Saturday, May 2, 2015

Radio Instrumental for Development and Fight against Disease Spread in South Sudan

TWS||Nick Waigwa
{Long article alert}
HIV/Aids is one of the major post-independence public health concerns and cause of death that the new Republic of South Sudan has to address immediately.
A report on HIV/Aids Published in the South Sudan Medical Journal in August 2011 approximated that 3 in every 10 people in South Sudan are HIV Positive.
South Sudanese Radio Presenter
Immaculate Night of Torit's Radio Emmanuel
The over 20 year old conflict in the Sudan contributed immensely to a slow down in the fight against HIV/Aids. However there has been a renewed hope in the post independence South Sudan.
Radio awareness programs on HIV/Aids have been bearing positive fruits with reports indicating that more people are currently than ever before turning up for Voluntary Counseling and Testing Services.
In central South Sudan sits Lakes State, one of the 10 states of the New Nation. I recall a Government official in Lake State telling a meeting of HIV and Aids Awareness Stakeholders, who had gathered at the Ministry of Health in Rumbek in year 2011 that over eight thousands people had turned up at Voluntary Testing Centers (VCT) and Health clinics to test for HIV and AIDs between January and August 2011.

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Mr. David Deng Yak who was then the Director in charge of HIV and AIDs in Lakes State’s Ministry of Health, disclosed during the meeting that majority of those who had turned up for testing were women most of whom were expectant mothers.
This positive increase in the uptake of VCT services has been attributed to among other factors, continued awareness on the benefits of going for Voluntary Counseling and Testing Services. Awareness initiatives have gone beyond workshops and announcements previously posted in some public areas.
The few media outlets in the emerging Republic of South Sudan media industry have become very active awareness tools reaching a wider audience with messages on HIV/Aids.
Radio Good News in Rumbek is one of the nine radio stations operating under the Sudan Catholic Radio Network (SCRN). The community radio, owned by the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek went on air in January 2010 and covers a radius of 150 kilometers, reaching a population of about six million people in parts of Lakes, Warrap and Western Equatoria States.
The Rumbek based radio has since inception boosted the fight against HIV/Aids through her awareness radio messages. The management of the radio which broadcasts mainly in the local Dinka language and English admits that their radio awareness campaigns have recorded success stories.

Members of staff also confessed of having resolved to check their HIV status after participating in the production process of the programs on HIV/Aids. Listeners also witnessed to the fact that radio messages aired on radio inspired them to go for HIV testing.
Daniel Juma’s Story
It came to my mind that I was not leading by example, if I am hosting people from the Aids commission or Aids departments and I am also telling the listener out there to go for testing yet I am not going for the test myself." DJ
Daniel Juma Maydodo a 30 year old South Sudanese from Makor village in the Wulu County - Lakes State says his dream of becoming a Journalist came true in April 2011 when he joined Radio Good News as a trainee Broadcast Journalist.
He went for his basic education at the age of 13. Instability in South Sudan made it difficult for Juma to go to school at an early age like most children. This did not deter him from walking the path to his career ambition. He is among the few South Sudanese who had a chance of going for quality education outside South Sudan.
He spent most of his teenage years in Mbarara Uganda. Today he is happy to witness what was once just but a dream, taking shape, a blossoming independent South Sudan. He doubles as a News reporter and presenter for Radio Good News’ morning and evening talk shows.
In June 2011, Daniel Juma aired several programs on the importance of VCT services as a key intervention against HIV/Aids. He had not by this time considered going for HIV testing but something just came to his mind urging him to go for the test and lead by example.
This kept me guilty for a while and the last decision I took was to go for testing and see how hard or easy it is, outside there before I continue telling my listener to go for the test. It was not easy for me but I noticed that one has to be courageous and the outcome should not discourage anyone from doing anything. Said Juma
The radio presenter agrees that the instrument of radio played an instrumental role in encouraging people to go for HIV testing
Radio Studio
Good news has helped a lot through the jingles and other programs on HIV/Aids, for example a famous drama we aired, “ayuec Banyic” (I want to know to know) it impacted on many people and Good News has contributed a lot to the increase in the number of people going for testing. If it is about who has contributed most in encouraging people to go for testing, Good News will be leading the flag” Juma
Emmanuel Thon Mading’s Story
Emmanuel thon Mading now 24 years old. Tested for the first time when he was a primary eight pupil at Ager Gum Primary school in Lakes State. She also took the challenge to go for Voluntary HIV Testing following a Radio campaign on the importance of testing as an intervention against the spread of the HI Virus.
He was among the many listeners who followed the Ayuec Banyic Drama series. In addition to testing he also used messages contained in the Drama to encourage his relatives and friends to go for testing
One of the most important programs that Good News airs is “Ayuec Banyic” – “I want to know. This program offered a lot of information to the people in the village including myself; it taught us on how to protect ourselves, the importance of going for HIV testing including how to take care of people living with HIV.
Although it was not easy to take up the test, Mading noted that he remained confident that God was to stand by him and enable him to accept the test results
If you saw me when I was queuing for the test you would be annoyed because my heart was beating, but I prayed to God that I accept the results and I said if I am negative I should have to keep on protecting myself, if I happen to be positive I go for the appropriate medication and live longer because when one is not sure of his or her status cannot live long”
Emmanuel remains grateful to Good News Radio for the informative programs. The first born son in his family disclosed that his father, a medical doctor and the rest in his family are happy that their son tested negative.
people in my area have also gone for the test including my parents and we are all negative, we have been advised by to maintain our status and I am determined to abstain until I get married because I am still very young now. I thank Good News Radio because after the test I felt like someone who is in a very big position, I am confident that even if I were to die today it would not be of HIV/Aids. My family in the first place they did not understand why I was very happy on the evening I went home after the test, but I announced to them that you son is free of the killer disease and they are very happy for what I have done”
Emanuel madding has from the time he went for the test continued to teach people in his village on how to protect themselves from contracting the HI virus. He also encourages them to go for VCT.

