|© Equal Access/2010|
|Laotian students voice their work as part of a local youth radio project.|
By Karen Cirillo
SARAVANH PROVINCE, Lao People's Democratic Republic, 16 August 2010 – This month, UNICEF’s interactive online community platform, Voices of Youth (VoY), and the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting (ICDB) are exploring an empowering youth radio project in Laos.
The programme teaches young participants important communication skills and uses the medium of radio to educate young people about pertinent life issues.
Radio project for youth
In Lao PDR, nearly half of the population is under 18 years old, but few young people have access to quality information on issues affecting their lives. As a result, youth rarely acquire the knowledge, skills and confidence necessary to deal effectively with common life events.
To address this situation, the non-governmental organization Equal Access initiated the Lao Youth Radio project in 2006. Following up on the success of its Nepalese youth radio programme, Equal Access replicated a similar project in three secondary schools in Laos. ‘Peuan Jai Vai-Noom’ (‘Youth-Heart-Friends’) is a 30-minute radio series that combines music, drama and conversation to discuss important life skills. The project also provides a creative outlet to rural youth who have few such opportunities during or after school.
Teachers at three secondary schools in the Laotian provinces of Pakse, Saravanh and Xiengkhuang introduced the project and interested youth were invited to apply. After the application and interview process, each school selected 12 youth members for the inaugural radio teams. Equal Access then set up training workshops which were conducted by experienced youth trainers and local experts from the Lao national radio station. The workshops combined radio production skills and theory with hands-on practice. They also tackled essential life skills, including self-esteem, critical thinking, inter-personal communication and problem-solving.
“This essential combination of life skills provide youth with a strong foundation of confidence to address the challenges they face as young people growing up in Laos and in the overall global context,” said Thipphayanh Thammachith, Equal Access Lao Programme Coordinator.
Sharing life skills
Following the initial trainings, youth team themselves now sustain the Lao Youth Radio project by recruiting and helping to train new members. Since its inception, the programme has conducted seven radio workshops and trained 140 young producers between the ages of 14 and 18.
The trained members elect leaders to help manage and direct the project. Teams meet after school and sometimes on weekends to keep the radio series going – including selecting the concept for each episode, conducting research, writing scripts, recording the audio and voice acting and finally editing, mixing and finishing with post-production.
In the course of their work, the young radio producers discuss every-day challenges and explore topics such as HIV and AIDS prevention, health, education, hobbies, sports, peer pressure and social issues. Each broadcast highlights the stories of teens grappling with a particular issue and is broadcast to the school community through the loudspeakers. The programme is heard by between 3,000 and 4,000 students year-round.
In addition, the shows are recorded and have been aired on the FM provincial stations of Radio Lao, reaching approximately 143,000 listeners. In Xiengkhuang, the programme is still broadcast ‘live’ on a community radio station, allowing the shows to be heard in districts of the surrounding provinces. Since most of these rural areas have high rates of illiteracy, radio is a strong bridge for sharing information. The show has even attracted audiences beyond youth.
Strong youth, strong future
To date, Equal Access has built full-scale production studios at the secondary schools in Pakse and Saravanh provinces, where the youth radio project is on-going and sustainable.
“Eventually it will be these youth who are going to grow up and become adults and who will contribute and help to develop the country,” said production team member Simoungkhounh Phou-Ngeun, 16.
The life skills and radio training combination employed by the Laos Youth Radio project is founded on the conviction that engaging media is one of the most powerful influences in today’s world. It recognizes that empowering youth is essential to building their confidence, encouraging positive community engagement and inspiring social change. It is committed to helping young radio producers find their voice, communicate with their peers and create a strong future for Laos.
Equal Access is very thankful for the support of UNICEF, Open Society Institute, Art Ventures and the Zimmer Family Foundation who have provided funding support for the programme.
For more information, visit www.equalaccess.org
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