jhr-led Magazine Sets Agenda for a Brighter Future in Ghana’s Old Fadama
On June 4th, 2011, jhr (Journalists for Human Rights) collaborated with students from the African University College of Communications (AUCC) to launch Faces of Old Fadama, a magazine created to put a human face on the largest “slum” in Ghana. Attended by officials responsible for the welfare of those living in the slums and covered by all major media in Accra, the launch put the issue of citizens’ rights in illegal slums squarely in the faces of those responsible, as well as on Ghana’s public agenda. Follow-up media coverage kept it there for weeks.
Cont’d after the slideshow…
The photos are taken by the students of the AUCC (African University College of Communications
Old Fadama, with an estimated population of 79,000, is considered an illegal settlement by local authorities, and residents are often threatened with eviction. Residents are seen as illegitimate citizens. They have next to no access to health, education and other basic services. However, during elections politicians in Accra often campaign in Old Fadama for votes, without either resolving the legal status of the residents, or agreeing to deliver public services once the election campaign is over.
In April forty jhr-trained Ghanaian students from the African University College of Communications (AUCC) and Laura Bain, jhr intern and Editor-in-chief of the magazine, embarked on a reporting assignment to Old Fadama. They discovered that the community had built their own schools and health clinics, organized garbage clean-ups, started businesses, organized HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns, installed accessible water sources and even gathered their own census information.
The magazine showcased these stories and called on the government to recognize the legitimacy of the settlement. In so doing, it drew attention the numerous human rights abuses the residents face and offered the Government alternative solutions to forced eviction.
The launch was attended by residents of Old Fadama, the Canadian High Commissioner, an official from the Accra Metropolitan Authority and Freddy Blay, the former Deputy Speaker of Parliament and now publisher of the Daily Guide newspaper. Launch organizers, including jhr’s Overseas Program Coordinator Jenny Vaughan, also secured a strong media presence from multiple local radio stations, newspapers and all three of the city’s TV networks helping to ensure the issue remains a priority for local authorities.
The media in Ghana has typically covered Old Fadama as a dirty, scary and chaotic place – supporting the idea of the residents’ eviction. Since its release, all three major TV networks, prominent newspapers and several radio stations produced stories from “Faces of Old Fadama” – spawning a new, more open and informed coverage of the settlement.
The Daily Guide newspaper, a primary sponsor of the magazine, has also expressed interest in furthering its partnership with jhr and exploring ways to continue highlighting human rights issues through the media.