11:45 on March 2nd 2012
What an interesting week – it began with the WOD induction day at Newbury Racecourse and I was minded, whilst listening to the refreshingly frank and open way that Gok Wan speaks to his audience, how fortunate we are to live in a society that enjoys freedom of speech.
Not so everywhere in the world. And not so in Madagascar where this week, working with Andrew Lees Trust’s (ALT) local partner Andry Lalana Tohana ( ALT Mg) I have been helping to launch a radio and mobile telephony project for good governance.
It’s a project that will help local people to simply do what Gok was doing – speak their minds, openly. It will also help them to understand their rights to freedom of speech and access to information under the UN charter for human rights (Madagascar is signed up).
The project will use radio and mobile telephony to create opportunities for poor, non literate, isolated villagers to record their concerns and questions and put these to local decision makers – the authorities, service providers, NGOs – those who design and make the policies that affect their lives and local development.
Radio programmes will be broadcast that present villagers’ questions together with the decision makers’ response, as a dialogue, something that rarely happens on the ground – and in this way the broadcasts will promote a new dynamic of openness, transparency and inclusion. Phone in debates will also feature and will open up new ways for local people to engage in public debate about the development issues that concern them.
This project is launching at a time when Madagascar is still without an internationally recognised, democratic government. Following a coup d’etat in 2009 the country has experienced prolonged political unrest and it is uncertain if elections will happen this year. Meanwhile social and economic development and human rights indicators plummet – security is poor and people are struggling to survive. Very little of this makes the UK news. Madagascar is a ‘francophone’ country and the troubles are not bloody or dramatic enough to make anything but the smallest of mentions in the occasional radio or press article.
ALT’s radio and mobile telephony project Village Voices for Development (VVD), funded by Adsum Foundation and the Swiss Embassy in Madagascar, is groundbreaking in southern Madagascar. It willenable local citizens to engage in public debate and decision making processes and, in doing so, will address serious communication gaps.
It will give local people in one of the most challenging environments in sub Saharan Africa the freedoms we take for granted every day – ready access to information about important issues that affect their lives, the freedom to speak what is on their mind and to publicly hold their leaders to account.
Thank you to Vodafone for enabling me to give time to this valuable project.
Give your Vote for Freedom of Speech
You can help this project by donating via CAF https://www.cafonline.org/system/charity-profile.aspx?friendlyUrl=andrewleestrust