Nepal Interview - Communication Initiative for Young People
Interview with Cai Cai, Life Skills and HIV/AIDS Consultant, UNICEF Nepal, June 2002
Q. What are the aims of the Communication Initiative?
To improve young people's capacity to think and act responsibly for their own health and development. Critical thinking, for instance, is important when friends pressure you to try marijuana, or when a girl is pressured by her partner to have unprotected sex. HIV/AIDS prevention is one goal, but the initiative will bring wider benefits to our target audience, such as helping them cultivate healthy relationships and build self-confidence.
Q. How is the Initiative reaching young people in Nepal?
It started with a radio program designed especially for young people, called "Chatting with My Best Friend." The idea of creating a "best friend" for young people comes from the analysis of the major relationships that dominate an adolescent's life: parents, peers and love. The programme, which speaks to the listeners as a non-judgmental peer, attracts a growing following among young people. From the hundreds of letters we receive each week, we also realize that many young people have taken the initiative to set up their own "listeners' groups." We are now planning to use the life skills booklets and photo novellas we have created to stimulate peer education in non-formal settings, promote discussions in listeners' groups, child clubs, and youth networks around the country.
Q. How will it expand to reach even more young people?
We would like to integrate life skills education into existing UNICEF programmes, such as health and education. For example, village facilitators and community mobilizers in 15 districts have been trained in nutrition, safe motherhood, hygiene and sanitation, and other subjects. However, the training is focused on knowledge, and facilitators and mobilizers often find it difficult to change harmful practices and behaviours perpetuated by deep-rooted values and attitude. Knowledge alone does not automatically lead to positive actions, especially when girls and women aren't empowered, suffering low self-esteem and living in fear. That is when life skills come in to translate knowledge into actual abilities.
We plan to train facilitators, who will in turn impart life skills to community members to help bring about positive behavioural changes. This includes educating adolescent girls on the harm of early marriage and pregnancy, which is still very much a practice in Nepal. Skills like critical thinking and negotiation will enhance girls' ability to make informed choices, and convince decisions makers at home about their needs.
The radio programme, which speaks to the listeners as a non-judgmental peer, attracts a growing following among young people.
Life skills will be incorporated into on-going community-based training, and will also be brought into the UNICEF-assisted Out-of-School programme for working children. As for formal education, we envision it will come a bit later. The intervention is currently being planned, but it will take time to bring the Ministry of Education fully on board, develop the curriculum and train teachers.
Q. How can you teach life skills over the airwaves?
Each episode of "Chatting with My Best Friend" is designed around real-life scenarios faced by young people. The team of young producers and hosts are trained to weave life skills messages into chat topics and drama, followed by discussion of problems shared by listeners (through letters). The "teaching" takes the form of inspiring listeners, and encouraging them to think: what would I do in this situation? What decisions would I make? How would I act on those decisions?
Adolescents' issues have largely been neglected in Nepal. For example, there isn't a word in Nepali that carries the connotations of the word "teenager". There is a word that indicates the age range only. So, it is important to give attention to the difficulties many teenagers silently experience.
However, the effective teaching of life skills goes beyond awareness-raising. The radio programme focuses on skills, not simply information. Teenagers just can't come home and demand rights from their parents. They must learn ways to convince parents that the decision concerns their wellbeing, and learn to resolve differences or conflict with their parents.
We demonstrate it by creating plots or drama that put a character in situations similar to what listeners confront daily, and how he or she tackle difficult choices, manage fear and other negative emotions, handle stress and face disapproval. The programme addresses self awareness, empathy (e.g., have you thought about your parents' needs?), and dialogue so that young people can understand and exercise their rights responsibly.
Q. How does the Initiative involve young people?
Young people have been involved in every stage from survey to production. We requested the research company to recruit young college students, including potential radio producers, to participate in the "Survey of Teenagers in Nepal". Several teams were sent to seven districts to conduct interviews. A group of 10 radio producers, between 19 and 26 years old, were selected to undergo training in life skills, and help design the programme, chat topics, create drama and conduct pre-tests (for example, with the young people pictured above). The radio programme is run by young people for young people, the first in Nepal. Since the programme was launched, the producers meet each week to go over the letters from listeners, decide which letters to use for discussion, what skills to emphasize, how to turn the listeners' problems, dilemmas and ideas into input for the next or future episodes.