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Prisca Achol’s Success story
It is in South Sudan’s Akol village, Lakes State where I met Priscah Achol. She is currently furthering her studies at a university in Kenya.
When I spoke to Achol on her first encounter at a VCT center, she began by saying that it has been difficult for her to grow up to the full realization of her potential, in an environment where girls are “only there to be seen and not to be heard.” She has however amid this challenge, managed to go against many odds, including attempts to have her married off at the age of 14, as well as going for HIV testing amid high possibilities of stigmatization.
The face and determination of the outspoken lady, painted a clear picture of hope for the South Sudanese woman. Achol went to Pancuai girls Primary School in 1999 before transferring to Makur Agar Comboni girls Primary school in 2004, where she sat for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education, emerging second with a B+

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Conflict adversely affected the quality of education in South Sudan. In 2005 when Achol cleared her primary level education, the level of education in the country was very low with most Secondary schools suffering from an acute shortage of teachers. Girls were also being married off to old men, before or soon after completing primary education.
The instrument of radio is a powerful
tool for Development in South Sudan
Achol’s experience after clearing her primary education, posed a serious threat to her dream of furthering her education, a man was already standing by to take her home for a wife. This reality, coupled with the dull hope for acquiring quality education in the country, drove the fourteen year old girl to share with her uncle an idea of going to Kenya for further studies.
I thought of going to Kenya to get the best education, I could not also study here because we have that culture where after you are through with your primary education they can marry you off to an old man, so I also went to Kenya to escape that situation because I never wanted to get married at the age of 14
The fact that her parents were still determined to have their daughter married, did not stop Achol from persuading her uncle, who was then living in Kenya to buy in to her idea of studying in Kenya. She also went on to convince the uncle, to request her parents to let her go to Nairobi. The uncle also managed to get a friend in the United States of America to sponsor her niece’s high school education.
In Kenya, Priscah Achol was admitted to Sunrise Girls High School, Kiambu in 2006. She later transferred to Nakuru’s Shiners Girls Secondary School in 2008 at the height of Kenya’s post-election violence, for fear of attacks by members of a local community. Violence broke out in the Kenya following the disputed results of the 2007 presidential elections.
Miss Achol went on with her high school education uninterrupted and sat for her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2010 following which she returned to South Sudan. It was in her plans to return to Kenya to join a university but the parents refused arguing that she could still get married and continue with her education.
My parents did not want me to go for studies again, I wanted to go back and complete my university there but they refused, that is why I am here they were telling me that I could complete my university when I am with my husband. I just told them it’s okay whoever will come I will marry him but then I know how to handle it. Instead of arguing with parents you just accept and then you will know how to go about it like nowadays you cannot marry a person who does not love you so those who are there I can’t even show them that I don’t love them but there some ways I will just follow to let them leave me alone”
On returning to South Sudan from Kenya Priscah Achol found that a man who had expressed to her parents the interest of marrying her was still waiting.
There was one even when I was in class seven but then my mom insisted that I should first complete my primary education. When I left for Kenya he was told to wait for four years, which he did and when I came back we had issues though I don’t want to tell you more about that….okay he came back actually and he was like he wants to continue with whatever he had in mind but I told him I was going for further studies so from there we disagreed”
