|© UNICEF video|
|Children in Maputo, Mozambique, broadcast life-saving HIV/AIDS prevention messages via ‘Child-to-Child’ radio. Some 200 youth journalists are involved in the programme, which goes out once a week to around 8,000 listeners.|
By Sarah Crowe
MAPUTO, Mozambique, 11 April 2006 – The microphones are tested, the tapes are rolling, the countdown begins and the ‘ON AIR’ sign flashes. It looks like just another normal programme going to air from the marble corridors of Radio Mozambique, in a beautifully preserved Portuguese colonial structure in downtown Maputo.
But there’s a twist. Those asking the questions, at the controls, pushing the buttons and directing the programme’s line-up are all children. Today the studio guests are UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director, Rima Salah, and Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Per Engebak.
For more than five years, the ‘Child-to-Child’ radio programme in Maputo has been getting the message out about things that matter most to youth – sex, AIDS and some hip music. The programme broadcasts once a week to some 8,000 listeners throughout the country and involves more than 200 young radio journalists between the ages of 10 and 14. For presenters and listeners alike, the radio has become something of a window of hope.
Role of youth activists
At the microphone, Ms. Salah praises the budding broadcasters for their role in stemming the tide of HIV/AIDS in Mozambique and encouraging youth to speak out.
“You have such power, such force,” she says. “Your voices are echoing throughout the country and I am sure the young people are starting to listen, and that means they have knowledge. UNICEF wants to realize the rights of all children in Mozambique, in Africa and in all of the world, and you are helping us get that message out too.
Mr. Engebak outlines the extraordinary impact of HIV/AIDS on children throughout the African continent, where millions of orphans are the legacy of a disease once thought to affect adults only.
“Nothing like this has ever happened before in history,” he says. “Children are burying their parents and being forced to grow up long before they should. We can and will win this battle, but we need people like you, youth activists, to do everything you can.”
Taking on taboo subjects
Bright-eyed Ruben Vicente, 18, is already something of an old hand at radio. He has been helping out at radio stations since he was six and lived in the same building as a local station. Now he knows every aspect of radio, from presenting to technical production.
Ruben is in his first year of Maputo University, studying international affairs. He believes ‘Child-to-Child’ radio has started to make an impact by changing attitudes among adults as well as young people.
“It was difficult in the beginning because the fathers, the parents, they said that we should not talk about this,” he says. “Mozambique is a traditional country and it is difficult to talk about sex and HIV. And some of them, they are saying that it is not real and there is no AIDS. It was a taboo in Mozambique and now we are breaking it.”
For teenagers, the means and the message are in their court now – but with 43 per cent of new HIV infections occurring among Mozambican youth, there is still a long way to go for these young journalists to bring about real change.
“We are fighting to say to all children in Mozambique that if you did not start yet with sex you must wait,” explains Ruben. “You must start not now, but later.
6 April 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Sarah Crowe reports on ‘Child-to-Child’ radio in Mozambique.