DRL supports the Equal Access “Cambodian Organizations Uniting for Rights Advocacy and General Elections” Initiative. Under the COURAGE initiative, Equal Access developed two dynamic radio programs that used creative, fictional storylines and call-in chat shows to connect the rule of law, democracy, local governance, and land disputes with civic responsibilities and electoral participation. The general-audience Success Starts With You program and youth oriented We Can Do It program were both broadcast via 12 partner FM stations and reached approximately 19 out of 24 Cambodian provinces.
The general-audience program used creative approaches to address such topics as election rights, processes and participation, engaging commune councils and local government, good governance, women’s rights, and women as leaders. After training three youth to develop a radio chat show, the youth program used interactive means to cover such topics as youth participation in civil society and community development, commune council and district government structures and responsibilities, and citizen responsibility in government. Eight province based FM radio stations were trained by both the youth and general audience program and co-produced local live call-in shows each week, coordinated to the weekly themes and messages of each episode, and created local dialogue on key community issues.
Equal Access also trained nine community reporters. The community reporters not only provided grassroots content and news features for both programs throughout their 52 episode series, but also received training as election observers and on elections reporting for the 2008 National elections. The reporters contributed to six special pre-election episodes that covered such topics as voter fraud, voter intimidation, the Cambodian National Assembly, and the voting process. They also reported from various provinces on election-day to disseminate accurate information on election activities and results.
The program sparked the organic formation of over 250 listening groups around the country who regularly meet and discuss the broadcast topics. Many of the listening clubs include youth groups that are active and engaged because of the program. In addition, the program generated more than 65,000 listeners-interactions through letters, text messages, phone calls, and listening groups.
One listener explained the impact of the COURAGE initiative: “Motivated by the Equal Access program, we have dared to speak up for what is important to us and criticize our local government’s failure to address what we view as the most pressing problems in our village. For example, after listening to the Equal Access radio program, one listening group member successfully advocated for the construction of a road to the nearby village and to our rice paddies, and I have approached our commune council to construct a new irrigation system to supply our crops.”
Due to the overwhelming success of the DRL-supported program, Equal Access obtained follow-on funding from a variety of international donors to expand the life and impact of the initiative. This program demonstrates the HRDF-model of using creative approaches to achieve immediate results that lead to long-term sustainability.