On July 3, 2011, Neighborhood Watch, a student-run radio show, was proudly launched on MIJ FM in Blantyre.
The bilingual (English-Chichewa) program focuses on analyzing and reflecting on human rights issues occurring in Malawi, but also aims to involve student journalists at the Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ).
Inspired by the crime prevention concept where citizens organize themselves to monitor their communities, the show’s producer and creator, Archibald Kasakura started Neighborhood Watch “having seen the gap that was there between the people and their understanding of basic human rights.”
“Malawi is a third world country and issues of human rights have just surfaced,” he explains.
“We are coming from a background whereby human rights were not a part of our system. Our politics were dictatorial, and most people were not told – were not educated – about human rights.”
Kasakura estimates that more than 80 per cent of Malawians listen to the radio daily – so it made sense to produce a program for this widely-used medium.
As a student production, aspiring journalists at MIJ will be given the opportunity to develop their broadcast skills under the guidance of professional journalists, including MIJ FM’s Wonder Msiska.
Not only will the students be required to source stories, conduct interviews, and write scripts, but they will also be receiving valuable training in sound editing.
And Kasakura is confident in the show’s contributors: “A lot of them have shown interest – and if that interest is sustained, many people will benefit from it.”
But with the show still in its infancy, there are many challenges facing both Kasakura and his team of contributors, such as funding and access to resources like voice recorders.
Nonetheless, he is positive that their hard work will incite positive and far-reaching change in attitudes towards certain controversial cultural or social practices through human rights education.
“I think the future of the program is very bright,” he says. “When people understand the importance of human rights, they will be able to fuse them into their daily activities or cultures.”
“In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you are from this tribe or from that tribe,” Kasakura continues.
“You are born with rights and no one can take them from you.”
Listen to the program’s second episode, aired last Sunday, where journalist Archibald Kasakura explores the topic of witchcraft in Malawi and current legislation surrounding the increasingly disputed practice.
(Visit the Malawi Institute of Journalism’s website every Monday to listen to the latest episode of Neighborhood Watch)