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April 2010

Radio that matters for those who need it most

A new radio station in the Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) funded by the United Methodist Church serves as a tool to promote spiritual growth and combat poverty by sharing information about health, agriculture and employment.

We in the developed world take for granted the ability to get the information we need to make informed choices regarding health, deal with the weather, grow good crops, or handle an emergency.

Director of Radio Methos in Abidjan, Lydie Acquah sees the radio station as a means to
combat poverty and empower people in Cote d'Ivoire. UMNS photo by Tim Tanton.

In countries such as Cote d’Ivoire electricity and the Internet are unreliable, many people cannot read or write, and roads are often impassable. Radio can give poor and isolated people the power to communicate, become better educated, and even transform their lives.

Radio Methos (also called Voix De L’Esperance, the Voice of Hope) will fill a niche in Cote d’Ivoire by providing holistic programming, as opposed to solely evangelical messages, which makes up most of the country’s religious broadcasting.

During the first half of the past decade Cote d’Ivoire suffered a civil war and tensions are still high. Peace and reconciliation are greatly needed to heal the country. Radio Methos aims to be a means of peace building and reconstruction.

The fight against malaria demands education about prevention and treatment. Radio Methos can also provide a way to spread this knowledge.

Women suffer greatly in war, often victimized through rape and abuse. Radio Methos wants to help women to regain their dignity and find their true worth.

Reaching young people is a priority for station director Lydie Acquah. Programmes she has developed include ‘A Cry In the Night’, presented by the United Methodist student union, ‘Eden’, a show on marital issues, and ‘Living Environment’, about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The station aims to shape content around the community and its needs. For the station to be successful, audiences must hear programs created in their social context, and delivered in their languages.

But broadcasting good information is useless if people cannot receive it. If electricity is nonexistent and people, particularly women and children, cannot afford batteries then radio programming aimed at assisting the poor will go unheard.

Therefore another aspect of the initiative to bring radio to the people of Cote d’Ivoire is to self-powered radios developed by the Freeplay Foundation. The Foundation’s ‘Lifeline’ radios are relatively inexpensive and low tech enough to be operated by children.

Lifeline radios can operate either by solar power or a hand crank. They are sturdy and will operate under harsh conditions and rough handling, even in climates of dust, heat and high humidity. They are also bulky and boldly coloured to discourage men from taking them for their use.

Women will thus have the opportunity to listen to community, educational and Christian radio programs.