Celebrating World Radio Day — 13 February 2023
Josephine Kamara and Nyangah Rogers-Wright are Purposeful’s radio talk show co-hosts. A girl-centred drama and talkshow, Karo Kura Konection and Kompin, is aired across Sierra Leone twice a week on 38 local and national radio stations and sent directly to our network of over 600 mentors around Sierra Leone, who hold space to listen, learn and connect with 15,000 adolescent girls.
A lifelong activist and a young leader of Sierra Leone’s movement to end violence against girls and women, Josephine is a Senior Advocacy Manager with Purposeful. A young woman mentor since she was an adolescent, Nyangah is a Programme Coordinator with Purposeful’s grantmaking team, moving money to girls and young women locally and globally. In this conversation with Emma Mulhern, Senior Learning and Insights Manager, they take time to reflect on what it means to be co-hosts of this work, reaching thousands of girls and community members every day.
Josephine: Karo Kura Konection is the first of its kind in Sierra Leone — true to girls’ struggles, our brilliance, our unique perspectives and our abilities to ignite the fire to change our communities. As co-hosts, we share stories of our past and our current struggles, our doubts and uncertainties, our falling moments and successes, in other words, we are just normal people with everyday problems that other girls can relate with. It is an amazing experience for me, I see it as an opportunity to talk to my younger self. Through the radio, I talk to girls, as young as six and seven, and all this information I pass to them. I try to make it simple for girls. I’m making sure my younger self has access to this information.
Nyangah: It is life changing. I get to share information with girls and I learn from their responses and feedback, especially when we visit them in their communities. It is so humbling to see that girls relate so much to the topics we talk about. As Josephine said, I myself did not have access to this information growing up. I wish I knew this but didn’t. It’s great to see how girls are learning, how girls are staying informed and they’re applying this knowledge to their daily lives.
We hear from mentors and girls saying that you are their role model — how does that make you feel?
Nyangah: It is an amazing feeling to know that I have been doing impactful work, leading by example and inspiring girls. Trust me, when we visit communities and see the reaction of girls and see how we’ve inspired their lives, it makes me very emotional and happy. I am really humbled and I do not take this for granted.
Josephine: I feel fulfilled. I’m not trying to be a star or be famous through this work. I’m just trying to give information to girls so they can make informed decisions. It feels wonderful to be in this position.
I also want to recognise that the people involved in this work are amazing. This is truly a Purposeful production — we are all a part of it — the conversations, the music. Some of the stories are the survivor stories of the women here, in this office — of how women in this space survive every day. We’re correcting the mistakes of the past. We are doing this with so much love, we’re making sure what we didn’t have, girls today can access.
Josephine, people may not know this but you write the amazing music that goes along with this drama. Where do you get your inspiration?
There was a time I wanted to be a musician before I joined Purposeful, but this desire has evolved over the years and now I want to be a change artist — someone who writes songs about issues affecting girls and women, to use it for advocacy, to empower girls, to give them words and something to dance to, to bring them joy and inspiration. I write how I feel. If I feel happy, I write happy songs, when I feel sad, my songs reflect this. One of my songs called Chance, I wrote in high school. There was no drive for many girls in my class to go to university — not because they weren’t smart or brilliant, but because their parents were putting pressure on them to get married. Then when I started Karo Kura Konection, we had an episode on child marriage and I remembered that I wrote this song. I went to the studio and recorded.
What has been your biggest learning moment over the last two years doing this work?
Nyangah: Girls need information - information is power. During Covid, if we had not come together and brought this drama and talkshow to life, I don’t know what would have happened — thinking back to the Ebola outbreak, a lot of girls became pregnant and dropped out of school because they lacked access to information. I have learned that girls need continuous accurate information and facts. I have seen what it means when girls have information.
Josephine: I have always been aware that information needs to be made available to girls but what was an eye opener is that there are parts of the country where even access to radio is really hard. We have all these programmes happening in Freetown and for some communities, nothing is reaching them. When I went to the community in Bonthe, it was shocking to me. There was no school, no entertainment, no network for phones or radios — to listen to Karo Kura Konection and Kompin, the mentors have to travel to certain areas, where they can get signal to download their messages and the drama. Here, they only speak Mende, whereas the talkshow is in Krio. It was a reminder to me to speak slowly and to make the issues and concepts as simple as possible.
Who is your favourite character in the radio drama and why?
Nyangah: My favourite character is Sia — an adolescent girl who is physically challenged, her accessibility depends on a wheelchair but doesn’t let that stop her. Sia is bold and courageous as she stands up for herself and her friends. She is also a talented singer and is known for sparking the right business ideas that does not only help them to make money but also solve community problems, like when she initiated the cloth masks business to help the community stay safe during the pandemic and help her and her friends to make money to support themselves or when she came up with a reusable pad solution to help girls manage their period and her save money for rent. Sia doesn’t allow herself to be limited by her situation — many girls could learn from her courage. This character was able to bring to life the struggles of girls living with disabilities, break the silence and stigma around disability issues and help communities imagine all the endless possibilities of people living with disabilities. Sia reminds me of myself — a very shy teenage girl finding her voice.
Josephine: Mariatu reminds me of myself at 16, most of what she is going through in the series is similar to what I went through at 16 years old. That is why I resonate with her. One way or the other, we have all been Mariatu, failed by the system that was supposed to protect us, suffered the consequences of economic hardship, burnt by chronic injustice and a total disregard of our lives. What we do is survive and what we have seen in all of the girls circles we have visited is girls refusing to be limited by the circumstances they find themselves in.
What change are you seeing, hearing and feeling?
Josephine: Girls starting their own business is the biggest change. Before, I believed that for this to happen, there would have to be start-up training or some formal orientation around establishing a business. You see how they’ve learned to divide responsibilities among themselves and how to manage cash flow. All of these businesses are happening, just from listening to us. That is indeed big.
Nyangah: This makes me think about a mentor called Mariama — she is now in university because of this work. I know a set of girls from the Tar Kura project, who also listen to the show and four of them recently got into university across the country. I met them as teenagers and now they’re reaching their dreams. I love seeing the girls flourish. Girls don’t only listen, they also apply the information to their lives — how to take care of themselves, how to save money, how to be a boss lady. We are creating space out there for girls to own their power and go out and challenge the world.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future of Karo Kura Konection and Kompin?
Nyangah: We continue to create impact in Sierra Leone and I hope one day, Karo Kura Konection goes global, reaching girls, grantees and partners beyond Sierra Leone.
Josephine: My bigger dream for Karo Kura Konection and Kompin is for it to cut across all of Africa, across the Continent. There is just so much richness and possibility.
Keep a look-out via the Purposeful website for the February 2023 launch of our latest publication, Girl-Centred Media As A Tool for Transformation