In the early stages of Nepal’s peace process, NED grantee Antenna Foundation Nepal recognized the potential that community based radio has for engaging citizens in the political transition. However, in the post-war context, most Nepalis considered radio to be a propaganda tool used by the Maoists and the government during the country’s decade-long civil war. In its efforts to debunk this perception and foster a culture of radio listenership, Antenna emerged as leader in the production of radio programs for social change.
At 17, Rajan Parajuli joined Antenna producing radio programs, supporting community radio stations around the country, and training journalists to use radio as a platform to discuss important local and national issues. Now 28, Rajan has contributed to building Antenna’s reputation as a cutting edge media institution with the success of two innovative programs: Nepal Chautari live show and the Doko radio program.
To involve citizens in the debate on constitution drafting, Antenna started Nepal Chautari, a live radio talk show that features leading politicians and talking heads. The show encourages listeners to call-in with their questions and comments to directly engage with its guests on the political transition from a monarchy to a democracy. This idea of giving citizens the power to participate through radio was groundbreaking.
Rajan not only helped produce the show over the seven years that it has aired, but has also served as a host, putting guests in the hot seat and analyzing problems confronting the nation. Antenna successfully broadcasts this program through more than 70 radio stations around the country and, as a result, facilitates interactions between listeners nationwide and policy makers in Kathmandu. In 2007, the BBC World Trust ranked Nepal Chautari as one of the most popular radio talk shows in the country, with 29 percent of the national audience.
While a majority of Nepal’s citizens enjoy access to community radio, large pockets of the population remain unconnected and unaware of the benefits of radio. In response, Rajan helped established Doko Radio, a program designed to introduce the concept of community radio in Nepal’s more remote areas. Using dokos—bamboo-woven baskets used to haul food and water across the country’s demanding terrain— Antenna created a traveling community radio station and visited a variety of villages that had either limited or no radio wave presence.
Each doko was packed with 30 watt portable FM transmitters and kerosene generators, which were used to power the temporary radio stations in the mornings and evenings. Walking sometimes for days, Rajan was able to inspire communities about the power of radio to connect with fellow citizens across the country to voice concerns, discuss solutions for shared problems, and learn from one another. In each village, the team brought people together to engage in dialogue about important local issues and to share stories about their lives.
To attract crowds in each village, Rajan helped organize melas, or festivals, that incorporated local music, video projections, and cultural readings while simultaneously highlighting the positive attributes of community radio. More than 50,000 people in the most unreachable areas of Nepal have had their lives affected by the Doko Radio program.
What Rajan has done with Antenna Foundation Nepal in the last eleven years is inspiring. At just 28 years old, he has trained journalists to further develop their investigative reporting and feature writing skills while traveling to more than 40 districts of Nepal to produce his own feature stories on important issues like conflict, peace building, business and politics. Together with Antenna Foundation Nepal, Rajan is bringing together communities and helping thousands of people in the country stay informed and have a voice.
Antenna Foundation Nepal, Part One
Antenna Foundation Nepal, Part Two
Antenna Foundation Nepal, Part Three