WACC steps up effort to respond to communication needs of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia
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WACC steps up effort to respond to communication needs of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia

A project to establish “communication that brings us together” began with a mix of “great enthusiasm and uncertainty” over a year ago in Colombia, as the country grappled with the influx of an unprecedented number of Venezuelan migrants.

Today, that project, “Among Neighbours: Network of Colombian and Venezuelan Citizen Journalists – implemented by WACC members Grupo Comunicarte and Fundacion Comunicacion Positiva – is thriving with continued support from WACC Global and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

By creating a network of 22 citizen journalists from 22 community and campus radio stations in Colombia and Venezuela the project has been able to provide migrants and host communities access to relevant information. It has also been helping to address negative stereotypes about migrants that contribute to a culture of distrust, xenophobia and discrimination.

The concept for the project began as 770,000 Venezuelans who were escaping their country’s economic and political turmoil began arriving in Colombia between September 2018 to 2019. About 1.6 million Venezuelan migrants now live in Colombia, comprising about 3.4% of the total population. An additional 2.5 million are expected to emigrate, many of them headed to Colombia, which has an open migration policy so far. It is a movement that has been described by the International Office of Migration as “the largest displacement in Latin America’s history.”

The network of citizen journalists has focused on stories about the needs of migrants and refugees, including housing, health, employment, and legal advice, among other things. They have also included stories that lift up Venezuelans, by educating listeners about their culture and values as a people, and stories that address issues around xenophobia and racism.

In its report to WACC, Grupo Comunicarte and Fundacion Comunicacion Positiva highlighted the following key project achievements:

  • 22 people (10 Venezuelans and 12 Colombians; 11 men and 11 women) from 22 community and campus radio stations on both sides of the border and in Bogotá received specialized training on migration issues, human rights, media production, and communication rights. 95% of those trained showed full commitment to the initiative through media production and attendance and continue to be part of it.72% of those trained carried out a local assessment of migration, communication, and information needs in their communities; 80% of those trained felt the assessment was a useful tool and integrated learnings into their work.90% of those trained reported feeling confident in the new skills and knowledge they acquired as a result of their participation.
  •  424 media products were produced by network members. The project team used these content to produce a further 238 products, bringing the total number of media products produced to 662. Media products included radio reports, videos, photographs, and written articles which focused on themes such as migrants’ rights, shared culture, and personal interest stories, among other themes.
  • 202 radio stations in Colombia, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries broadcast the radio content:  22 participating radio stations on both sides of the border and in Bogotá; 22 Jesuit radio stations in Venezuela (IRFA network); 30 AM, FM, and online campus-based radio stations in Colombia (RRUC network); and 150 community radio stations across Latin America (ALER network).
  • Approximately 910,000 people actively listened to radio content in both Colombia and Venezuela.
  • Media content produced in the context of the project had a positive impact in 95% (21) of the 22 communities in terms of greater intercultural dialogue and awareness about xenophobia being a negative phenomenon.

The project established a cohesive identity online through a website, an internal website for project participants and allies , and social media channels.

  •  73,343 people actively engaged online; and 90% of citizen reporters were satisfied with online engagement as they felt it enabled them to reach a larger audience.

The project has been extremely well received by other CSOs and media activists in Colombia: Approximately 150 organizations across the country, including the Jesuit Refugee Service and UNHCR, received and shared information about the project within their networks; 90% of those consulted expressed a positive opinion of the project.

The network has actively contributed to the development of a migration narrative based on human rights and intercultural dialogue through hundreds of media productions that have reached hundreds of thousands of people in both countries. The network has also gained recognition among human rights and cooperation organizations such as the Jesuit Refugee Service, UNHCR, and UNICEF, as well as several universities.

In 2020, thanks to ELCA’s ongoing support, WACC will step up its efforts in Colombia by:

  • Continuing to enhance capacity building for members of the network, this time focused on the production of not only radio content, but also audiovisual content;
  • Encouraging member networks to produce new content to promote access to information on topics such as migrant rights, access to essential services, and intercultural dialogue. There will be a new focus on content on the rights of children and health;
  • Working towards achieving a greater understanding of the impact of the project in each of the 22 communities that host the 22 citizen reporters; and
  • Strengthening strategic alliances with other civil society organizations to increase the reach of media content.

An estimated 880 media products will be produced in 2020 and will be disseminated through community and university radio stations, as well as through digital social networks and public events at the community level.

According to WACC’s estimates, the network of reporters will have a potential audience, without taking into account the digital channels, of six million people in Bogotá and three million people in the border areas. In addition, the project expects to reach another 4 million people in Venezuela, thanks to an alliance WACC has established with a Jesuit broadcasting network in that country. — by Marites Sison


Photo above: A member of the network of citizen journalists at a migrants’ reception centre in  Bogota. By Grupo Comunicarte





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