Q. Can you tell us how you monitor and evaluate the programme?
Planning and evaluation were designed together. I feel that, to evaluate well, you have to understand your audience well - through research - before the programme is produced. Baseline survey has to be conducted, so that you will know what your audience wants, and what to deliver to achieve your programme objectives. We conducted a "market research" or communication research type of survey to understand our target audience better. Design of the programme was then based on the findings, allowing us to tailor the programme to the needs and interests of young people.
We roughly knew the problems affecting teenagers, but needed to know the risk factors that make them vulnerable to those problems, for example, factors that prompted some to use drugs. We needed to understand the cultural, psychological, social factors behind those behaviours. Having over 20 open-ended questions in the survey helped us infer what could be the issues.
We also asked about specific life skills. For example, about goal setting to gauge their sense of initiative, and ability to take actions. We asked about self awareness - what I want for my life, and how I can achieve it. On decision making, we asked just one question: do you think you will obey your parents on who to marry? (Over 50 percent said they would obey their parents' decision. To those, we asked "why do you think you must obey your parents?" Some reported that they think parents make better choices; others feel they should leave the decisions to their parents. Many, in this instance, do not want to feel responsible for their own decisions.) We also wanted to gauge how well or poorly they communicate. There's one question about how they react when they disagree with parents: Keep quiet? Do nothing? Argue back? etc.
Our "Survey of Teenagers" thus serves as a baseline and helps us design the radio programme, the facilitator's guide on life skills for teenagers and the TV drama series "Catmandu". Interestingly, the hundreds of letters from listeners that stream in each week largely mirror the findings of the survey! The regular monitoring and interaction with listeners have enabled us - in a short span of one year - to gain a very good understanding of young people's issues in Nepal, including their inner world, their fear, aspirations, needs and hopes.
Q. What is the role of parents? How do you respond to their interest or resistance?
It's important to sensitize parents and turn them into allies because they play a critical role in a teenager's life. By starting with a media programme, we are able to tackle this challenge directly as the programme reaches both teenagers and adults at the same time. While the focus is teenagers, most of the stories on the radio programme involve adults, and the producers create positive role model for parents, so that when parents listen, they can learn too. It is far more effective when both sides are willing to make efforts.
Many parents and teachers encourage young people to listen to the programme, as they feel it discusses some of the embarrassing topics that they themselves are unable to handle. In a few cases, parents forbid their children from listening to some episodes which openly talk about sex and love. But living with the resistance is part of the process of changing society's attitude and perceptions of teenagers.
Issues like inter-caste marriage and career choices often induce conflicts between parents and teenagers, and when the conflicts are left resolved, teenagers could take extreme actions as a way out, such as committing suicide or taking drugs. "Chatting with My Best Friend" encourages teenagers to think creatively and positively to resolve problems they face at home. We encourage teenagers to exercise empathy, try to understand what their parents may be thinking and feeling, learn how to communicate effectively, and motivate them to make efforts to help parents understand their own needs and desires.
Young people's voices speak louder than UNICEF's. They've become the best advocates of life skills.
The radio programme has generated a huge demand and interest in young people in learning life skills. Many listeners have written to tell us how they are applying those skills in situations that resemble the drama, or the story of another listener that was discussed in the programme. (A teenager from Accham district, on his own initiative, has even conducted a survey in his village and finds out 70% among the randomly selected sample are listening to "Chatting with My Best Friend".) The popularity is growing, we don't have to advocate other than making continuous efforts to improve the programme, to inspire listeners with positive solutions. Young people's voices speak louder than UNICEF's voice. They've become the best advocates of life skills.
Selection of letters sent to the programme by young listeners of "Chatting with My Best Friend"
I am a 16 year old girl studying in class 7. I don't want to think about getting married until I become financially independent. Nowadays, my parents and villagers are trying to get me married forcefully saying that I have got a marriage proposal. I absolutely do not want to marry now, but they don't listen to me. How should I cope with this problem? How can I make the villagers and my parents understand? Is there any legal procedure that I can follow in this condition? Please don't delay to answer to my question. Your suggestion may help me in achieving my goals.
