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Connecting Rural Senegalese Communities Through Radio Journalism

Bonjour! I’ve taken a few days away from hosting WNPR's Where We Live to report from Senegal, on the west coast of Africa. I'm following the work of a Connecticut-based non-profit, Le Korsa, which is working with local groups in Senegal to help rural villages open their own community radio stations.

I'm also reporting on other stories in Senegal, and profiling interesting people I meet along the way.

NPR listeners may be familiar with Dakar, the Senegalese capital -- you hear “Dah-kaaaaar” in the familiar sign-off of Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, an international correspondent based in the city. Of course, I’m a fan, and was hoping to meet her -- but she’s on assignment outside of the country currently. (Check out her latest story.)

The country is a former French colony, and was once part of the Mali Empire.

To introduce listeners to the country, I spoke on Where We Live to the president of Senegalese Association of America before I left. The association is based in New York City, where there’s a large Senegalese population. 

Le Korsa, an NGO, has several projects throughout the country to help the Senegalese people, including a women’s health center in Dakar and a cultural center in Sinthian.

The non-profit's latest project in Senegal is what drew me -- helping to open rural radio stations. While many people listen to the radio, they are cut off from local news, or news and information from Dakar.

I’ll soon visit some radio stations in operation. I'll also visit a community on the eastern side of Senegal, near Tambacounda, where efforts to create a radio station are just beginning. Some of the interviews I gather will be featured on a future Where We Live show -- so stay tuned.

Why is Le Korsa doing this project? After talking with the Senegalese, it saw a need to help communities that are cut off from local news and information.

Credit Lucy Nalpathanchil / WNPR
The famous car rapide in Dakar, Senegal. The traffic congestion in Dakar is a sight to see. Locals often get a lift in these hand-painted mini-buses.

One of its partners, L’Union des Radios Associatives et Communautaires du Senegal (URAC), surveyed people in Senegal and found that while many listen to the radio,often it’s Radio France International instead of local news and information.

As Allegra Itsoga told me -- she's director of Le Korsa -- it’s not just helping them access local news. It will also be news in their local languages, like Wolof and Pulaar.

The radio stations will employ community members trained in journalism, and they will have boards of directors who represent the community, too.  

For now, I'm sharing a few pictures I’ve taken around Dakar. Soon, I hope to introduce you to some of the Senegalese people I've met. A la prochaine!

This is the first of Lucy Nalpathanchil's updates from Senegal where she is reporting on efforts to expand local radio stations in the country. Catch up with the second one.

Lucy leads Connecticut Public's strategies to deeply connect and build collaborations with community-focused organizations across the state.

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