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Giving Voice to the Voiceless: Oblate “Radio Liseli”

 Abril Villarreal-Medina
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By Fr. Barnabas Simatende, OMI, Director of Oblate Radio Liseli

Oblate Radio Liseli in Zambia was established principally to evangelize the communities in the Western Province, as the Missionary Oblates have always found rural villages hard to reach due to seasonal floods, bad terrain and poor or non-existent road networks.  This year, Oblate Radio Liseli will celebrate its 12th Anniversary.

Fr. Barnabas Simatende, OMI

Today, Radio Liseli (local word for ‘light’) is playing a vital role in the Western Province’s development.  The station’s outreach is felt in nearby provinces too.

Mongu Diocese, headed by Oblate Bp. Evans Chinyemba, O.M.I. has nearly 20 full parishes and over 250 outstations with a limited number of pastors and pastoral associates to serve them.  The large span of the area and a growing Catholic population prompted the need for outreach through radio.

In addition to religious programs, Radio Liseli also broadcasts programs that respond to local community concerns.  In this regard, Radio Liseli continues to be the voice of the community, creating space for people to air their concerns and get them addressed.

Some of the community radio programs are:

• Good Governance – invites local leadership to appear on the program to address issues of concerns in their communities and to explore solutions.

• Community Connection – this program organizes open-air public debates around community issues.

• Talking Space – this two-hour discussion program is studio based. Guests are invited to address a number of community concerns with local residents joining in through a phone line.

These and several other community programs engage local residents and serve as platforms for them to speak about issues affecting their lives.

For instance, Oblate Radio Liseli found out the local council was distributing plots of land currently being used as a community burial site.  Zambian law prohibits any development on land used as a cemetery until after at least 50 years later.  Radio Liseli took on this issue and ran several radio programs to bring attention to the matter.

The local authority responded by directing the court to issue an order for every structure erected on cemetery land to be demolished.  The order was implemented and graveyard plots cleared.  This can ultimately be credited to Oblate Radio Liseli’s empowering people through its community programs.

Another example is the limited access to clean running water experienced by many communities of Mongu.  Oblate Radio Liseli brought attention to this issue and challenged the local water authority (Western Water and Sewerage Company) to address it.

Western Water and Sewerage Company responded by drilling four boreholes in the affected areas.  One of the boreholes drilled in the township of Imwiko is already up and running.  The company continues to drill subsequent boreholes and hopes to have most of them operational soon.

These are just a few examples of how Oblate Radio Liseli has reached out, beyond spreading the Word of God, to incorporating programs that transform the lives of local residents.  We remain committed to staying “tuned in” to the needs of the people we serve.