Spotlight on Lilian Madelemo of Uhuru FM

| March 5, 2018

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A typical day for Lilian Godwin Madelemo begins with a speedy review of international entertainment news online. Jumping from YouTube to Twitter to Instagram, Ms. Madelemo notes any fresh music releases and celebrity news, and begins to write scripts for her daily program, Uhuru Flava. The 29-year-old radio presenter also joins her colleagues in the studio every morning to read business news on Hello Tanzania. Plus, she hosts a weekly music program called Best Fifteen on Sundays.

She says with a laugh, “I enjoy all my programs!”

But today is not a typical day. This morning, Ms. Madelemo has taken three mini-buses, a rickshaw, and two taxis to reach a village called Kongo, in the Bagamoyo district of eastern Tanzania. The village is about 60 kilometres from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s biggest city, where her radio station, Uhuru FM, is located. She is in Kongo to interview female farmers about the challenges of marketing their cassava products. Whether touring a cassava field or reporting on pop stars, Ms. Madelemo says she loves being a journalist because she learns so much.

She explains: “I get so much from these interviews, and from taking calls from listeners. They say, ‘We don’t know about this issue; we need to know more, more, and more,’ so we take those questions and get answers from experts.”

In 2017, Ms. Madelemo worked on a farmer program called Kilimo Yakinifu, or “Efficient Farming,” in partnership with Farm Radio International. The program focused on new varieties of cassava, and provided information to farmers about planting and harvesting techniques.

Today, Ms. Madelemo is meeting some of the farmers who listened to those programs. Many have adopted the farming practices she described on-air. She walks through rows of waist-high cassava plants and listens carefully as the farmers explain how their yields increased when they planted a new variety called Kiroba. She will use these interviews for her radio programs and for a Farmer story published in this week’s issue of Barza Wire.

She says hearing about the farmers’ success makes her feel that her work was worthwhile: “People get education through our programs. People know about what to do on their farms, how to improve their farms, and they benefit from listening to us. To see that they are doing what we talked about … I feel so good!”

But it hasn’t been easy for Ms. Madelemo to reach this level of satisfaction. She struggled to complete her journalism studies while pregnant, and is now a single mother. She faced sexual harassment repeatedly when applying for jobs. But she stuck with journalism because she says it’s one way to help society grow and prosper.

She explains: “I want to solve problems in our society. I want to be a voice for the people who can’t speak up, for people who aren’t being listened to. I think that’s the reason I’m in journalism.”

Ms. Madelemo is one of four women working in the Uhuru FM newsroom. A 2010 study called Glass Ceilings: Women and men in Southern Africa Media found that, while women hold one out of three editorial positions in Tanzania, they are much more likely to be in short-term, precarious, or freelance roles. Eight out of ten top media managers and board members of Tanzanian media houses are male.

For Ms. Madelemo, the biggest obstacle was landing a job without submitting to some of the demands of the bosses.

She explains: “When I was going to their office with my CV, with my certificates and my diploma, it was hard for me to get a job. I met with the boss (they are men), and sometimes they approached me. [They said], ‘You need job? Let me sleep with you, and then you’ll get a job.’ So it was hard. But I just went to another office, and another office, and another office, and I got a job, but I didn’t sleep with any boss. Because I have a powerful belief in myself.”

After almost two years of searching, she began working at Uplands FM in Iringa. After three years there, she moved back to Dar es Salaam in 2014 to work for Uhuru FM.

She encourages other young women to pursue careers in journalism, even in the face of such obstacles.

“The thing is to believe in yourself. When you say, ‘I can,’ you can. When you say, ‘I am doing this,’ you will do it, and you will get better. So don’t be afraid to enter this industry. It’s so good! We learn so many things, and we meet with different people. When you believe in yourself, you can do it. And then you get what you want.”

This story was prepared with the support of USAID’s New Alliance ICT Extension Challenge Fund, through the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Tanzania. For more information about the Fund, please see: