Internews has established three community radio stations in Somalia, in partnership with Star FM, a Nairobi-based Somali language radio station. Somali Voices, a radio program started by Internews to give voice to different groups including local government, civil society organizations, youth, and IDPs, is one of the most popular programs broadcast on the stations.
“The street life is very harsh,” said Adam, a young man being interviewed at Star FM in Mogadishu, Somalia. “I’m constantly hungry and have become easily angry and nervous after sniffing glue. I also feel pain in the chest. I would like to go back home but I’m afraid of being punished.”
Adam was one of four street children, aged 9-12 years, brought into the studio to be interviewed on Children’s Day. They shared details of their lives living under a bridge and sniffing glue with the audience of Somali Voices.
Members of the audience offered to pay the price of a mobile phone battery so that Adam could call his mother who confirmed that he had been missing for over ten days. She agreed not to punish him if he came home and follow-up calls by radio station staff confirmed that Adam was doing well and was happy at home.
Another result of the program was that a Saudi Arabian NGO provided full scholarships to a boarding school in Mogadishu for several of the other children.
Another episode of Somali Voices focused on the issue of forced or child marriages. The guests on the show included two Somali mothers as well as two women activists within the Somali community.
The activists opposed young and forced marriages whereas the more conservative mothers supported early marriage for young girls and also urged parents to give their daughters away while still young with or without their consent.
The show received a large number of calls from young girls expressing their disapproval of young and forced marriages, giving examples from their own and their friends’ lives, and requesting Somali mothers to give their daughters the right to decide their own marriage partners.
By the end of the show, the two Somali mothers seemed to have a change of heart, at least to the degree of considering their daughters’ consent. “We respect the callers’ opinions…we encourage our young girls to choose their husbands wisely,” one said.
Dialogue with Local Government
Government officials have also been guests on Somali Voices. One program featuring the secretary of Kahda administration resulted in funding for the district, which had been suffering from a lack of attention from the Mogadishu administration. Kahda is the 17th district of Mogadishu and was formed as a district by the government over a year ago. However, it lacks a police station and is in need of road repair. In response to the show, the government responded with finally approving and releasing Kadha district’s funding.
Abdirizak Hurre, a member of the Somali police force, and Dahir Eero, a former MP, were guests on a program that focused on the relations between police and civilians. Many callers expressed a concern about the hostility of police towards citizens as well as accusations of corruption and bribery.
The Colonel’s final statement expressed his concern about the information provided by the callers, and he assured them he would speak to the Somali Police Commander. He also encouraged the public to continue to express their concerns and encouraged them not to participate in corruption and bribery.
Internews’ work in Somalia is supported by USAID’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation.