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A "Kente" Approach to Community Radio Training: Weaving Training into the Community Empowerment Process

By Wilna W. Quarmyne - Deputy Executive Director, Radio Ada (Ghana Community Broadcasting Services), Accra, Ghana


Wilna Quarmyne has been privileged to be part of the start of two community radio stations, one in her native home, the Philippines, and the other in her adopted home, Ghana. She is a full-time volunteer at Radio Ada, the first independent community radio station in Ghana, which she founded with her husband Alex Quarmyne. She carries the title of Deputy Executive Director. She also acts as co-ordinator of the Ghana Community Radio Network.


Community Radio is a different kind of radio. The difference lies in its role and in its relationship with his listening community. To perform effectively as the community's tool and ally, it needs to be continually poised to interact with their experiences and initiatives. This requires that the training of community radio workers is, in both content and methodology, woven into the culture of the community and the process of empowerment.

The paper sketches the broad outlines of a training approach originally developed in 1997 for and at Radio Ada, the first full-fledged community radio station in Ghana. The approach is continually being enriched and has succeeded in enabling a group of volunteers with no previous training or experience in broadcasting to operate a full-scale, 17-hour-a-day service entirely on their own. Some of the volunteers have grown into trainers. The approach has also been extended with positive outcomes to other member stations of the Ghana Community Radio Network, as well as to a prospective community radio station in Ethiopia.

The name given to the training approach alludes to the "Kente" (pronounced ken.teh), the traditional hand-woven cloth of the Ashanti people that has now become symbolic of all of Ghana. At the first level, the use of the term "Kente" recalls that the training approach is derived mainly from the Ghanaian experience. At another, it indicates the centrality of culture in the philosophy and operations of Radio Ada and, increasingly, of community radio as a whole in Ghana. At yet another level, the term illustrates the methodology of the approach, which interweaves training with philosophy and operations.

The "Kente" approach flows from a participatory development philosophy. It regards participatory development as indivisible with empowerment. Empowerment is taken as the goal, the content and the methodology of training, as well as the ongoing measure of success. Training illuminates practice and operations enrich training. The empowerment of trainees is seen as part of the process of community empowerment, which is itself the end-goal of training.

The "Kente"_approach to community radio training is eclectic. It is a practical, hands-on approach, but it integrates theory (development communication, communication and culture, management and others) in ways that allow participants to make sense of, and build on it. Above all, it is experience-and-context-based, intent on constantly exploring and activating the interface between participatory development theory in its broadest sense and the practice of broadcasting as it applies to community radio.

The "Kente" approach has four main elements:

Each element can be regarded and developed as a module. Every module begins from, loops back to, and builds on the participant's knowledge and analysis of his or her situation. Each is therefore open-ended to a large degree, encouraging creative and context-based responses and conclusions.

The paper discusses each element and, as necessary, gives examples of tools used in each module.

The paper also briefly highlights some key challenges in putting community radio training at the service of community empowerment. These include the momentum of the participatory communication dynamic, the absence of participatory support structures on the ground and the management of the organizational dimension of community radio. Also discussed is the absence of community radio theory and the need to review the basis and thrust of development communication in the light of globalization.

Finally, the paper emphasizes the need for training to clarify and articulate how community radio represents a different theoretical and operational model from public and commercial radio. This implies that community radio requires a different kind of "professional" - a community radio worker with a specific set of values, skills and standards that is focussed on community empowerment.


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