The tranquility at the entrance makes you assume the place is empty. The building looks deserted and ghastly but the presence of a medium sized security guard suggests that there are occupants and activity going on behind the walls.
The security guard seems to read peoples’ minds. At the sight of visitors he dashes towards them with a wide welcoming grin.
“Welcome to Research for Common Ground. How can we help you? Would you like to speak to the young journalists,” he asks.
He continues with a queue of endless questions, all directed towards the young journalists minding their business behind the rugged walls.
The guard can’t hide his delight and admiration of what the youth are doing in an effort to advocate and educate others about their rights through the media.
“They are great girls and I enjoy every single program they produce. I am all ears at Salus and Contact F.M each day they are broadcasting,” he says.
Chuckles from female students abruptly end the chit-chat with the guard cutting off the flow of adequate information as soon as the guard starts talking about Urungano.
Enthusiasm for what they do is written all over their faces as soon as the studio door opens. Young girls continuously talking and brain storming about the next show and who their sources should be is all you hear.
“It’s compulsory that we end the talk show with a comment from a renowned psychiatrist,” says Leonille Muteteri, is heard in her group.
During their brain storming spree, the program co-coordinator looks proudly at them. She had never imagine the program would thrive this fast.
Early in 2008, Urungano’s genesis began under the umbrella of Search For Common Grounds (SFCG), a non-governmental organization that empowers and advocates for children’s rights. Since then, Urungano has never looked back.
“Urungano is now one year old and we have no regreats,” says Christine Rwampungu, the coordinator for SFCG.
“The whole idea of Urungano was to reform, prevent and find solutions for the problems that exist among Rwandan youth,” Rwampungu said.
Satisfactorily, she credits Urungano for achieving their chore goals along the road.
“We chose to use girls in order to emphasize gender balance through empowering them. At that time there were quite a number of cases where girls were denied the right to education just because they are girls,” says
Rwampungu, “the first talk shows emphasized education for all, and as I speak the cases are minimal and the feedback we get shows there is a change.”
Speaking of positively and changed lives, the six girls happily give testimony to this. Each girl has a special attachment to what they do and they give all the credit to journalism! Their studies, place in society, discipline and is what they have related to the radio program.
“I have learnt a lot and I am happy that I am instrumental in delivering this to the rest of the youth,” says Denise Niwenshuti one young journalist.
These presenters who are between 17 to 21 years of age, host talk shows. Their main target is an audience of youth between the ages of 12 to 25 years old. They stop at nothing when it comes to developing topics that affect the youth.
They sensitize and create awareness on the 30 minute long program that runs on Contact F.M every Friday evening at 4:00 p.m and is repeated on Radio Salus every Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
Basically they feature an interview where they encourage the public’s response towards a specific topic of discussion that is followed by a recorded interview from an expert who crowns the show.
“It’s touching to see many youth change for the better due to this program,” said Niwenshuti.
Telling their stories
The captivating talk shows have become part of the young journalists’ lives. Every girl has a story to tell of the most instrumental talk show in their lives.
“The talk show about domestic violence and its outcomes to parents and children was an eye opener for me and many youth out there,” Niwencuti said.
Like Niwencuti, many youth who grew up in violent homes have a lot to tell.
“Many youth still think that domestic violence only has physical effects which is not the case,” said Niwencuti.
She said it’s not a normal lifestyle and after discussing about domestic violence and its mental and psychological impact, positive outcomes were yielded.
Aline Mugeni’s considers her best talk show to be the one on ‘Premature marriages’-- a topic that ventures into the reasons why Rwandan youth hurry into the marriage institution.
“I discovered many things about why many children who grow up in tough circumstances marry before 17. And I was shocked to learn of another kid who married at 12 in Ruhengeri district,” Mugeni said.
The most building topics that Urungano has uncovered range from culture, sex issues, gender, vices among the youth and solutions towards the problems.
“I preferred the talk show about drug abuse and its outcomes,” Michelline Kwizera adds.
Kwizera believes the talk show is exclusive and very educational for the youth since the time they featured a former drug abuser.
“Many youth called in and he advised them from his experience,” said Kwizera.
The positive impacts of the Urungano radio show to the Rwandan community are countless.
“Youth listen to peers more than their parents and guardians. This makes it easy for change to be introduced in their lives,” says Begnine Ishimwe, another presenter.
Urungano has been credited for making Rwandans open up. The secretive and closed Rwandan culture plays a major role in promoting HIV/AIDS.
“It was evident after we hosted a show about condom use. Many people said they would rather die than buy a condom,” said Leonille Muteteli.
According to Muteteli, many issues would rather be left untold despite their negative impact on the society.
“But the shows change that and instead help people to open up,” she adds.
Though four of the presenters are still in high school and the 2 are in their senior six vacations; their confidence is evident. However they have their fair share of challenges in the field.
“Local people are never open to journalists. This makes information gathering a difficult process for us,” Kwizera said.
“They always talk before they see the microphone, but when they see it, they shy away,” she adds.
As they discuss about their next topic yet to hit the air waves, the young Urungano journalists look forward towards achieving a completely changed Rwanda through their broadcasts.