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The Community Media Project: Community Reporter Sula Kanyama is the Community Voice.

Sula Kanyama is a Community Reporter and a motorcyclist (Boda Boda taxi rider) in Mbale town. For about 10 years, Sula has been a zealous fan and agent for Step FM radio, transporting Journalists to respond to breaking news stories, and occasionally delivering announcements from the radio listeners and community members to the radio station. As a child, Sula had dreams of becoming a professional journalist. “I drew my inspiration from watching news on UTV (now Uganda Broadcasting Corporation), unfortunately I dropped out of school at a tender age due to family hardships and I never got opportunity to complete my education.” Sula narrates. Sula’s interest in “communication” was however rejuvenated with the formation of a radio fans club and the call-in program segments at Step FM. “We called into the radio shows to send greetings and dedicate particular songs to our colleagues and family members and they too returned the favor.” Sula however adds that though they were having fun on the airwaves; it was until he got selected as a community reporter that he realized he could contribute meaningfully to his community by reporting on issues his people cared about. Sula was identified and selected as a community reporter under CEMCOD’s community Media pilot project in Mbale. The Community Media Project” sets out as a grassroots media project that amplifies youth and community voices and increases their participation in the development agenda. Through the project, CEMCOD conducts trainings for young people and community members on how to report on issues of concern within their localities, thus creating a strong and respected structure within the community. The project has so far trained a group of 27 highly motivated young men and women now actively reporting and creating impact in their communities. Sula says being a community reporter has earned him respect and lifted his image within the community but most of all his reports have generated a positive impact to his community in Namabasa. “In my community, some parents used to ignore taking their children to school because they have an excuse of their religion not allowing them, but when I reported about it and informed the Local Council authorities, we raised the issue in the community interface meeting and things went good.” He says. As a motorcyclist, Sula is able to report about issues beyond his community because he moves and interacts with many people. His movements have also enabled him to appreciate the use of community reporters especially when he compares the impact they create in their community to communities without the structure. “We receive so many calls from neighboring communities to obtain information, but yet we cannot reach these localities. On average, I received over 50 new missed calls in a day!” Sula says due to the overwhelming number of community concerns and his passion to create transformation within his community, he is keen to report on every issue that happens around him and encourages his peers to furnish him with any crucial information. “I report whatever has happened in my community, at one time there was a very terrible accident that occurred. People wanted to burn up the car, but I was able to call police for help.” Though Sula operates a demanding business (Boda Boda) with a family of two wives and children, he says community reporting is part of his “business” and daily programming, adding that it is a gratifying feeling for him to be the community voice. During one of the field visits and stakeholder interface meetings, Robert Wandwasi the District HIV and AIDS Focal Person Mbale District Local Government said the Community media project was meeting a real need of absence of effective channels of relaying information and related concerns within community and the need for addressing slow and non-response of local leadership & duty bearers, which makes it very relevant and much appreciated. The Community Media project is implemented in Mbale Municipality and Bunghoko sub county of Mbale district in Eastern Uganda.

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