The same, who is about to get into a big trouble,
Respected program presenters,
I love this program as it has helped many youths like us in their problems.
I am 16 years old. I want to pass my class 10 S.L.C. and get my further education. I don't have a girlfriend yet and I don't want to have one currently because I want to study. But maybe because I am in the stage of adolescence that memory of pretty girls plays in my mind while I study. I want to study seriously. How do I get rid of this problem?
Respected Saathi Sanga Manka Kura presenters,
I am a 17 year old student at Higher Secondary School. My father is in the Indian Army and he says that my education is not good enough to get enrolled in army. But I don't want to be in army. I want to do business in my own country. When I told this thing to my father, he said that I have to get into an army. What should I do now? I would be ready to follow your advice.
Since I am staying away from my house due to my studies, I have only my mother and younger sister living in my house. My younger sister goes to school and my mother has become quite old. Therefore she is finding hard to manage the household works. She says to me , 'Get married, leave your wife to me and then you can go for studies.' Even though I don't want to get married so soon, I am forced to do so, for the sake of my mother because I cannot hurt my mothers feelings.
I am doing my B.B.S. studies. I have become 20 years old, but haven't got any earnings of my own yet. If I marry now, will my studies and my future get affected? After getting married, will my wife agree to stay in my house to serve my mother?
Please give me proper suggestions.
Because of the bad company of my friends, I had sex with a girl. After some weeks I had sex, I started getting the sickness, ' Night Fall' which strikes me 1-2 alternated days. Due to this, I have lost some weight too. Should I take any medicines to get relieved from this problem? If yes, then which medicine should I take?
Friends Sushma and Toya,
Wish you for the program's success!
I am thankful that there have been some changes in this program.
Friend Sushma! I am a married girl. I was married two months ago. A large amount of white liquid flows from my vagina during sex. Why do you think it happens? Will it affect anything if we have sex using condom? Please answer happily.
You had told about condom on the Saturday program on the 6th. We will go and buy it and have a safe sex. Please reply as soon as possible.
Sister Sushma and brother Toya,
I love this program and I listen to it on every Wednesdays. Through this informative program, you have helped many people solve their difficulties and have brought joy to their lives. My problem:
I built a love relationship with a girl from my village couple of months ago. Both of us understand each other's feelings very well. Our love grew so deep that one day we even had sex and got the sexual pleasure from it. But when I was masturbating some days after I had sex, I had a bleeding from my penis -will it do me any harm in the future? Please give me some ideas. I am hopeful that both of you would read out my letter and give some suggestions to me.
I'm a 17 year old youth. I wanted to fall in love that's why I initiated this relation with a 15 year girl. We have been reading "how to have sex" manual and having sex according to that. She is studying in 9th and I'm studying in 10th grade. In every 2/4 days, we have sex. And while having sex, I use condom and I let take the contraceptive pills. But she says that her breasts and her stomach is getting bigger and doesn't feel like studying at all. Since we've already had sex, she wishes to get married to me. Even though I said we will, I don't feel like getting married to her at all. The reason is how come she's having this problem although I used condom and let her take pills….. either she's having unsafe relation with someone else…….To get away from her, I've started to see this girl who's a chhetri. In this situation, should I accept the first girl or continue with the recent one? Even if I accept this new girl, she is also facing the same problem although I used contraceptive. How can I solve this?
Friends Sushma and Toya,
I am a regular listener of this program. This program has been gaining popularity among many people because it is educational. It gives teenagers sex education, ways to tackle problems, and education about critical thinking. So, I, including all the students from my Boarding School, am grateful to you.
I became really happy when I got to learn about HIV/AIDS through your program last Saturday. I learnt that a baby from HIV-positive mother can be prevented from being infected if any kinds of cut/wounds can be avoided while delivering the baby. I learned that babies should not be breast-fed from their HIV-positive mother. But the thing is that the babies get nourishment from their mother before getting delivered. Then why is it that they get AIDS only when they are breast fed from their mother? I would be grateful if you explain this thing clearly to me.
How many days per month can we have sex with women as such that they won't get pregnant. If we have sex with women during their menstruation period, will they be pregnant? If they will, then after how many days past the menstruation, can they have sex?
Among male and female, who has a greater sexual desire? If it's female, then why don't they move side by side as the men do? If you'll give the answer, I along with my dear friends will be happy.
