Africans, Zambians especially, in areas where they do not see journalists with their pens and cameras, need to start blogging as a way of telling their own stories. The impact of these stories will go beyond the MP or minister for whom a hunger story will become news because he has visited an area, or an NGO that has paid for a reporter to accompany it to cover a child marriage story.Africans, Zambians especially, in areas where they do not see journalists with their pens and cameras, need to start blogging as a way of telling their own stories. The impact of these stories will go beyond the MP or minister for whom a hunger story will become news because he has visited an area, or an NGO that has paid for a reporter to accompany it to cover a child marriage story. Obviously, accessibility to not only computers but the internet as well, is challenging but these days things are better than they used to be particularly with the phenomenal growth in the usage of mobile technology such as smart phones and internet dongles. Enlightened community leaders in these villages can take the lead by being the “barefoot reporters” telling the stories which have the soul of the people rather than stories that are only written for the number of people who have died or have suffered catastrophe as a result of their circumstances. If anything, the stories told by the victims themselves would even prevent such catastrophes if the authors recognise a problem that may exacerbate in the future—a bridge with missing bolts and nuts, lack of fertiliser in an area and so on and so forth. Who knows, these stories would even start questioning some decisions imposed on them by outsiders.
Thursday, 5 July 2012
WHY WE NEED "BAREFOOT JOURNALISTS"
FOR years, Africa’s dire situations especially hunger, has been defined by what has been reported by western media. Where the media has not gone, those situations have remained unreported. Africans who have found themselves in situations that needed reporting have always asked, and I know this from my career as a journalist, “when are you sending a reporter here to write a story about our need for relief food—or about the lack of water?” Sometimes I picked it up from there—or as was usually the case due to circumstances beyond my control—never pursued the story. Most poignant of the stories I picked up in this way was during my visit to a village near Chirundu in south eastern Zambia in the early 2000s when a headmen told of how hunger had ravaged his village and one person resorted to eating mud if only to kill her hunger pangs. People have hungered for journalists to report stories of child marriages in their areas and people have hungered to tell stories of how relief food, yes the much needed relief food, has been abused by officials in charge and even how a group of villagers were experimenting with food storage. In the absence of reporters or even the absence of interest by the reporters, these stories have not been told. After attending the fifth Global Voices Online 2012 summit in Nairobi both as a blogger and contributing author and hearing great stories of how citizens out of sheer determination, are harnessing new media technologies in other parts of the world, I realised that people in most African villages, and certainly Zambian ones, can tell their own stories sans reporters, but through blogging. The notion obviously is that you can only blog in English or even French or Portuguese, but, nay. You can blog in your own language, be it Tumbuka, Lunda, Lozi, Bemba, Lamba and, indeed, any language for Zambia. Be assured that there are a lot other people online who understand your language with some of them even willing to translate them.