Thursday, November 30, 2006

KochFM in Standard July 3rd 2006

Radio station targets slum residents

By Allan Kisia

From outside, it looks like any other transit goods container, or storage for the popular mitumba (second-hand) clothes.

But inside the nondescript structure is the studio of the country’s first slum radio station. The container houses equipment and machines of newly launched 101.5 Koch FM, a private radio station owned by youth from the Korogocho slum in Nairobi.

Francis Ngira, aka Big Toto, a presenter at Koch FM station.

With a range of only 5 kilometres, the station has been successfully tested and is expected to go on air in two weeks’ time once the Communications Commissions of Kenya (CCK) gives the go- ahead. The station, launched on June 24, will broadcast in Kiswahili and English in Korogocho and the surrounding areas.

Currently, it has nine male and female presenters who all grew up in the slum. The youth will run the station on voluntary basis.

Raphael Obonyo, a manager with Koch Youth Club, came up with the radio station idea to caution young people against crime and to provide entertainment.

"Crime is rampant in Korogocho and we felt that a community radio station would enhance security," he said.

The slum dwellers have received the idea with a lot of excitement. They can hardly wait for the station to go on air, after sampling its contents during the recent testing session. The station is a product of Miss Koch Initiative, a project started in 2001 to respond to rising cases of sexual abuse in the slum.

Entertaining and educative

Those behind the initiative are 25 men and 35 women aged between 18 and 28. Richard Sveen, a Norwegian tourist, was the first to donate studio equipment when the youth told him about the idea.

Others donors are the Institute of Policy Analysis, Norwegian Church Aid (which donated the container), Pamoja Trust and the residents.

A Korogocho resident, Joyce Kiarie, could not hide her enthusiasm when she listened to the radio station during its testing.

"I was excited to hear issues affecting our slum being discussed live on radio. This will be my number one radio station because the programmes are also entertaining and educative," says Kiarie.

The station will be air programmes from 6 am to 10 pm daily. It will play reggae and local music. It will also air local news. CCK officials visited the studio — located at the chief’s camp — one week ago and promised to support the initiative. But they warned it against interfering with frequencies of other radio stations.

Obonyo says rape and defilement cases are on the increase in slums and there is urgent need to find a solution to the vice.

"Those committing these crimes are in our midst but we dare not report them because they would hit back viciously," he says.

Relevant to slum dwellers

The transit goods container that houses the radio station in Korogocho slum, Nairobi. Pic by Martin Mukangu

For example, says Obonyo, 16 rapes were reported in the slum on the eve of New Year in 2000. It was for this reason that Obonyo’s team started the Miss Koch Initiative to make men see women as fellow human beings.

He said they received a lot of support from the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the community, including the youth. The initiative initially intended to do filming as a way of creating employment but the venture proved expensive and complicated.

The station has one technician, a graduate of Kenya Polytechnic, who grew up in the slum. Koch FM managing editor, Otieno Wandei, says they hope to attract commercials to be able to run the station. He says most radio stations broadcast issues that are not relevant to slum dwellers.

"Our news will specifically be packaged for people living in the ghetto. What is news to us may not necessarily be news in the mainstream media," says Wandei.

Criminal activities

He says the local community has been supporting them by donating seats, tables, utensils and books. The presenters include Francis Ngira, 20, also known as Big Toto, who will host the reggae programme and Hellen Wanjiku, 23, aka Shiko Babe. She will be a reporter, a sub-editor and a presenter of women’s programmes.

Ngira says he joined the initiative after seeing several of his friends shot dead by police over crime.

"I was also involved in criminal activities but changed to become a role model for the Korogocho youth," he says

The Miss Koch Initiative vision is to create a society that respects and promotes wholesome development of its male and female members. It seeks to provide a platform for Korogocho youth, particularly girls, to participate in the socio-economic and political matters.

Some of the initiative’s achievements are establishing an education fund for girls and a community resource centre. The initiative won the Mayor’s 2004 Award, while the winner of the Miss Koch 2003 was declared the Eve Young Woman of Year in 2004.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

we are journalists from a spanish newspaper and we are interested in contacting Francis Ngira for an interview.
my email is: