13.05.2013 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

New community radio saves lives

A new community radio is saving lives in Betenty, an isolated island in the Delta de Saloum, a vast area of mangroves, exceptional birdlife and water canals (bolongs) in western Senegal. Through daily weather forecasts it informs local fishermen of what weather to expect before they go deep sea fishing.

"Betenty has lost men and women because of ignorance of the weather conditions and changes in tide height. Now the fishemen tune in before they leave," said Bacary Mané, the community radio manager during the official inauguration of Betenty FM 91.6 and the Community Multimedia Centre (CMC) on 4 May 2013.

A delegation from UNESCO's Regional Office in Dakar, as well as colleagues from other UN agencies had travelled an hour and a half by pirogue, the typical Senegalese boat, to get to Betenty.

They were welcomed by a crowd of men, women and children on the pier. What a burst of colors, drumming and smiles. The women were dressed up and danced the delegation through the village (no cars, only sand and shells).

A dream came true

"Our dream came true," Mr. Mané told the delegation. "We are a community of some 7000 souls and as we speak Mandinka, we don't understand Wolof and hence the radio programmes of the nearest CMC (in Soucouta on the mainland). Now we reach out not only to Betenty and the neighboring islands but also to our brothers and sisters in The Gambia and as far as Zinguinchor," Mané said.

The community radio is a great advocacy tool to convey messages on health, education, sustainable development, etc. It is also an important means to promote the island and its rich cultural diversity. It is powered through solar energy which makes it environmentally friendly.

"But we would like to ask for more support," the radio manager said. "Every morning a thousand of our women go fishing and we need proper early childhood care for the many young children who are left to themselves. We also need literacy classes for our women," he said.

A major victory

The Director of UNESCO's Regional Office in Dakar, Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, thanked the community for the great mobilization and warm welcome. "For UNESCO, the creation of any community media centre is always of high significance because it is a major victory in the fight against the digital divide and in the democratization of access to information and knowledge," Ndong-Jatta said.

She added that UNESCO had taken note of the wish for training opportunities for girls and women. "Rest assured that your request will be receive particular attention in the expansion of our project called PAJEF, that is intended precisely to promote functional literacy and training of girls and women," Ndong-Jatta said. "We will be back Betenti".

The 31st CMC in Senegal

The Community Multimedia Centre (CMC) in Betenty is one of the results of the MDG-F project on Culture and Development in Senegal, which ran from 2009-2012 and was financed by the Government of Spain.

Coordinated by UNESCO Dakar, the $6.5 million project was implemented jointly with UNDP (UN Development Fund), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), World Tourism Organizations (WTO) and UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Another result of thr project is the Cultural Centre in nearby Toubacouta, which was inaugurated the following day.

Owned by the community

The Betenty CMC joins a  network of 30 CMCs in Senegal,  which have been established thanks to UNESCO's support.

CMCs combine a community radio with a multimedia space with computers and internet connection and are crucial for pursuing equitable, sustainable economic and social development in rural communities. The beautiful thing about them is that they are owned and run by the communities themselves.

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