SAWTNA ("Our Voice") to air twice a weekBEIRUT, 9 November 2006 – This week, UNICEF and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI) launch a television series that is the first of its kind in the Middle East region. Airing twice a week from November 8, SAWTNA (“Our Voice”), is created and produced by young people aged 15 to 21.
Youth account for almost one-third of Lebanon’s population, and the country’s complex social, political and economic circumstances affect them in specific ways. Giving them a public platform to identify issues that matter to them and examine how they affect their lives and futures is vital to creating awareness, opening discussion and finding solutions to problems ranging from smoking and depression to discrimination and poverty.
Filming for SAWTNA began more than two years ago, but was suspended during times of political turmoil. Although this summer’s armed conflict meant a further delay, the launch of the series is now a timely opportunity for episodes dealing with major post-conflict issues, including the dangers of unexploded ordnance, the plight of displaced families and the impact of the conflict on young people. SAWTNA will also air an episode featuring the reflections of older generations on previous conflicts.
“Youth are the most vibrant members of society, and they deserve a meaningful form of self-expression to ensure that their voices are heard,” says Roberto Laurenti, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon. “We have remained committed to SAWTNA because it provides a forum that did not previously exist for youth in Lebanon, or even in most of the Middle East. Although this project began well before the war started in summer 2006, it has become more important than ever as a tool to help youth participate actively in the nation’s recovery.”
The SAWTNA project is primarily funded, through UNICEF, by the Government of the Netherlands. The Netherlands Ambassador to Lebanon, His Excellency Gerard J. van Epen, attended the official launch of the SAWTNA series.
“I am very proud to see this unique project come to fruition in its first of many broadcasts,” says His Excellency. “The future well-being of a country lives in its youth, and the Government of the Netherlands is honoured to invest in helping the voices of youth to be heard, which is one of the greatest investments to be made in Lebanon itself.”
SAWTNA‘s young participants represent Lebanon’s diverse geographic, cultural and religious population. UNICEF partnered with youth NGOs throughout the country to select 45 youth representing all areas. After journalism training organized by an international expert, teams of youth based in the regions of Beirut, North Lebanon, Beqaa, Mount Lebanon and the South developed story ideas and produced the episodes from start to finish.
One participant, Mohamed (19), from Tripoli, filmed an episode on youth depression – a subject rarely discussed in public. Mohamed says that the television series is an important vehicle to raise awareness and inspire action. As he told an interviewee for the story, “Let others know what is going on.”
Although technical advisors provide guidance, the project is entirely youth-driven. “The aim of the SAWTNA television series is to give youth the opportunity to report issues and events from their own perspective,” says Sheikh Pierre Daher, Chairman and CEO, LBCI. “The reports are not the work of news professionals, but are created entirely by the youth participants – from the initial story concepts to the final edited broadcasts. This series gives viewers throughout Lebanon – youth and adults alike – an unprecedented opportunity to see a broad range of issues in a new way.”
The SAWTNA series will air at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays on LBCI. Several episodes are already fully completed and the youth teams are continuing to work on future shows.
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For more information, please contact:
Soha Bsat Boustani, Communications Officer, UNICEF: Mobile + 961 3 236 167
Nicole Ireland, Communications Officer, UNICEF: Mobile + 961 70 908 368
Hala Habib, Assistant Communications Officer, UNICEF: Mobile + 961 3 870 459