“Cellphones have become a critical tool to change lives in communities.”This was highlighted by community activists at the launch of the Ubumbano Voice Community Project in Johannesburg today. Bobby Marie of the Bench Marks Foundation facilitated a panel discussion on the value of digital media in promoting social change. He said “We have not understood fully how significant cellphones are in driving change in communities. An app like this has massive potential to bring communities’ voice into the mainstream”
Community activist from Thulani Snake Park, Thoko Mntambo echoed this sentiment when she described how digital tools have helped her expose many of the difficulties the communities face by living next to discarded mine dumps and tailing dams. She told of children being affected by cerebral palsy, respiratory disease and other medical conditions caused directly by exposure to poisonous chemicals.
Mukasiri Sibanda of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA)challenged journalists to pay attention to the stories of communities. “We have a wealth of information, but a poverty of attention by the media”. Reporting on community experiences can help to hold investors and governments accountable for decision that affect the wellbeing of people living in mining-affected communities.
The app is a platform for interaction, learning and exchange ideas amongst local and various stakeholders. This seeks to give voice to communities we work with, and that builds solidarity across the global south and north.Clarity Sibanda from the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) is the moderator of information that flows to the app, and described it as “a way of communities telling their stories without being filtered by anyone – it is authentic community voice”.The challenge is for journalists to get in touch with those who post stories, and the app can help them do that.
The app can be downloaded from the Play Store.
NOTE TO EDITORS:The Ubumbano Community Voice website and application is a platform for community activists in Southern Africa to share stories of their struggles for dignity and justice, and for journalists and others to get direct access to those stories. It is supported by the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of faith-based organisations.