Tillia – “I don’t think you can find another radio like this anywhere else in the Tahoua region,” says Attawane Abeytane, the mayor of the city of Tillia. “It has a considerable impact on peacebuilding and social cohesion; it educates, sensitizes and facilitates an exchange between different actors in the community.”
On 15 September 2021, the Tillia Community Radio was brought back to life after a five-year hiatus with programmes from morning until night focusing on different topics such as culture, news, entertainment and raising awareness on the importance of social cohesion and the dangers of violent extremist groups, amongst others.
Tillia, located in the northern part of the Tahoua region bordering Mali, has experienced increasing levels of violence in recent years with unidentified armed groups carrying out threats and attacks.
In this climate, community radio stations play a crucial role in community stabilization. They reach a wide audience, and are accessible to people isolated by geography, conflict, illiteracy, or poverty.
That’s why the Tillia Community Radio was launched in the autumn of 2009, with the aim to create a space for different communities to communicate and to promote peaceful coexistence. But in 2016, the station had to shut down due to operational and financial difficulties.
“With the support of the Niger Community Cohesion Initiative (NCCI), we rehabilitated the radio’s premises to meet the standards, and solved the electricity problems through the installation of generators that allow us to continue broadcasting through a power cut. The new 150-watt transmitter has also improved the signals of the radio that can now cover up to 40 to 45 kilometres. We were barely reaching 10 or 11 kilometres before,” explains Alhousseini*, the director of the radio station, who was one of the founders in 2009.
Between March and September 2021, the NCCI together with the Tillia municipality rehabilitated the radio tower, built a fence and a latrine, and equipped the building with solar panels and a visibility panel. In addition, the station was supported with furniture, computer equipment, and a complete sound system to revitalize the only radio station in the Department of Tillia.
“All the conditions are there for the radio to work again, and to carry out awareness-raising sessions and debates on peaceful coexistence, and conflict prevention,” says Alhousseini.
The radio now reaches around 30,000 villagers and its broadcasts are in Arabic, Hausa, Fulani, and Tamashek, the most commonly spoken languages by the local population.
“We often hear from surrounding villagers who follow the lively debates on the radio, especially at night,” Jamilou tells excitedly. The initiative gives community members the opportunity to share their views and opinions. “Sometimes, they even reach out to us to suggest themes. Today, more than 20 villages and hamlets around Tillia are listening to the radio,” Alhousseini adds.
The team of 12 received training in radio management, interactive programme recording techniques, the role of journalists in the dissemination of information, ethics, data processing, and information management.
“We are in an era where information is crucial. However, information, if poorly handled, can become a curse. That is why the training came at the right time. We are in the midst of a crisis. We need to know how to process and disseminate information,” adds Alhousseini. “We now know how to deal with the information provided by one community vis-à-vis another to avoid intra-community conflicts and strengthen peaceful coexistence.”
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the interviewee.