The Power of Radio: Ouro Negro

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Antonio, 43, a father of six children, needed no encouragement to talk about his experience live on the radio as long as he did not have to give his name. “I wanted to tell my story so others could learn from my mistake,” he says, looking a little embarrassed.

Antonio (not his real name) has come into the sparsely-furnished community radio studio, set up in the rural district of Namialo, in the northern province of Nampula. Inspired by Ouro Negro (Black Gold), a national weekly radio drama series launched in July 2015 with UNICEF support, Antonio discusses why he told his story live and the impact his story has had.

Unlike the Ouro Negro series, which is recorded in Portuguese, the live shows are in the local language. Moreover, the stories are true and the programme is interactive as listeners can send text messages to the producers while the person is sharing his or her story. Then, at the end of the show, the radio producer reads the messages out.

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Iris Valeria da Silva Jamal enters the brightly-coloured radio studio, pops her school bag on a desk, and launches into a lively discussion about the power of radio. Iris is one of a group of child radio producers at Radio Mozambique, in the heart of Nampula city, in the northern province of Nampula.
“I don’t just think that radio can change people’s behaviour, I am certain it can,” says Iris, 14, who talks with the authority of an adult. She has been working on child-produced radio programmes for seven years now. “Radio has a key role to play in educating parents about the rights of a child” — Iris, 14.

Antonio describes how he told the listeners that he had had a sexual relationship outside his marriage. “I told them how I had had problems with my wife, and how the other woman told me she was using contraception (in the form of a traditional herb). But it didn’t work and she got pregnant. I wanted to warn people that if you have a relationship, particularly a risky one like in my case, you must use a condom to avoid pregnancies.”

For each live show, Carlitos Sabonete, the producer at Antonio’s local community radio station, says the text messages pour in, sparking debate and often making the person who has told his or her story reflect on his or her experience. In Antonio’s case, Sabonete says, “Listeners pointed out that he should not just be worried about preventing pregnancy, but also about avoiding HIV and other sexually transmitted illnesses; and another pointed out about the importance of being faithful to your wife.”

Antonio concedes that the listeners made him think more about his situation and the risks he took. He is also receptive to UNICEF Child Protection Officer, Jeremias Muanatraca, who asks if he has registered the child’s birth.

Antonio says that he was reluctant to assume responsibility for the child and when asked how many children he has, he does not count the child with the other woman, adding “I’m scared I’ll be taken to court.” Muanatraca reassures him that if he registers and supports the child, who is already 2 years old, this will not be the case. “Your son’s birth has to be registered, it is a fundamental right, and you need to provide for him as he is one of your children as well and has the same rights to services as the others,” says Muanatraca.

While the live shows are touching on issues that are relevant to both men and women, Sabonete points out that so far, however, no woman has shared her story or sent a text message, noting that the live shows started recently.

Back in the city of Nampula, radio producers point out that although they do have women participating, they sometimes fail to show up and also tend not to send in text messages during the live shows.

One of the women who has participated in the live shows in Nampula, Isabel Assane, a farmer, argues, “Women are just too busy, looking after their children and their husband. They don’t have the time to go to the radio.” She thinks for a moment, and then adds, “And men are jealous. They think that if we are on the radio with a male producer, that we are having a relationship with him.”

Abdul Alai, a producer at Radio Mozambique in Nampula, points out that they are aware of this challenge and that, in a recent workshop supported by UNICEF, they looked at ways to be more inclusive, particularly to inspire more participation from women as well as people with disabilities, including recruiting a new female anchor for the show.

"The Ouro Negro radio drama has about 1.5 million listeners, including those in remote rural areas. Now the task is to extend that reach, for example through the live radio shows in local languages, and get more participation from hard-to-reach groups" - Yolanda Nunes Correia, UNICEF Chief of Communication for Development in Mozambique.

UNICEF Chief of Communication for Development in Mozambique, Yolanda Nunes Correia, highlights, however, that the programme has great potential. “It promotes key family competencies, challenges harmful practices, like child marriage, and at the same time entertains. The Ouro Negro radio drama has already about 1.5 million listeners, including those in remote rural areas. Now the task is to extend that reach, for example through the live radio shows in local languages, and get more participation from hard-to-reach groups.”

Alai points out that they are making headway particularly with the live shows. “They are popular, have a huge reach – especially in rural areas – and are already including more people as it is in the local language and is adapted to our reality in the province.”

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"In a recent workshop, we looked at ways to be more inclusive, particularly to inspire more participation from women and people with disabilities" — Abdul Alai, Radio Producer.