I am a 17 year old youth. I have a crush on my classmate. She talks with me nicely, but I can't talk with her openly. I don't have any courage to express my feelings to her. When I have to talk to her, I feel very nervous. I don't know how to talk to her properly. But I love her from the bottom of my heart. It is a one-sided love because I don't know what she feels about me. Moreover, I feel jealous when she talks and smiles with other guys and I hope that she talks with me instead. While the teacher is in class, I don't concentrate in my studies; I look at her face and think about her instead. At times, when I realize what I am doing, I feel disgusted with myself. What should I do to get rid of this problem? How can I propose to her?
Respected friends, first of all Namaskar to friend Sushma and Toya and all the other friends from the team.
Friend, even though this is my first letter to Saathi sanga man ka kura, I'm a regular listener and I listen to it regularly. I like this program because this program focuses on the problems of young people like us. And also raise awareness about being a responsible citizen among the people in the society.
That's why I want to put this problem in front of you . I hope friend Sushma and friend Toya will try to seek solution to this problem with smiles.
Problem: Friend, I'm 18 years old now. I'm waiting for my SLC examination's result. I have friends nearby my house in the village. Among them, some of them are into addiction. No matter how hard I try, they don't listen to me. They constantly take cigarette, alcohol, and other narcotics. And they are so young. Is this good, falling into these habit? I personally think that it's not. They also know that these kind of habits are not good but still they do they take it? Friends, I've tried to talk to them but they don't listen to me. Sometimes, I don't even want to talk to them about these issues less they'll strike back saying "we are using our own money not yours". So, I want to appeal to all those listeners out there and all those friends who are into drugs through this letter.
First of all, Namaskar to my friends Sushma and Binayak who comes to 100 Mhz every Sunday. I'm a regular listener of this program and I like it very much. I want to say something through this program. My best friend has this problem- His father died when he was very young and he studied till 6th standard. When he turned 17, due to peer pressure, he started to smoke in the beginning but after six months, he started taking alcohol and after that marijuana and after that, syringe. He now takes something which is like a powder and he takes it with the help of a blade. When I asked him about this, he said, "It's just a powder". I'm now scared for him, maybe he'll start to take other things too later. I've talked to him about this several times and he promised that he won't take other things but marijuana and cigarette. When it gets darker, , he feels this urge to take something. He's now 23. He has lost weight…I can't do anything except talk to him. It's been 3 months, there's a gland in his neck. It was getting bigger so I took him to see a doctor. According to the doctor, he has this gland because he used to take syringe. And he gave some medication and asked us to come back after 5 days. We went there after 5 days, he changed the medication and asked us to come back 5 days later. This happened for 4-5 times but it didn't get well. So, we stopped visiting him. That is the reason I'm writing to this program. Can you suggest something ? Even though the letter is long, please read it on air.
I am a 19-year-old guy. Five months ago I had sex with a girl; I didn't use any contraceptives at that time as a result of which she became pregnant. After discussing together, she had her abortion after 2 ½ months of her pregnancy. From that case onwards, I have been using contraceptives during sex with her. Now, I have an affair with another pretty girl too, and we have had sex also. Thus I have had sexual relationship with two girls. I love both of them and cannot leave either of the two. They want to marry me in spite of knowing that I have affair with both of them. I cannot marry both. Whom should I choose?
We both love each other intensely. But the problem is that there is a great gap between us which is created by our superstitious society. Our castes don't match. She is a Brahmin while I am a Gurung guy. Neither of our parents accepts our relationship. If we get separated from each other, both of us will commit suicide. Friend! Please tell us how we should act now. Will you convince our parents?
Thank you friends!
'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura' is an ideal program for youths like us. Many problems get solved through this program. The program also encourages people to talk with their opposite sexes. There is no weakness in your program, as everything is fine. You should continue to read out the listeners' letters. If you do the discussions only, the program will be dull; so I think you must play the songs.
Saathi, I did a survey among several people (30) in Siddheswor VDC of Bhojpur district on how they feel about the program 'Saathi sanga man ka kura'. They were students, intellectuals from the society, housewives and teenagers. I have their names and signatures but since I can't put everything in this short letter, I've copied their quotes in short.
