It’s a characteristically sunny day in South Sudan’s short dry season and a group of around 25 people – young and old, women and men– band together in a classroom, where there’s some much-needed respite from the 11am sun. There’s the low level hum of chitter chatter as the group greet each other.
A lady places a yellow radio centre stage amongst the brightly coloured group and begins to welcome them in Juba Arabic. She is Josephine Rafa Keliopa – a Community Mobilisation Volunteer – and most of the group already know her from prior sessions she’s hosted at the school.
Josephine says she will be playing an episode of Our School radio show, which will focus on positive role models for girls. The content was pre-loaded onto an SD card, which Josephine slots into the solar-powered, wind-up radio. She hits play and the group proceed to listen to the 15 minute, magazine-style radio show, after which Josephine leads a group discussion on the topic at hand.
The group consensus is that positive role models motivate girls to remain in school, which allows them to play key roles in their communities. For this reason, GESS hires many women as social and behaviour change agents – Radio Producers and Community Mobilisation Officers/Volunteers are working in all corners of South Sudan to reinforce positive attitudes and behaviours surrounding girls’ education through both Our School radio show and Community Mobilisation.
Radio Producer, Sida Florence, joins us at the school. She tells us that “the main objective (of Our School) is to make sure we reach the communities and they enrol their girls to school because we know in South Sudan, most girls are not educated.” And indeed, our research shows us that regular listeners to Our School with a daughter are significantly more likely to say they have their daughter in school compared to non- listeners.
As well as being played during Listening Club sessions, Our School is played on 32 partner radio stations around South Sudan in nine local languages. Florence continues, “our research tells us that Our School programme is being listened to by over two million listeners” in South Sudan.
For various reasons, not everyone is able to listen to Our School. To improve reach, the radio shows are taken to remote communities and played at ‘Listening Clubs’. Community Mobilisation Assistant, Clara Tabu, explains that the
“… solar wind-up radios help so much in that they can be taken to the remotest communities in South Sudan. Community Mobilisation is mostly to reach communities that are in the media dark areas… the Our School programme is produced and aired on radio stations… which is limited because of the coverage of radio stations.”
“People are taking positive action. Community Mobilisation encourages communities to take action of their own to ensure that their children, especially girls, are going to school.” And indeed, it is often these remote areas that have deeply-entrenched, and often negative, attitudes towards girls’ education, so reaching them is of paramount importance if meaningful change is to take place.
On International Women’s Day (IWD) we are celebrating our female colleagues and linking GESS’ aims with the objectives of the annual event – “motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive” – this is a year-round exercise for GESS, but IWD reminds us to shine a light on the fantastic women who are pressing for progress in the area of gender inclusivity in South Sudan.
To read more about the Social and Behavioural Change component of the GESS programme, led by BBC Media Action, visit here: http://girlseducationsouthsudan.org/behavioural-change-communication/
To listen to a selection of Our School radio shows, you can go here: http://girlseducationsouthsudan.org/radio-programmes/