Hope International for Tikar People and Issue TV, both non-profit organizations are teaming up to use media to change the lives of people in rural Cameroon. We are working with International and local news organizations to use media as a tool for democratic progress in a region where there is no free press.
We have a three-pronged approach:
Independent journalists in Cameroon are working under extremely stressful conditions. They are attacked on many fronts by government officials and the state-run press. Womens issues are consistently ignored by the press. By educating journalists in reporting on womens issues and public health we can help democratize society in those areas.
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Computer technology, podcasting, social networking, blogging and online video are tools many journalists in the developed world are using to enhance coverage of important news. By offering these tools to participants we can offer them ways to remain anonymous, report quickly, make connections, and show the true realities of the issues they report on.
The many issues women face in are not reported on in Cameroon. Polygamy and forced marriage are widely practiced in Cameroon and domestic violence is common. Teen prostitution and breast ironing, (a form of mutilation in order to prevent girls from developing large breasts that would attract unwanted male attention) are also issues. 42% of women are illiterate and they are often denied opportunities given to their male counterparts. Their rights are not protected under the Cameroonian constitution, like many other nations in the region.
In 2009 research suggests that 610,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS. In Nditam and other rural villages in Cameroon HIV and AIDS are little understood. Safe sex is frowned Upon and misunderstood. The stigma of living with HIV prevents affected people from living normal lives. Shunned by their neighbors and families, people like Ladifatou, an uneducated 20-year-old mother cannot access medication or earn a living.
By bringing foreign and local journalists, public health workers, and women’s rights advocates together and teaching journalists how to cover the issues in ways that provide clarty and insight we can empower women in Cameroon.
Issue TV (US) and Hope International for Tikar People (Cameroon) both non-profit organizations, are working to create small media stations in rural Cameroon in western Africa. The goal is to help inform indigenous communities about health issues, focusing exclusively on HIV and AIDS, environmental Issues, and other concerns that affect the mostly illiterate populations. There are no journalists who reside in the remote rural areas of Cameroon. The news is reported from cities and is largely distributed in urban areas. This project involves citizen journalists and health professionals reporting relevant, local and national news to their own communities via small radio stations in the countryside as well as providing basic training in the use of technology.
The Media stations will house computers, where citizen journalists learn to use technology such as computers, audio recorders and their own phones to capture news to report to their communities. Each media center will run on renewable energy and will be connected to satellite internet. A network of grassroots news groups could be created if pilot stations are successful.
Radio Programs will include:
- Local news Environment and health issues, agriculture, community events, educational programming
- International /National news politics, technology, economy, emergency broadcasts
- Advertising revenue, non-profit funding and sponsorship will fund repairs and operating costs of the media centers.
ISSUES FACING RURAL CAMEROON:
Post-colonial Africa has two faces the urban face and the rural face urban areas are developed, consisting of 60% of slums. Rural communities in Cameroon lack infrastructure; there is no internet, few roads, no bridges, poor education, no medical centers, no electricity, little access to clean water and no public news service.
In Cameroon 23% of males are illiterate and 41.2% of females. Most of the literate people live in urban areas. Access to education is often limited. Many children cannot afford to go to school. Some are obligated to work in agriculture, forgoing education to help support their families or must walk many miles to attend.
In 2009 research suggests that 610,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS. In Nditam and other rural villages in Cameroon HIV and AIDS are little understood. Safe sex is frowned upon and the stigma of living with HIV prevents affected people from living normal lives. Shunned by their neighbors and families, people like Ladifatou, a 20-year-old mother cannot access medication or earn a living. Polio vaccines are available however often ignored. Malaria is still an epidemic killing thousands of people every year.
There are issues with devastating deforestation in the area, villagers are unaware they are selling off their most precious resource their forest. Waste Management is not well understood. Garbage and litter line the streets of many villages. Pesticides are heavily used.
Educational programming could inform people how to produce renewable energy and how to gain access to parts and tools to create electricity at home.
Fighting Censorship and Illiteracy in Western Africa through Text News
We are creating a system where potentially censored news can be transmitted to cell phones all over Cameroon in Western Africa. The goal is to help inform communities about what is happening in local and global news and protect journalists who are subject to oppressive censorship by using the technology that is already in the hands of the poor.
Press Under Attack
For the past thirty years, the Cameroonian government has repeatedly violated the rights of journalists and has forced many generations of artists, musicians, intellectuals, and human rights activists into exile. The current regime is only the second that has been in power since the countrys independence in 1960. Independent journalists in Cameroon are working under extremely stressful conditions. They are attacked on many fronts by government officials and militias and by the state-run press. In this situation, the free press has had to invent new ways to deliver information to their audiences.
The Text News Project (In development)
Issue TV (US) and Hope International for Tikar People (Cameroon) both non-profit organizations, are working to create a Text-News system where potentially censored news can be transmitted to cell phones all over Cameroon in Western Africa. The goal is to help inform communities about what is happening in local and global news and protect journalists who are subject to oppressive censorship. The program will also develop a community-based entrepreneurial model for supplying images that would increase independent newspapers productivity and support freedom of the press.
Over 70% of the population in Cameroon uses cell phones but most people cannot afford to buy a daily newspaper. When they can, the news is often out of date and people have to share the one copy with a group of friends or family. Advertising revenue may also allow the project to provide news free of charge to underprivileged communities. This technology can be used to reach some of the most marginalized and at-risk communities in both urban and rural areas.
In Cameroon, approximately 60% of the population does not have access to education and it is only the remaining 40% who have the privilege of accessing information in the media. Using the News Industry Text format developed by the International Press Association, this project would send photographs, illustrative cartoons, videos and text to phones to convey the news. Many newspapers already provide this service, but not in Cameroon or most of Western Africa.
The News – Illustrated
Political cartoons have a long tradition and they are an important part of journalism in the area, especially for illiterate populations. The tradition of using cartoons and imagery to reach illiterate audiences can be adapted to the latest technology.
Combining news and cell phone technology will also help independent news producer fight censorship. Cell phone publishing could prevent mistreatment of journalists and newspaper vendors by police and could help end the seizure of newspapers which contain sensitive information. Publishing by cell phone would allow journalists to share relevant information quickly and easily without disclosing their locations.
Creating this sustainable network and a database linking news producers more directly to their communities will keep both journalists and their audiences safe. We also hope that this journalistic business model which gives the illiterate access to news will change how digital images are supplied to online publications in Cameroon and throughout Western Africa. In addition, Issue TV and HITIP International are connected with rural communities in Cameroon, and have access to groups of potential subscribers.
HITIPs founder works to improve the lives of his community in Radio Taboo.
The documentary film Radio Taboo is in Production documenting Issa Nyaphaga’s struggle to create a rural radio station powered by citizen journalists educating his village about AIDS and discrimination.