1.The program is good. It's perfect for young people.
A teenage girl from 7th grade.
2. We can't get information on sex and issues related to that from other sources, that's why I tune into this program
A teenage boy
3. I'm busy all the time with household chores….so I get to listen to the program only a few times.
4.We even listen to it when we are on the road. We carry the radio with us. It's a form of entertainment in porter's life.
5. Especially for this program I bought a radio set. I anxiously wait for this program compared to other programs.
A teenage boy
6. We have a radio set in our shop, I listen to it there. I like the drama most.
A girl in a shop
7. We have holidays in Saturday. I prefer to listen to this program
A government official
8. Yes, I've listened to this program once. I liked it.
A small boy
9. I just want to say this to everyone that even though this is a program for young people, it's useful for everyone.
An old man
10. I listen to the drama they play in the middle of the program. The songs are good too.
11. Yes, I like it very much. One time, they talked about my own problem too. I was so happy then.
A young girl
12. Everyone should at least listen to it once.
A teenage boy.
13. I like the way they talk about love and issues related to that.
A teenage girl
14. The program is succinct and very useful.
A government official
15. I've learned so much from this program and I've applied that in my teaching.
16.For women like us, if there was something on family planning, it'll be more interesting.
17. We all sit together and listen to this program.
18. The duration of the drama is very short.
A teenage girl
19.Oh, there's a program like that? When did it start? Oh!!!! I'll listen to it next time.
20. We, mother, aunts, all sit together to listen….but sometimes I feel shy.
A teenage girl
21. To say it in short, this is a very useful program and everyone should listen to it.
A job holder
22. This program has helped to raise awareness on issues like caste discrimination and dowry. Let there be other programs like this.
A social worker
23."Saathi Sanga Manka Kura" is talking to you as the best friend in the true sense. You can say it's our heartbeat.
A young boy
24. This program has won my heart. Once it aired a program on menstruation, it really helped me a lot. I'm still confused about one thing….they said if we wash the sanitary towel we've used and let it dry on sun, it kills germs. But the rays of the sun is so weak…
A teenage girl
25. This program talks about love most of the time….that's why I tune in.
A teenage boy from 10th grade
26. This program is a must. Now the most important thing is to translate it into our practical life.
A teenage boy from 10th grade
27. I call my grandsons and grand daughters whenever this program is on. The program is good.
An old man
28. It's great that we get to listen to this program which help us in this confused period.
A teenage girl
29. This program is like a program called 'Catmandu'in TV. I like it that they solve problems of teenagers like us.
A teenage girl
30. I'm influenced by the 'empathy' skill they talk in the program. I've used it with colleagues from my work.
Friends, I've done this survey for you. Among these people I talked to, 70% of them listen to this program while some of them only tune in to FM, and few ignored this totally. But nevertheless, I've tried to inform them, a program like this goes on air.
Presenter brother and sister of 'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura',
Namaskar from our small club!
We have also opened 'Karkale Saathi Sanga Manka Kura Club' in Dolakha District, Gairimudhi VDC -9. The club constitutes 10 boys and 6 girls. We have bought a small radio for this club and we listen to your program together in a certain time. We have also resolved to use these discussions in our practical lives. Let's see to what extent it will be possible!
Let's not talk about our problems, because there are hundreds of them. Not all of these problems can be solved through your program, as your program is only an hour long. We think that our problems will be solved through the books you send. We won't ask you anything till the books reach our hands, but we will surely continue to write to you. We hope that you will solve our problem as soon as you can. Please ignore the mistakes in this letter, as there might be hundreds of them. We will write the names of the club members in our next letter - we couldn't include them now.
We will write the remaining things in our next letter.
Namaste friends Toya and Sushma!
We have set up a youth club called 'Jana Chetana Kalyankari Youth Club'. The club constitutes 19 boys and 12 girls.
The following are the objectives of our club.
- It will try to solve problems of the youths.
- It will try to uplift the lower class people of the society.
- It will bring use of local resources properly.
- It will try to resolve the different problems of the village.
20th Feb, 2002
We are regular listeners and well wishers of this UNICEF program 'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura', which is aired in the Radio Nepal as well as in other F.M's. Because of its presentations, topics discussions, and the wide participations of the listeners, this program will certainly flourish in the future.
