Indigenous communities are mobilizing in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through Cultural Survival’s experience and work with Indigenous Peoples around the world, we are hearing that the pandemic is revealing deep inequalities, poverty, and vulnerability in Indigenous communities.
Indigenous Peoples are experiencing unemployment; violence; lack of access to potable water; and obstacles in accessing health services and information about the pandemic. In many countries, people cannot access information due to commercial television and radio stations broadcasting only in mainstream languages, which increases the inequity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.
At Cultural Survival, we firmly believe that Indigenous community radio stations’ role is to inform and disseminate culturally and linguistically relevant information to reduce the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are committed to supporting and protecting Indigenous radio journalists and broadcasters around the world, who are at their radio stations every day making extraordinary efforts to keep their communities safe, often risking their own lives.
Cultural Survival has produced a prevention manual to support the essential activities of radio stations, including general guidelines for good communication going beyond prevention. This manual contains tools to prevent and protect journalists from possible spread of the virus at radio stations, and promotes the important role of a community engagement agent. Some examples shared include how radio stations can be a voice to call for a calm and unified community prevention strategy. Community radio stations have opportunities to also promote and defend human rights as many governments are abusing their power during the pandemic. Another example included is how radio stations can become educators and serve as a space for community teachers trying to reach children that do not have access to the internet and cannot attend online schooling.
Community radio is a powerful tool for Indigenous Peoples. Through this medium, Indigenous communities can exercise their rights to self-determination, to defend their territories and lands, and to freedom of expression in Indigenous languages. Indigenous Peoples will be able to communicate relevant, useful, and culturally pertinent information for their communities.