because it was World Refugee Day. He asked me what I did for a living in Somalia, and I told him I was a fellow reporter. In Ethiopia they do not respect journalists, so when they heard this they put me in jail for 20 days,” Shine says with a rueful smile.

After returning to Somalia, Shine again suffered from an unfortunate coincidence. Whilst travelling through al Shabaab territory on his way to Kenya he was recognized as a journalist by an old acquaintance.

“This was late in 2011 when the Kenya Defense Force was just crossing into Somalia. The al Shabaab people captured us and thought we might be spies.” Shine goes quiet after this. He prefers not to remember his interrogation.

Now, one year after arriving in the Dadaab refugee camps, Shine is working as a journalist again for the Gargaar program.

Gargaar, a Somali word for assistance or support, first aired in February. Issues covered on the show so far have ranged from access to basic water or firewood services, child labor, changes to health delivery, traditional birth practices or the role of community leaders in camp management. For Shine the response has been overwhelming.

“People in the camp feel that this program is theirs,” Shine said. “They feel this program belongs to them. Many people with problems come to me now to share them, and this is giving me many ideas for stories to cover. For example, I spoke with a disabled man who didn’t have a wheelchair, so I did a feature story about people living with disability.”

Shine is just one of 15 refugee journalists who have been trained by Internews as part of a new Humanitarian Information Service (HIS) project, which is aiming to build a radio station in Dadaab, one of the largest refugee camps in the world. With the support of local partner Star FM and Internews staff, these refugee youth are currently producing the majority of the show’s content. Levels of experience amongst this group vary, and for youth like Sahal Ashli Hussein, Gargaar was their first opportunity to hear their own work on the radio.

“You can imagine how I felt when my story started,” Sahal grins, “I was so happy to hear my voice. Everybody in my household gathered around the radio to listen together, and they were also very proud.”

In order to measure the impact of the project, a baseline survey was recently conducted to measure information needs and media usage in Dadaab, the results of which will be published shortly. More information about the Toolkit.

The Gargaar program currently runs for a half hour daily on Star FM, although this is set to expand once construction is complete on a dedicated radio-station in Dadaab itself. In the meantime, Shine is just happy to be a journalist again,“I’m very delighted that Internews has been able to take me back to something that I have done for many years. After I fled from Somalia to Dadaab I never imagined I would be able to do this again.”

Internews’ work in Dadaab is funded by The United States Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) and by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO).