Thursday, November 3, 2011

Community radio workshop on reproductive and sexual health, part 1

The community radio movement has been planning workshops for people in various radio stations.  A few months ago I came to a workshop held at Radio Doble Via in San Mateo, where we discussed human rights, the rights of indigenous people, and then recorded radio spots on those themes. The next workshop which was the weekend of October 29-30, was on reproductive and sexual health. This has been an issue that Ixmukané has been focusing on for a while, although I haven't been able to attend sessions -- some of the health promoters have been conducting workshops with young people.

So, it took some doing to make sure that someone from Ixmukané other than me attended the workshop. I happened to find out about it since I am in contact with people from the community radio movement more generally, and one of the key organizers, Anselmo, had told me about the workshop a few weeks back. I then contacted Rosendo, who was in charge of letting the radio stations know.

This needs a bit of backtracking. There are a few hundred radio stations in Guatemala that call themselves "community radio". Some of them are religious stations, broadcasting on behalf of a church or a denomination. There is a network of stations - not sure quite how many -- that are part of an institution called FGER (Guatemalan Federation of Radiophonic Schools: Federación Guatemalteca de Escuelas Radiofónicas). I think it's about a dozen. But this is a religious network of radios. What we define as the "movement of community radios" or the "real community radios" is a more limited number: maybe about 80 or 100.  Within that network, a group of about 20 radios have been identified as "pilot radios" -- radios that are receiving some special support and training through Cultural Survival and the Asociación Mujb'ab'l yol (which means "meeting of expressions" in Mam, one of the 22 Maya languages).  Our radio has been included in this group of 20 stations that are receiving these training sessions.

Because I have developed my own network of contacts with the people in the leadership of Mujb'ab'l yol, and the staff of Cultural Survival and thus the leadership of the "community radio movement", I thus sometimes have access to information, because I stay in touch with these folks fairly regularly. SoI found out that there was going to be a training session and said I wanted to attend but would pay my own way so that I didn't end up taking the space that had been reserved for our station: because of resources. The workshops include transportation, lodging and meals -- the training sessions are held in San Mateo, near Xela, and the radio stations that participate are located in other departments.  The city of San Marcos is about 40 minutes, and Momostenango, where one of the stations is located, is about an hour and a half away, but otherwise, people have to travel at least 3 hours to get to San Mateo, so it is a bit of a commitment, and since most people are volunteers at their stations and no one is wealthy, people can't really attend unless their costs are covered. I am always impressed and humbled by the effort that people make to attend these workshops. One of the men, whose name I forget but whom I like a lot, comes from Jalapa, which is at least 8 hours each way.  Nearly all use public transportation, which is crowded, smelly (diesel fumes) and uncomfortable. I took the bus one time, back at the end of June, when my car was in the shop, and it was not a pleasant ride, and our buses were not even that crowded.

Originally the workshop was to have been held the weekend of October 22 and 23rd, and I had made an elaborate plan to be able to attend the workshop and also visit Occupy Wall Street -- booking an evening flight on Sunday, figuring I could leave San Mateo late Sunday morning and make it to the airport for a 6 p.m. flight, so I wouldn't have to miss the workshop. But then after purchasing my ticket, the workshop was postponed for a week because of the weather and the condition of the highways. Although the worst of the rains had stopped and the major blockages on the highway were actually cleared by the time the workshop would have been held, the organizers decided some days in advance to postpone.  I was mildly annoyed - yes, very petty of me, I know. I would have undoubtedly made my trip to New York at least a day longer (i.e. I would have left earlier, like over the weekend) but it was too late to change the ticket without incurring a lot of additional costs.

It is not always easy to make things happen at Ixmukané. The organization has a lot of projects under way at once, and the projects all seem to involve a lot of bureaucratic paperwork. So getting the attention of the leadership of the organization for anything that is not a hot-button issue is difficult. And sometimes at the radio station we feel as though we are forgotten. Everyone likes the fact that we exist but we don't receive a lot of attention unless there is a crisis or unless we are needed for something (like to do a live transmission of some activity that the organization has sponsored).

I wanted to be sure that someone from Radio Ixmukané attended the workshop because the person who attended the June workshop, Lucero, is no longer working at the radio (although she is still working for Ixmukané, but she moved to a different project).  I have my own agenda here: in order for our radio station to develop, the people involved in it need to feel that they are part of something larger, a real movement. My own experience of attending the June workshop and the national encounter of community radios in Guaemala in June was very inspiring, and while my compañeros might not have exactly the same reaction, I think that they will get a greater sense of the politics of community radio. That it is a movement. That it is connected with the right of indigenous peoples to have the means of self-expression. Too often, it seems to me, the folks at Radio Ixmukané have just viewed it as a job. But the other stations, where no one (or almost no one) receives a salary, people make radio because they need to make radio.  That consciousnes and that urgency have seemed to be lacking. And I think we will make better radio at Radio Ixmukané if people have a sense of the bigger picture, and understand why community radio is so urgently important.

