World Radio Day: 5 Ways the radio is fighting poverty

Photo caption: Lifeplayers from Lifeline Energy provide radio-based education to children in Zambia. Photo Credit: Lifeline Energy.

Today is World Radio Day, a day to celebrate radio and encourage major networks and community radio alike to promote access to information, freedom of expression and gender equality over the airwaves. 

I’ve always loved radio. For me it’s held a mix of nostalgia and discovery – I remember long drives with my dad listening to “oldies” or learning something new from my favorite public radio broadcaster. My brief stint at a public radio station in college only grew my love of radio and made me appreciate the unique place radio has in people’s lives. Radio has been there to tell stories, give advice (thanks Delilah!) and provide entertainment.

But for millions of people in developing countries, the radio is much more than that: it’s a low-cost way to bring information to remote communities and vulnerable people like those who can’t read, those with disabilities, and those who live under $1.25 a day. Radios can run on solar or battery energy, and radio programs are also easy and cheap to create.

Because of these unique qualities, radio programs are an effective tool to help fight extreme poverty – and organizations and innovators have gotten really creative in using it for anything from education to campaigning to community-building. Here’s some of our favorite examples of people using the radio to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people:

1. Radio helps educate children in rural villages 
one-blog-tz-edu-radio
Photo credit: Morgana Wingard/ONE.

When USAID found out that 20 percent of children in Tanzania still did not have access to primary education, they created the Radio Instruction to Strengthen Education program, which creates educational radio programs to improve teaching and learning for remote and under-served communities. In 2011, 21,350 children in preschool were able to improve their math, Kiswahili and life skills from the radio programming.

2. Radio helps campaigners spread their message
ONEradio_petition
In 2012, ONE launched a radio spot to get citizens in Malawi to support an agriculture petition targeted to the African Union. With the help of African jazz legend Hugh Masekela, the message reached millions of people – and we were able to get 35,000 signers on our petition.

3. Radio brings the community together 
Kenya - Nairobi - SIDAREC
Photo credit: sidarec.org
A Kenyan NGO created an internet technology center in the Mukuru slum settlement of Nairobi to put the power of radio programming in the hands of the community. The station, 99.9 Ghetto FM, reaches more than 650,000 local residents and addresses the needs of the young people living in the Mukuru.

4. Radio helps gives a voice to the poor, especially women and girls
radiogirlPhoto caption: Maasai girl holds a solar/wind radio in Tanzania. Photo credit: Yusuph Al-Amin/UNESCO.

UNESCO is working with female radio professionals from across Africa to build the capacity of 32 local radios in 7 African countries. The goal is to improve the lives of the poor, especially women and girls by helping to create higher quality programming. This also means getting more women trained and on the air!

5. Radio can empower the individual
radiosouthafricaPhoto caption: Jozi FM, South Africa’s largest station, covers issues of health, agriculture, and vulnerable children. Photo credit: UNESCO

Radio projects and community stations bring opportunities for people to learn new skills. The Panos Institute is providing media training to people in Zambia as part of their broader goal “to increase access to development information by the poor and marginalized communities of Southern Africa.”

How has the radio changed the your life or the lives of others for the better? Tell us in a comment below.