For about five months, Priscah’s parents continued banking the thought of having their eldest daughter getting married off. Within the five months she remained at home, pensively waiting for God’s intervention and providence.
I stayed at home for five months, they could not let me go anywhere whether to go to school or to look for a job. They just wanted me to remain there and prepare for marriage. I just stayed at home waiting for God to open a way for me”
When the five months were over, Priscah approached her mother with a proposal that she be allowed to go college. Her mother accepted the suggestion and in July 2010, Prisca left for a course in Business Administration in Kampala Uganda. It was unfortunate that she had to drop out from college after three semesters when the person who was paying for her tuition fees decided to withdraw under unclear circumstances.
In April 2011 Priscah Achol joined Good News Radio, as a trainee News Reporter and Presenter. At the radio she was in a team of local staff, who benefited from a one year in-house radio journalism capacity building program.
She is grateful to God that her persistent battle with cultural waves, and other forms of discouragements, has not been in vain. Other than working at Good News Radio, she worked as an administrative office secretary, to the clerk of the Lakes State Legislative Assembly.
The opportunity for working at Good News Radio opened a door of opportunities to Priscah Achol, including an exposure to many topical issues that she would have otherwise not been able to access. She has been able to go beyond presenting news, to covering and preparing programs on different subjects including HIV/Aids.
In early October 2011 Achol, was invited by the South Sudan Aids Commission to cover a public Voluntary Counseling and Testing activity in Rumbek Township. The people she found queuing for the test were mainly young boys, girls, urchins and some drunken men as well as other people who would occasionally be spotted idling in the market. To Achol this was disappointing.
when I looked at them I felt motivated to undergo the test, though I had gone there for a different mission - to cover the event, the attitude towards the test moved me to test and try to remove the stigmatization in the society because if you only have those perceived as lowly in the society only to be tested, people might start thinking that AIDS only affects the poor and not the rich”
It was also not lost to Achol that working at Good News radio contributed to her decision to undergo the HIV test. An invitation to cover the HIV testing activity came in because of her position as a news reporter at the radio.
Health programs produced at Good News Radio, coupled with her involvement in the production of programs on HIV/Aids in both English and in the Local Dinka language was also another motivational factor worth mentioning.
Although Achol was very sure that she had not exposed herself to the HIV virus, she knew well, that one could get infected through other ways and decided to remain psychologically prepared for the outcome of the test. The Second edition news presenter at Good News Radio is currently waiting for her second test in three months.
Priscah Achol’s future plan when I interviewed her in 2011 was to pursue a degree course in Mass Communication preferably in Kenya. Her dream has been to develop a rewarding career in the media industry and get to heights of her role model a Kenyan international journalist BBC’s Sophie Ikenye.
Achol’s decision to join Good News Radio was met with opposition from people who felt that it was risky for her to take up a formal job. The argument was that she would not have enough time to cook for her family members and that it would be unacceptable for a lady of her age to get home late in the evening.
Often regarded as a no nonsense lady by her colleagues at Good News Radio Miss Prisca Achol believes that the male dominated culture in South Sudan will gradually be transform to accommodate women and their voice in all spheres of life. 
Priscah Achol's parting message to South Sudanese youth  “if you want to do something, you have to do it despite the challenges or opposition from other people. You should not be discouraged by what people say, do what your heart desires and be the best that you can”

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