|© UNICEF Nigeria/2007/Jaulmes|
|Two boys participate in the UNICEF-supported youth radio project, which has been giving a voice to some of the most vulnerable children in Nigeria.|
‘The State of the World’s Children 2011 – Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity,’ UNICEF’s flagship report, focuses on the development and rights of more than a billion children aged 10 to 19 worldwide. This series of stories, essays and multimedia features seeks to accelerate and elevate adolescents’ fight against poverty, inequality and gender discrimination.
LAGOS, Nigeria, 1 June 2011 – Disenfranchised children in Nigeria have been given a unique opportunity to exercise their right to expression through a UNICEF-supported youth radio project.
Some of the country’s most vulnerable groups – from children living on the streets and those accused of being witches, to ‘almajiri’ children (those sent to Islamic teachers for education who have to beg for food and money on the streets for survival) – are living witnesses to the violation of children’s rights.
Inspired by the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting and Articles 12 and 13 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, these young people produced thirteen 15-minute episodes about their lives.
For each series – ‘Voices from the Streets’, ‘Our Stories’ and ‘Listen to us’ – the youths were trained for three weeks in basic radio production. Radio Nigeria provided the studios and professional radio producers supported the children in helping to structure the dramas and air the finished shows. The episodes were broadcast locally and nationally on Radio Nigeria.
Tackling serious issues
‘Voices from the Streets’ is a radio series focusing on street children, who are ever-present in all of Nigeria’s major cities. Some 47 boys, supported by the Child-to-Child Network in Lagos, participated in the project. The network recruited the children who then received rehabilitation, medical and psycho-social support.
In this series, the youths explored topics such as whether mothers or fathers care more, if there’s more freedom at home or on the streets, how speaking the truth has helped or hurt them and what they would do if they governed the country. Some shows featured serious issues such as children and the mother of a street child giving advice, while some were more light-hearted, featuring the talents of various young people.
In ‘Our Stories’, children confronted the issue of witchcraft. A growing number are accused of being witches when misfortunes such as sickness, death, loss of job, poverty or infertility strike their families. During the series, children told of their experiences of accusation, injustice and even torture.
It is the first time the ‘child witches’ story has been told from the perspective of children themselves. This series was supported by the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network, and included powerful dramas written and acted by actual children who were accused of being witches.
On the streets of Kano, as in many areas in northern Nigeria, young boys hold plastic bowls and beg for food and money. These ‘almajirai’ children are sent by their families to receive religious instruction, but as the support systems for the schools break down, the children are sent to the streets to beg or work.
The ‘Listen to us’ radio series allowed these children to talk about their experiences and struggles. It was supported by Radio Nigeria Kaduna, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the Child Almajiri Empowerment and Support Initiative.
Reunited with their parents
These radio projects not only serve as an important form of self-expression for the children, but also as a catalyst for social change.
“It is expected to be a wake-up call for action,” said UNICEF Communication Specialist Geoffrey Njoku, who conceived of the project. “We have seen increased governmental action for street children and the child witch phenomenon.”
It has already benefited the children taking part. About 90 per cent of the street children who participated in the radio programmes have been reunited with their parents. Success has been such that UNICEF Nigeria introduced video programming to the project at the end of 2010.
Youths have already created six three-minute dramas and a 25-minute documentary about the project, which were widely syndicated to TV stations in Nigeria, and received good reviews.
UNICEF Nigeria is currently planning the next video project with children involved in Niger Delta militancy.
Listen to an excerpt from 'Our Stories' radio programme, where children accused of witchcraft share their experiences.
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