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Radio continues to be the most important tool to provide young people with information and give a voice to children across the developing world, many of whom live in remote or disaster-prone areas, says child rights organisation Plan International.
From early and forced marriage to child abuse, children across the world are using community radio and participatory radio initiatives to voice their opinion on a range of issues that affect their lives. They are also using the power of radio to advocate for their rights, support other young people and make themselves heard.
According to Nigel Chapman, CEO of Plan International:
“As we mark World Radio Day, it is important to note that participatory radio is one of the most empowering tools to support children to gain confidence in their own abilities; and to bring their points across to adults, including decision-makers. I have seen girls who have never had the opportunity to express their views before, discuss difficult issues such as early marriage or child abuse on air.”
Even in the era of TV and internet, radio remains a crucial tool for development. Access to information is a big problem for many communities, while children and adolescents often have problems getting the information they need. Yet, radios are everywhere, with at least 75% of households in developing countries having access to one.
Plan has been implementing Youth Media Projects (YMP) since 1995 and over 200 projects have been set up worldwide by Plan and its partners. Moreover, close to 350,000 children and youth from across the world have been involved in these projects.
“Showing children how to research topics, develop their own shows and to present them on air helps make content relevant and interesting; and it gives the young presenters a boost in confidence,” added Mr Chapman.
Plan’s participatory radio work has been welcomed by children in communities across the globe.
Quynh, 17, from Vietnam, now lives with her aunt after her parents left her behind to take up jobs in Korea. Quynh was haunted by loneliness, but through radio she has found her voice – and confidence - again.
“I’ve learnt a lot through presenting my own radio programme. To produce good quality content, I have to read and learn from different sources of information. I have to go to the field, talk with different people. I have become much more open and I no longer feel lonely as there are so many people who care about me and share their stories with me.”
According to Stefanie Conrad, Plan International’s Global Advisor for Citizenship and Governance:
“From remote communities in Guatemala, Vietnam and Nicaragua, to those suffering from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, we encourage children and young people to take the lead in creating and maintaining radio projects to express themselves. Governments need to support this by ensuring that laws and regulations protect the functioning of community radio and media and young people get access to it. Stipulating mandatory free airtime on children’s issues in media can be an effective tool to make sure children can access and participate in media.
While it gives many a voice, radio has also been helping children in West Africa, to continue with their studies while schools are closed due to the Ebola outbreak.
Mariama, 14, from Sierra Leone, says, “Listening to the emergency radio teaching programme and writing down my notes as I listen, is the only way I keep myself busy with school work. My mother is not working and she cannot afford the service of the private tutor. My family and I listen to radio on Ebola awareness and do what we are told to do to keep us safe.”
 EFA Global Monitoring Report, 2012, p.248