The Media Journey Of A Refugee Woman who ‘grabs opportunities’

Even without media background, she was undeterred to be the voice of the voiceless.

Jane interviewing in her Omugo village. Photo credit: Ludanga James

It is March 8th 2021, the international women’s day which is celebrated under the theme #ChooseToChallenge

More so, the world reflects on the achievements of women, challenges they face and takes action.

We take a look at the bold step taken by a refugee woman in Northern Uganda to transform the life in her communities.

When Charity Jane fled her country, South Sudan in 2018, she was settled in Uganda’s Omugo refugee camp. Now she’s among 14,000 refugees in Omugo village four of Omugo refugee settlement in Northern Uganda.

At the time, she noted fellow refugees struggling to get reliable information about services like health care, food distribution and other issues outside the camp.

Most often, refugees could rely on information passed through megaphones, mobile speakers, posters, local leaders and neighbors. But she realized that many local voices are not represented.

She’s started volunteering for humanitarian organizations on ground. That was giving her some stress relief, though not enough.

The information gap was still huge in her settlement. Enough, she had to overcome her fear and the ego that was holding her back. So, Charity chose media work as her challenge. In late 2019, she joined Soot Semee, a community-centred media project.

“By then, I didn’t know I could become a very good reporter”, says Charity, who is now one of the volunteer reporters for Soot Semee in her village.

Even without media background and education, she was undeterred to be the voice of the voiceless. Charity had the zeal to learn and bring into light the untold stories.

“So far, I can identify issues in the community and I can also listen to the interactions of the community members, and ask them what could be the way forward to solve their issues”.

Jane’s work is played in over 100 speakers distributed in Omugo 4. Photo credit: Jaiksana

The project name ‘Soot Semee’ is in simple Arabic and means ‘good voice’ of compassion. The initiative is implemented particularly in Omugo village four by Community Development Centre — CDC with support from Amplifying Voices (formerly known as Health Communication Resources UK).

The media project covers daily plights and events in refugee camps and beyond.

Charity encountered challenges at the initial stage of the project. Some members of her community were refusing to be interviewed. This was so because they had just fled a war-torn country where attack against press freedom was rampant and freedom of expression limited.

But she continued to do her work. Finally, her resolve paid off.

“In every work, there are challenges”, she says.

Since Charity joined the media project, she has contributed in covering various issues from coronavirus pandemic, economic to social-cultural and environmental issues. She’s recorded local dramas and community service announcements that educate people on maximum use of food relief, covid-19 and peaceful coexistence.

Produced in simple Arabic, Soot Semee podcast is then played in more than 100 speaker boxes distributed to the refugees and natives.

“I’ve gained a lot of things. The community is also very participatory””, she says.

“I came slowly, slowly to learn and identify issues in the community and what would help them”.

Charity’s team has 10 community-volunteer reporters who are from both refugees and host communities.

Prior to work, they had received some basic training in content development, interviewing and the principles guiding community-centred media.

Charity welcomes opportunities that aim at widening their knowledge and skills in media work.

“I will grab it very fast because I want to build my career and become a professional reporter”.

She’s among 1.43 million refugees in Uganda.

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Alison Lemeri

Freelance writer, business professional, podcaster and a humanitarian