Through the inspiration of this program, we have also opened 'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura Listeners Club'. After listening to this program together and then discussing later about the problems, we realize that this program really useful.
The name of our club is 'Ujagar Listeners Club'. The club constitutes a President, Secretary, Treasurer, and 15 members. We have 5 women in our group.
The aim of our club is to express our feelings/problems and try to solve them. We will let you know in the future about the progress and works of our club.
We request you to send informative and study materials to us.
Your regular listener
Srijanshil Radio Listeners Club Family
Our common letter to you:
We are really grateful to you for having achieved the success in running this program in a short time. Your sweet presentations and heart touching conversations are the main reasons for your success. We think that 'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura' is an ideal program for the youths.
We all know about the conditions of the Nepalis. The Nepali youths are depressed because of their daily living conditions. They are mostly uneducated and are economically very poor. If these youths are not given proper counseling and encouragement, they may end up falling in some bad habits. So, proper education is a must for the Nepali youths.
We wish 'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura' to become the heartbeat of millions of Nepali youths. Youths are the strength of nation and the nation can change if the strengths of these youths are properly mobilized. We believe that such programs, as yours, will certainly bring a change to the youths' mentality.
The main problem of the Nepali youths is unemployment. You should discuss in your program on how to make them employed and to make them busy in life.
Lastly, we hope that you will continue to give suggestions/advices to our club. Your help would make it possible for us to reach our goal.
Our club came up with the following points on our first meeting.
1) We will have meetings on every last Saturdays of the months to talk about the matters discussed in 'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura' of the whole month.
2) To gather and listen to 'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura' together.
3) To put on our problems in the group and discuss them through critical thinking.
4) To encourage other people to listen to this program.
5) To discuss on the committee about bringing up creative programs that encourage the youths.
6) To listen to 'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura' every week, to make a person in our group write the summary of the program and to send it to your program unit.
Respected friends, if you want to take a look on the copies of the minutes of our meetings, we would be ready to send them to you. If you want to send to us any useful books/magazines or bulletins/news, you can send them to the following address.
Friend Toya or Sushma,
We are fine here, and we hope that you are also fine. On the 6th, when we listened to your program together, we came to know that our club had been registered. We are now waiting for the certificate and the books/magazines. On that episode, you read out the name of our club, but you did not read out the names of the club members, due to which we are very sad. In case the members' names were not distinct, I am writing their names once again - we would be grateful if you will read out these names on air. Through our club, we have bought a radio which cost Rs. 1500 and we have allowed people to listen to it in a public place. Our goal is to listen to the program ourselves and let the others listen also. We are very happy that this program has been helping youths like us in solving problems through critical thinking skills. We wish to discuss the problem among ourselves and if we don't find solution to any of them, then we shall present the problem to you along with suggestions. In future, we are planning to organize a talk program on 'The changes in youth stage.' In this talk program, we will talk about the youth's problems and solutions. Many people will be participating in this program. Please give us suggestions regarding it. If we organize such program in our society, won't the conservative and traditional people be against us? Therefore, can we organize such program? If we can, then will you participate in it? If you can't participate, please send us useful materials and do provide us suggestions. Please send these materials as soon as possible to us. Toya! You had asked if it's OK to send us books about sexual matters. Since we are interested in opening a library, you can send such books as many as you can. We won't be angry with you. Moreover, we can help you by sending you money for the books & magazines you send. You can provide us suggestions, advices, books/magazines without any hesitation - we will happily accept them. We also want to come and visit you at your office. So, Sushma! Please tell us, without telling lie, where exactly your office is located and what its phone number is. Can we meet or talk to you directly?
The name of our club is Shree Kailawati Saathi Sanga Manka Kura Radio Listeners Club, Belkot-7, Amare, Tallobari, Deudi, Nuwakot.
Madhab K.Tiwari (President), Bhumaraj Tiwari 'Safal' (Vice - President), Ujjwal P. Tiwari (Treasurer), Resham B. Tamang (Secretary), Gokarna Raj Tiwari (Asst. Secretary)
Members: Dinesh P.Tiwari, Tara Tiwari, Sarala Pandey, Anjana Thapa, Saraswati Pandey, Kamala Tripathi,
We will be very happy if you read this out on air.