For the Love of Her Homeland

For the Love of Her Homeland
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Do you want to know what love is capable of? Ask Papua radio journalist Kathe Vince Dimara, who has unconditional love for her homeland. It was love for her motherland that made the winner of the prestigious S.K. Trimurti Award choose to become a journalist in a remote village in Papua. It was also love for Kurima, a district in central Papua, that made her struggle to revive a defunct radio community from scratch to bring about positive changes for local residents. It was also her passion for the homeland that enabled her to walk for days on foot to a remote village to cover it and bring information to people. “You can say that I am deeply in love with Kurima because I was born and grew up there. Even though my family is originally from Biak [an island in the north of Papua], I want to change the lives of local people to become better,” Kathe said in a recent interview with The Jakarta Post. Her love is not just strong emotion but has turned into action. The 30-year-old is the brains behind the radio community Pikon Ane, which is considered an agent of change for the people in Kurima. She joined the station back in 2007 as a reporter. But, the station was not operating properly and the coordinator of the project fled to the city, leaving only three people behind, including Kathe. Kathe took over the station a year later and started everything from the scratch. “There was no money left so I had to do my best to make the radio work,” she said. Kathe spent almost three months recruiting and made the station management more efficient. Thanks to her hard work, the radio finally got back on the air in late 2008 despite limited funding and human resources. Amazingly, Kathe did not stop there. Started as a radio community whose main role was to entertain and provide information to local listeners, Radio Pikon Ane and its crew have transformed the lives of Kurima’s people. The radio has provided many benefits to locals through empowerment programs in education, health and the economy. It has been considered an effective tool that helps move the wheels of the local economy. Kurima residents work mainly as farmers and have been using the radio to make their agricultural products more competitive. Before the station existed, the value of vegetables from Kurima was always below market prices. But now local agricultural products have gained in value after farmers learned how to control prices and distribution networks. Aside from economic advantages, the people of Kurima have also enjoyed other benefits from the radio broadcasts. They have learned the importance of washing their hands before eating, cleaning before going to bed and about air sanitation. They have also been informed about women’s rights and the need for education. Under Kathe’s leadership, Radio Pikon Ane has gone beyond its role as a radio community. The station does not exist only to inform but also to push the local community toward a better life. It is exactly for those reasons that Kathe was named the recipient of this year’s S.K. Trimurti Award, an honor given to female journalists and activists who fight for gender equality and freedom of expression. When asked about the award, Kathe admitted she was surprised. “I just found out [I got the award] when I got [to Jakarta]. They didn’t tell me anything, they only told me to come to Jakarta,” Kathe said with a giggle. It never crossed Kathe’s mind that she could win such a big award, merely a journalist running a community’s radio station in a remote area of Papua. Kathe developed her interest in journalism in junior high. After graduating from high school, she moved to Jayapura to study communication at a university in the capital. Believing that information is a tool for change, Kathe said she wants to go back to Kurima and empower people with her knowledge about communication and journalism. But, being a journalist in a remote region has been a challenge. Kathe said the hardest part of being a journalist in Kurima was changing the local people’s paradigm. “They still hold strongly to local tradition, making it difficult to accept new things,” she said. The second biggest challenge was the poor infrastructure, so local reporters must work extra hard to get news. But the persistent girl has proved that nothing can stop her from doing good things for society. Kathe shared a story about when she spent a day walking on foot to cover a story about a school that had been closed for 10 years. Her sacrifice and hard work paid off with the local government reopening the school after hearing her story on the radio. With regards to opposition from locals, Kathe has managed to respond to problems by inventing simple and useful programs that give tips on health and cooking as well as information on farming, which were hits among residents. “Listening to radio programs has become a new trend for the locals,” Kathe said proudly. The woman added that inspiration for the programs came from monitoring daily life. Kathe said she likes to spend time talking to locals to get information about anything, including news. But it is not hard for a cheerful lady like Kathe to mingle with everybody. Her aura of happiness can be seen in her face. She never stopped laughing or giggling every time she tried to answer questions, despite the fact that she had a long journey from Papua with numerous flight delays. One thing to conclude from the less-than-30-minute interview is how strong Kathe’s attachment to Kurima people is. After receiving the award, Kathe said she still had one big ambition — to expand Radio Pikon Ane. “I want Pikon Ane to expand and become a work place for children who cannot go to university because their parents are poor,” she said. One wonders what is it about Kurima that makes Kathe fully dedicated to the impoverished region. But, let’s not ask what Kurima gives to Kathe, but what she has given to her homeland. And, we know for sure the answer is love. Source: The Jakarta Post

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