PRINZAPOLKA—There are pine trees as far as the eye can see. In the middle of Nicaragua’s northeastern wilds, the Prinzapolka River winds its way through the similarly named municipality—one of poorest regions of Central America.
People who live here earn a living through fishing or illegally cutting timber; there simply aren’t any other opportunities. For the mostly Miskito population that lives here, the 250-kilometer long river is a lifeline as well as the only connection to the Caribbean Sea. The town of Alamikangbang is one of the most important river ports in the area. And although the town boasts a CLARO antenna on the hill, almost nobody has Internet access.
Radios, however, are commonplace. Anyone who pays a fee can host a program on Alamikangbang’s local radio station, located in a wooden house down a back road in the village. So that’s what the young women of Acción Médica Cristiana decided to do.
The young women, the newest members of Comunicadores Costa Caribe, a new association of community reporters in the North and South Atlantic Autonomous Regions (RAAN and RAAS), discuss issues affecting youths in Prinzapolka. Here there are few jobs, but lots of violence, sexual abuse and teenage pregnancies; HIV is on the rise.
That’s why these fearless community reporters talk about issues such as condom negotiation, sexual diseases and relationships on air. These are topics that are still taboo for many people in the Miskito society.
Several hours to the north, in the gold mining town of Bonanza, Lenin Vladimir Borge, 18, was a former host of a local radio program of who recently left the “mining triangle” to study in Managua.
“In the RAAN, the radio is the most important medium for communication and assures people get information about what’s happening in and outside the municipality,” Borge says. “So it’s perfect to inform the population about health topics, education, rights and responsibilities.”
As with the other young communicators in the association, Borge is a natural orator, not a professionally taught journalist. Still, the young community reporters are hosting their programs with a lot of commitment.
To improve their skills, the Austrian NGO HORIZONT3000 supports them with media-production workshops focused on how to structure radio programs and interviews, how to produce a radio spot, and how to use the software for editing. The idea behind that project is to help the young journalists broadcast important messages that are produced and presented in a way that is interesting and entertaining to the audience.
“The most important thing I learned from the workshops is that we have to prepare our programs and host with a script. As we need to assemble a good and motivated team to make the radio shows attractive,” says Borge, who also has a demonstrated talent for moviemaking, but doesn’t have the money to buy a camera.
The HORIZONT3000 program has led media workshops with various communities and radio projects associated with Comunicadores Costa Caribe in the RAAN and RAAS, where the radio is a tool for information and activism.
One of the more outstanding examples of local broadcasters becoming agents of change is occurring at the radio program “Palabra de mujer” (the woman’s word), broadcast in Bocana de Paiwas in the rural area between Boaco, Matagalpa and the RAAS. Here, women and girls suffer from typical problems in rural Nicaragua: domestic violence, machismo, discrimination and sexual abuse.
The local radio station was originally built here as an early warning system for hurricanes. But the committed women of “Palabra de Mujer” appropriated the station to broadcast programming focusing on their rights. They even started to denounce violent men by name on the radio. The station’s director Carolina Medina is confident that their program is helping to change the reality in their town.
“In a small village where everybody knows each other, that makes an impact of course!” she says.
Recently the radio station’s associated movement “Casa de Mujer” celebrated its 20th anniversary. With the assistance of international supporters they opened a new studio to broadcast daily from 5 a.m.-6 p.m. As the station and programming grows, so too has the range of topics—from political participation and environmental conservation to issues of gender equality.
The radio program also features local and popular music—without the sexist lyrics.
If you are interested in the work of Comunicadores Costa Caribe, you can follow their progress in radio- and video production on www.facebook.com/horizont3000
Klaus Brunner works with the Austrian non-governmental organization HORIZONT3000.