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Uma's Battle PDF Print E-mail
Written by Amel Belay   


Uma's Battle

UmaIt had been raining hail all of yesterday in Gebreguracha (Oromia region) and when I arrived in the morning, there were still mounds of hail everywhere. The sky overhead was grey and I already had misgivings about having chosen this dark day to meet *Uma Shewa, our current diarist whose story is running on Aantee on Radio Ethiopia. Nevertheless, Shewaye Arega, the producer of Uma's diaries had told me a disturbing story and had me worrying about her. The dark day did nothing to ease my mind. I had to go out to Gebreguracha and see the situation for myself - it had already been more than 2 weeks since Uma's parents asked her to leave her home.



A Different View PDF Print E-mail
Written by Amel Belay, Betengna Diaries Coordinator   
Friday, 20 March 2009 13:27

The Mekelle Boarding School for the blind is really no different from any other teaching institution in Ethiopia run on meager funds. Home to visually impaired students, this school has been educating children from pre-school up to 4th grade since 1993. Berhan GebreMariam, a woman in her early forties has been teaching here since 2004. After being trained as a Betengna discussion group facilitator and facilitating a few sessions, she decided to expand her discussion group by including older visually impaired students from outside the school in the group.


Berhan admits that she sometimes gets stuck on questions the students ask her after listening to Betengna. "They ask all sorts of questions," she told me as she flipped through notes she keeps during her discussions with the students, "sometimes about mother to child transmission through breast milk, condoms, anything really. What makes it difficult to answer their questions confidently is how intently they ask [their questions], you feel like no answer can satisfy them."


A new world unveiled itself the more I spoke to Berhan, a world where visually impaired children suffer not only from a disability but also from barriers that have been overcome in most developed countries, like tailored infrastructure for those disabled in many different ways, or access to (up-to-date) information through different mediums. Berhan tells me that the only books they have in Braille are biblical texts purchased the previous year. They have an embosser to create texts in Braille with but no money to pay for a typist. As she reveals this, I began to understand the high value such a group would place on radio programs such as Betengna.


Small Talk…BIG CHANGES PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 27 February 2009 13:50

It’s a very hot and dusty mid-day but nothing stops the participants of the Finote Birhan discussion group in Mekelle (Tigray) from gathering in the old gym they use as their meeting venue. The group gathers weekly to listen to episodes of the Betengna radio diaries and discuss what they heard over coffee and popcorn. This week, the facilitator stands up to apologize that there is no electricity but the group doesn’t mind. They want to continue their discussion about Hiwot Mamo’s unplanned pregnancy from last week’s episode.




Sirak Tesfaye PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 27 February 2009 13:48

There was a time when Sirak Tesfaye’s whereabouts were unknown even by his own family members but today Sirak has unexpectedly become a radio icon recognized everywhere by people who have heard his story on Betegna. Sirak ran away from his aunt’s care at a young age looking fora better life but instead found a life full of complications, struggle, and unfulfilled desires. Years later Sirak finds himself talking about his experiences to Addis Abebans on FM 97.1 and thousands of other Ethiopians across the world through the internet. Sirak tells his story with candidness, which is a story of someone who has learned to derive the best from life and who is living positively with HIV.



Radio Diarist Becomes a Local Celebrity PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 27 February 2009 13:46

Despite the rain, the large auditorium in Awassa, Ethiopia slowly fills with young people who will be honored with participation certificates for the Betengna Listening Discussion groups (LDGs) in which people listen to and discuss Betengna Radio Diaries’ episodes with their peers. Young people whisper in excitement to each other upon hearing that Hiwot Mamo* will be in attendance.


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