By Antti Junkkari, Dr. Kati Juva, Finland, and Dr. Ehase Agyeno, Nigeria
An exciting new South/North project of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), Finland in cooperation with the Society of Nigerian Doctors for the Welfare of Mankind (SNDWM), Zambian Healthworkers for Social Responsibility (ZHSR), and IPPNW just got a financial boost from the “Mazda Make Things Better Award.” The Mazda award was launched at the summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in October, 2013 in Warsaw, and the joint IPPNW project “Raising awareness on small arms through interactive radio programmes” has now won the first of these awards!
The award jury chose the IPPNW project, submitted by medical student Antti Junkkari from Finland, from submissions of more than 120 participating students. “We were very impressed by the way Antti’s project mirrors the spirit of Mazda’s ‘challenging convention to make things better’ principle,” said Mazda Motor Europe President & CEO Jeff Guyton, who was head of the award jury. “And we believe his initiative will effectively improve the lives of local people, which is exactly what this award is all about.”
Over a half a million people die violently every year. More than three quarters of them in non-conflict settings. Furthermore violence tends to occur in already disadvantaged settings, riddled with poverty and disease, as is the case in many countries of the global South.
A pilot radio project was developed a few years ago by Nigerian medical students within SNDWM in Jos, Nigeria because of repeated eruptions of violence in the restless areas, leading to injuries, death and widespread human suffering. The radio project, which was the brainchild of Ogebe Onazi, a former International Student Rep, and Homsuk Swomen, both now medical doctors active with SNDWM, was inspired by the fact that radio was a cheap and easily accessible means of information with widespread use among the population. It therefore stood to reason that through it people can be conveniently reached with broadcasts on issues concerning peace, violence, conflict resolution, etc. This idea turned out to be a success, and enjoyed considerable popularity among listeners.
This success is the reason this project will now be expanded in several areas in Nigeria, and also in Zambia. There will be more broadcasts on some of the original themes – small arms and health, election violence, Arms Trade Treaty – and on new themes which will be developed in consultation with experts and community leaders who will be reached out to in the planning phase of the programme. In addition, some of the broadcasts will be live so listeners can call with questions and contributions to the experts. There will also be a survey on the attitudes towards small arms before and after the programmes.
PSR Finland is applying for funding for this project from the ministry of foreign affairs in Finland, but some self-funding is also needed. We see the Mazda prize not only as an affirmation of the tremendous work our African affiliates have done against small arms violence, but also as a testimony to the huge potential of North-South collaboration towards disarmament issues. We hope this also encourages more Northern IPPNW affiliates and other peace organizations to seek funding for actions against small arms violence in the global south.
The Mazda award will be presented at a ceremony March 5 in Geneva.