Merveille-Noella Mada-Yayor, 29, is a journalist and a producer with Guira FM, a radio station of, the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Being able to communicate and share reliable information, she says, is her contribution in the search for lasting peace in her country:
You are a reporter and host at Guira FM, the UN peacekeeping radio station in the Central African Republic. What brought you to work in a peacekeeping mission?
With the crisis the country has experienced, we all want to contribute to the return of lasting peace in the Central African Republic, hence my willingness to work for this mission that works for peace. So, working for MINUSCA is also my contribution to the return of peace in my country.
Do you think you have made an impact with your work?
A positive impact, yes. People who know that I am a reporter often come to me to verify information. “Can you tell us, is this true or false?” they ask. Even in my church, people call me to get reliable information from time to time. And if everyone comes to ask for information and guidance, it means that my work and what I do has an impact somewhere.
You mention your brothers in church. The conflict in the Central African Republic is sometimes looked at from a religious angle. Is it by exchanging ideas that you manage to find common ground?
In my church, I work with children. We also have an association that brings together young people in the church where we have weekly discussions. So, every weekend, we meet during rehearsals and we debate, including on peace and social cohesion. We always do our best to sensitize people and to make them understand that there has never been a crisis between Christians and Muslims. It is political. That we are all belong in this country and that we are called to work together. However, it is not always easy.
What do you like most about your work?
I like communicating and informing the population, being even closer to the population. When I am on air on radio, when I am in front of the microphone, I am talking to several people at the same time, and I really enjoy that. And what I also like a lot is reporting from the field. I like the countryside because over there I get to experience the people’s daily lives and struggles.
Does being young and female bring something special to your work?
It does. I will give you an example. I was assigned at one point to Kaga-Bandoro [a town located 245 km north of Bangui, the capital], an area where my female colleagues don't dare go. But I assure you that when I go to the field, people are always ready to give me the information I need. They say: “Look, she is young. She left her family behind in Bangui and agreed to come and work with us. We will give her all the information.” People contact me, they try to be close to me and help where they can and sometimes ask for guidance. Overall, people have this concern and want to help and put you on the right track.
Does this also allow you to connect with the youth on the ground? The Central African Republic has a very young population.
It helps me be in direct contact with the youth. Because I am young, young people come to me. We speak the same language and we can communicate easily.
In an earlier interview you said “we all want peace.” What image often comes to mind when you think about it?
I once visited a camp of internally displaced people and came across a young child, about a year old. He was naked and crying and wanted me, just me, to carry him in my arms while I was interviewing his mother. So, I took the child and carried him as I conducted the interview with the mother. I said to myself, if there was peace this child would not be living in that camp. He would be with his family in their house, living in peace, perhaps in Bangui. So when I think of peace, I think of all those children who are displaced and who want to return home.
This interview has been edited and condensed.