James Onyango explains how radio cassette players are helping women from HIV/AIDS affected households to exchange information.
AIDS remains a major problem in Kenya, and it is often women and girls who bear the brunt of the pandemic. They have no rights to own property such as land, and are physiologically at greater risk of catching HIV/AIDS. They are generally less well educated and only a handful are employed, and so are socio-economically more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection. Many women also suffer from malnutrition.
To help address these problems, the Kenya AIDS Intervention Prevention Project Group (KAIPPG) has established community-based informal learning centres, called nutritional field schools, in six of its 28 project sites in western Kenya. Each field school caters for 30 participants, giving priority to orphans, widows, low-income women and older vulnerable children from HIV/AIDS affected households. The participants are taught about nutrition, and receive training in relevant skills and techniques to enable them to care for people living with AIDS, to maximize crop yields and, generally, to become economically and socially empowered.
Using the GenARDIS grant, KAIPPG organized a health and agriculture community radio network for women who had completed the training. The participants were organized into six radio listening groups, and were trained in the use of audio and video recording equipment to enable them to exchange information such as on farming techniques, and to raise public awareness about HIV/AIDS. The groups were also trained in photography and the use of drama and traditional oral storytelling as tools for learning, education and development. A radio cassette player and a mobile phone was distributed to each of the groups, and the participants were encouraged to communicate with national FM radio stations – to respond to programmes, obtain information, and share their experiences with a wider audience.
Each group prepared and recorded on tape a presentation, song, poem, role-play or story on a relevant topic of their choice. One women’s group, for example, performed a play about farming and the preparation of nutritious food for people living with HIV/AIDS. Another group sang traditional songs on planting, harvesting and the preparation of sweet potatoes. The tapes were then exchanged among the groups so that each group was able to learn about the work of the others. Each group also set up an information kiosk stocked with the tapes they had produced and other information. KAIPPG hopes to translate the tapes into English and French, and to release the content also on diskettes and CD-ROM.