Confronting dogmas: Local radio in the campaign against FGM and forced marriage in Tanzania

Local radio is at the forefront of the fight to end female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage in the Ngorongoro District of Tanzania. Loliondo FM, one of the radio stations benefiting from UNESCO’s “Empowering Local Radio with ICTs” project, supported by Sweden, is proving to be indispensable in raising awareness for the issue and educating girls on the action to take in avoiding FGM – especially when there seems to be no way out.

Such is the case with Loliondo FM where they have provided information on FGM and a campaigner against it, Suzan Koila, through their broadcasts. Girls have reportedly avoided FGM and forced marriage by making contact with Ms. Koila, thanks to the local radio programs.

“Radio is often the only way to reach many of the communities where FGM and forced marriage continue to prevail,” said Mirta Lourenço, Chief of Media Development at UNESCO. “Radio campaigns can reach the women and girls at risk. It can change the perceptions of women and men and inform women on their basic human rights.”

In the past, Ms. Koila has provided girls with shelter and coordinated with EMBUWAN, an NGO dealing with education, health and income-generating activities, to offer long-term support.

“The NGO has been able to identify donors to support the girls. There, they can then receive vocational training,” reported Ms. Koila at an anti-FGM meeting in December 2017. Local radio proved essential in distributing the proper information among the at-risk girls of the region and in linking girls to the people able to help.

Thanks to UNESCO’s “Empowering Local Radio with ICTs” project, Loliondo FM benefitted from training and an extensive baseline study, which surveyed listeners to identify the local issues most important to them. Training increases their ability to effectively cover these stories, such as this one on FGM. By connecting the programs to pressing issues, radio stations are more capable of addressing the primary concerns of the community to bring about positive action.

Loliondo FM received a great response from their listeners, particularly young girls, in their radio campaign to end FGM in the Ngorongoro District. Girls were eager to educate themselves regarding who and where to turn to should they be pressured into a forced marriage or undergoing FGM – vital information that the radio delivered.

“UNESCO works to support community radios to ensure that people in Tanzania, especially the poor, women and girls, have the capacity to make informed decisions on issues that affect their daily lives based on access to relevant, culturally appropriate, gender responsive and accurate information and knowledge,” said Christina Musaroche of the UNESCO National Commission of the United Republic of Tanzania.

The area represents one of the most prevalent areas for FGM practice with Arusha ranking third nationally at 41% according to the 2015/2016 Tanzanian Demographic and Health Survey. June and July present a peak in the prevalence of FGM in the Ngorongoro District as students are on break from school. In an effort to further curb this trend, UNESCO Dar es Salaam is preparing to work alongside Loliondo FM again for a repeat of the campaign in 2018. This experience has shown that local radio stations supported through UNESCO’s “Empowering Local Radio with ICTs” project can exponentialize campaigns on important issues, such as the fight against FGM, and forward the UN’s goal to empower women and girls, as in line with SDG 5.

“The project was successful in Tanzania and has a positive outcome as it shows how radio stations are raising awareness in the communities and consequently aiding government efforts in enforcing laws and regulations. It also plays a significant role at the grassroots level for community development to have equal access to information and knowledge as a means towards sustainable development,” concluded Musaroche.


Learn more about UNESCO’s “Empowering Local Radio with ICTs” project here.

Read more on the work of UNESCO’s Dar es Salaam field office here.