The radio is stirring their souls

A communications graduate and passionate environmentalist, Precious has worked as an Assistant News Editor and Gender Officer at Womankind partner National Association of Professional Environmentalists’ Community Green Radio since 2014. In her role, she works tirelessly to ensure that the voices of Ugandan women affected by land grabs are heard, sharing their stories on the radio and organising listeners clubs for women across the country.

Precious speaking into a microphone over the radio at the station

"I graduated in 2011 with a degree in mass communications. In 2014, I saw an advertisement for this role and I moved to Hoima. My passion for the environment was number one, as well as helping people enjoy their rights. As a journalist and editor, I go out into communities, get news stories and share them as far as I can. We also organise listeners clubs of women who come together and listen to Community Green Radio and talk about the issues and how it relates to their lives. I feel so lucky to have a role that really satisfies my heart – I get to help people amplify their voices.

We have been affected by land grabbing in this region to a very large extent. In 2014, there were businessmen who identified land for oil, and people were forced out of their homes and their possessions taken. Later, over 5,000 people were brutally evicted to make way for a sugar factory. Afterwards, these 5,000 people had nowhere to go. A neighbour gave them land and they set up a displacement camp. They are still there three years later – the conditions are inhumane. Many women give birth in the camp and their children often die. Pregnant mothers are hungry and malnourished, and have to walk long distances for food and water. The land was taken violently, and now they continue to risk violence every day. I look at these women and I imagine my own mother. It gives me the power and strength to keep going.

The government has been very blind to all this. They blocked entry to the camp by the media, but I sneaked into the camp with a friend. At first, people were afraid of us, thinking we were from the government. Eventually, they realised we were there to ensure their voices were heard outside the camp. We put their voices on radio and got them international coverage.

When we started Community Green Radio, we had listeners straight away: they had been waiting for it. We started by setting up “sustainability schools” where people would come together under a tree and talk about key issues like land grabbing. After this, people demanded a radio station. Before, NAPE would buy airtime on other radio stations. Our own radio station was demand-driven from the community.

The first voice was on air on 1st August, 2014. We formed listeners clubs, and more continue to crop up. We currently have 11 in total. We sit with them and listen to their biggest concerns, and then these inform the topics for the next show. We often record in rural communities for shows so that everyone can have a voice on the radio. We also identify people who can come on air. For these listeners, the radio is stirring their souls – they are finally able to listen to and talk about issues they are passionate about.

We actively encourage women to be members of listeners clubs. Before, their voices weren’t always heard. Because of Community Green Radio, they realise their voices can be listened to. They now want to lead: they hear their neighbours – other women – talking on the radio and they want to be part of it. It’s like magic.

Community Green Radio and what NAPE’s empowerment work with women is helping. Women are rising up and trying to defend their rights. You can drive change when you are empowered and you know your rights. You can listen, learn, understand and tell others. Women want to be changemakers. Before, husbands wouldn’t allow their wives to meet with others. Community Green Radio has shown how women can come together to discuss important issues and enact change.

We have many challenges in our work. We don’t have enough resources to go everywhere we’re needed – the number of people that need us is overwhelming. We’re not on air all the time, and so we have to wait to tell a story. We keep watching closely what the government and the companies are doing. For example, we went to a place where they want to evict many people to build a factory, but we are shining a spotlight on it. The community tells us straight away now if there is something happening.

My approach to activism is to put people’s voices at the heart of everything. We have taught leaders the importance of women being empowered through the listeners club. These women are rising up; they are coming to change things.

I feel great about my role. I am achieving what I want: to support women and the environment. Women were fearful at first. Now they are convinced – they are empowered and driven and they are speaking up. I love that."