30.01.2007 -

Ranérou CMC makes access to information and freedom of expression a reality

In the space of a year, a community radio has started to change the life of the rural community of Ranérou in the Sahel region of Senegal.

"The radio is the only means of communication here. There is nothing in the surrounding villages, not even telephones," according to Ousmane Ba, the Secretary-General of the local association for animal husbandry.


Ranérou is a remote village in a vast and isolated department of northeastern Senegal. It is 2-3 hour drive to the nearest national highway or paved road. The national radio service is not available. The department is not yet connected to the national electricity grid. There is no mobile phone access. Outside the department headquarters there is no telephone connection at all. As yet, there is no internet connection. In the not so recent past, the local school was closed - for four years.


A community multimedia centre (CMC) was established in Ranérou in 2006 as part of the Senegal CMC scale-up, an initiative of UNESCO in partnership with the Government of Senegal and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). In two and a half years of operation, the project has established 24 community multimedia centres in all eleven regions of the country, the majority in areas of greatest isolation and poverty.


Community leaders are unequivocal about the positive impact of the CMC on Ranérou, a locality that "lacks everything." More successful vaccination campaigns and improved livelihoods in the community are the direct result of access to information, available to everyone regardless of literacy, education levels or where they live within the broadcast range. Priority subject areas include animal husbandry and health. The main target groups are women and youth.


Alongside daily FM radio broadcasts, the CMC offers services like photocopying, printing and typing. The centre is not only essential for the local administration but also saves community members time and money. Other things are changing too: electricity pylons line the rough road across the Sahel and the Ranérou district headquarters will soon have electricity from the grid. Sonatel, the country's main telecom operation is introducing its mobile network.


The CMC itself is a good example of local governance and public dialogue. The centre is overseen by a steering committee and run by a management group. Both are broadly representative of local civil society, government and traditionally underrepresented groups like women and youth.


Alongside its role in providing access to information, the Ranérou centre, like other CMCs, is a unique space for expression and discussion in the community.


Community members' observations were shared with a review team representing the three main CMC scale-up partners: the Government of Senegal, SDC and UNESCO. The team is visiting five CMCs as part of the review and will report back to the partners with feedback on results achieved and perspectives for the future.


The CMC scale-up in Senegal aims to establish a network of some 50 centres across the country offering a wide range of programmes and services to support access to knowledge and sustainable local development.

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