This was clear to me several days ago when I was talking to Kan about attending the workshop and he said, "Ah, but I can learn what I need to learn by reading things online." I didn't chew him out, but tried to explain that the value of the workshop was not just technical knowledge but hearing from the people who worked at other radio stations and being part of a network.

So I tried to work this from three angles: talking to my colleagues at the radio about the workshop, talking to the people who were organizing it to make sure that they had the correct contact information for us, and also talking to the leadership of Ixmukané (or at least getting some messages to them). Since the radio does not operate independently but is under the aegis of the organization Ixmukané everything we do has to be approved by the leadership.

Up until the last minute I didn't know who was going to be attending the workshop on behalf of the radio. As the workshop was postponed, and I was out of the country for a few days the week before the workshop, I wasn't able to stay on top of it. When I came back no one (or I should say no one at the radio) knew who was attending, and neither Kan nor Jeanet were planning to go (they are the only two other people at the radio station full time. Jeanet has children and takes classes on Saturdays; Kan was involved in the dance of the bulls (baile de los toritos), a traditional dance that is performed during the Día de Todos los Santos celebrations, and he had to work on his costume and get ready. But I don't think it was just their lack of interest; the organization's leadership decided to send two other people, who were not part of the radio station. All I had found out before the workshop was that 'two compañeros from Chichi" were going to attend. No one told me who these people were and why they were selected to attend. That didn't seem to make much sense to me but there was nothing I could do about it other than write to the leadership of the organization and reiterate that the workshop was designed to strengthen the work of the radio station, and that costs were only being covered for one person.

Friday afternoon I set off for Xela; I had decided to go the day before so I could avoid having to get up and hit the road at 6 a.m. to get there by 8, and also so I could visit with my friends in Xela. I got a few messages from the secretary of the association asking me for instructions on how to get to the location: apparently that was not part of the invitation, as most people attending had been there before (or people form their radio stations had attended) and so there was not the need. I explained briefly which bus they would need to take from the terminal in Xela and where to get off, and told Tomasita to make sure that they had my phone number to call me.

I arrived at around 9; breakfast was to be at 8 but since I was staying with friends I ate breakfast at their house and just arrived for the workshop. It was lovely to see people again; not all the attendees were people I had met, but several had been either at the last training session or at the national encounter in Guatemala in August or both. I have stayed in touch with a few of them more regularly via phone, email or Facebook, and so I truly view them as friends and colleagues. So it was with great pleasure that I saw Julian from Estero Maya in Momostenango, whom I have visited twice, and Francisco from Snuq Jolom in Santa Eulalia, and Brenda from one of the radio stations around Lake Atitlán, Angelica from Radio Ixchel in Sumpango, and of course the organizers, Tino, Anselmo and Cesar (all of whom are part of the Cultural Survival project).

After we had started the first part of the workshop, my phone rang and it was the two people who had been sent by Ixmukané who were at the pedestrian overpass on the highway. I had known they would call; I realized on my way to the radio station that I had told them to get off at the wrong overpass (there are two in San Mateo, and for some reason I was thinking from the other direction; the last time I had told someone to meet me there, it was my friend Patrick who was coming from the opposite direction, and so I had inadvertently told the folks from Chichi to get off at the first overpass). So I pulled my car out and went and fetched them and had a chance to talk to them a little, so it wouldn't seem as though we didn't know each other at all.

The workshop was fun; a lot of interactive stuff. Some little games that pushed us to think quickly and also identify ourselves. There was a lot of joking and laughter, and now "gringa con sabor"(gringa with flavor) is my official nickname in the community radio movement: my friend Humberto did the opening presentation of the workshop and in the initial round of introductions, after I had presented myself, he added "And she is also known as the gringa con sabor". So the name stuck. And then throughout the weekend, the guys especially kept on asking me "And what flavor is that?", and we would all laugh. My standard responses were, "I don't know, you'll have to ask," (and then if someone pressed, "Who should we ask?" I replied "Boca cerrada no entran moscas" -- flies don't enter a closed mouth), or "Chile picante!" as I also have a reputation for eating a lot of chile.

 There was a theater performance by a group of young people from the area around Lake Atitlán, about HIV/AIDS and the use of condoms, which used a lot of humor but also very explicit instructions on how to use a condom. And then an interesting discussion  about a lot of related issues: questions about other STDs, other methods of contraception, and so forth. Then we set to work to write radio spots: there were about 8 or 10 themes, ranging from family planning to HIV/AIDS, and we were encouraged to use a lot of humor and be creative. 

No comments:

Post a Comment