It is high time Botswana Government allocated space to Community Radio stations. They have a big role to play. Inherently, Community Radio Stations serve the geographic communities. These kind of radio stations limit their scope to the interests of a particular locality. Community Radio Stations play a big role in dissemination of information at grassroot level. Often the key issues that concern them are poverty, agriculture, gender inequality and education among others.
Community Radio Stations can use vernacular so as to reach the targeted audience. But there could also be language flexibility where there are no barriers. But they also have a role in the empowerment of disadvantaged social groups that includes women. We live in a society where women are discriminated, violated, marginalized and even oppressed simply on account of their gender. This is a reality that we cannot wish away. As government says it is serious about fighting Gender Based Violence, part of the solution should be to offer licenses for Community Radio Stations that would include the women of the various localities.
Many communities are issue-specific. And a Community Radio station is often the best platform to give voice to such issues at a more localised level. Through Community Radio Stations, marginalized communities find a voice. These could be rural communities or a specific ethnic community, especially in a rural setting. For women, especially, community Radio Stations have been found to provide them with skills that could include cultural, social, political and economic awareness.
Elsewhere, radio, especially the one that is community based has been found to be an instrument of social change, especially for women. Exactly why this has not sunk yet in our authorities especially those with policy making powers and also those in the regulatory framework still boggles the mind. Authorities in Botswana continue to say that Community Radio Stations are divisive and could be agents to undermine the state. This is an argument that is often used by dictatorships to justify why it is important for them to limit the flow of information.
Evidence shows that when used properly, Community Radio Stations increase the livelihood of the communities they serve. It is important to point out that even in the absence of Community radio Stations as is the case, it does not mean that societal homogeneity is enhanced. In any case there is no evidence to suggest that the promotion of homogeneity as opposed to diversity is itself a good thing. This could be through sharing information on how to improve small stock or hoe to grow sales in SMMEs.
Government and policy planners could use these platforms to monitor the community’s preferences and also the trends among various demographics like youth, women, men and the elderly. Language and culture are two very important characters of any civilization. At the moment the existing broadcasters excludes large swaths of the population simply through the use of language. Many existing broadcasters in Botswana use Setswana and English – primarily.
And too many people do not understand either. And their culture is excluded. And we still call that nation building. This is a gap that could easily be filled by Community Radio stations.