By Makutu Manneh
The Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJaC) has on Wednesday launched a communications project for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) or Community Based Organizations in The Gambia funded by Danish based Civil Society in Development (CISU) at the tune of D3.7 million dalasi.
The project dubbed Empowering Civil Society Advocacy (ECSA) will accommodate 16 beneficiaries under a 6-month training programme.
Representing the Gambia Press Union (GPU), Lamin Jahateh, said the project is a big one, which shows a manifestation that MAJaC is growing both in depth and scope.
Jahateh said the mandate of MAJaC when it was being established at the time, about a decade ago, was to help GPU to fulfill one of its key mandates, which is the professionalization of the Gambian media.
He said this could be achieved through capacity building to ensure the professionals in the media industry are well trained.
“And over the years, we can see today the impact of MAJaC. It is felt across the media landscape,” he said.
Nonetheless, he said it is important that MAJaC continues to grow and widen its horizon. One of the ways they can do that, he said, is to “touch and impact one of the biggest collaborators of the media.’
He said one of the biggest collaborators of the media is the civil society because both sectors are often interested in the same things, which include accountability, transparency, and/or holding the Government accountable to the people.
“With this project, as I was made to understand, the civil society players will be trained on communications. We know strategic communications is very key in this day and age now. It is not what you do, it is how you communicate what you do and how people understand what you communicate that makes the difference. And this project is going to help civil society players to better project what they do, to better explain what they do and to even better communicate,” he said.
Jahateh said MAJac should be commended for filling that gap between the media and CSOs and the people that both industries are serving.
Lars Mollar, speaking via a virtual statement on behalf of GAMES, said it is important for them to work with the CSOs, saying it is very much in line with what the media does.
He said the media and the CSOs do similar things, which include setting the agenda for the public, raising awareness level of the people among others.
Mr. Molar said the project came out of the clarion call from the CSOs five years ago when they asked them what they wanted from MAJaC and the CSOs told them education. Thus, he said they have now introduced a communications programme at MAJaC to train CSOs to become professionals in their industry.
Sang Mendy, Managing Director of MAJaC, said the project is worth spending 3.7 million dalasi and they are happy to start the project with their partners in the Gambia Media Support and with funding coming from Danish based CSO called CISU.
Mr. Mendy, who is the project manager, said the project aims to empower civil society organizations by offering them communications and advocacy training.
“It is evident that without means to inform and engage citizens’ participation, it would be farfetched to have informed society and without an informed society, citizens wouldn’t be in position to participate in the political discuss and taking informed decisions where it matters most,” he said.
Mr. Mendy said most of the ministries and other institutions in the country have common challenges, which include the absence of a communication strategy or a communications plan, poor documentation strategy, limited capacity for the generation of content idea, content collection etc.
He said they also do not have good messaging skills, which is among the aspects the project training aims to address. Mendy also said the immediate objective is to develop and validate a communication strategy which was achieved, while the second objective is to train 16 communication officers.