4 March 2014: Children’s Voices Reaching Audiences all over Tanzania
By Sabine Brandenburg
Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania, 4 March 2014 – “I never thought that one day I would become a reporter. I always believed reporters were adults and not children, because children don’t have the skills. But now I know that when given the opportunity, we are able to report even better than adults.” Wastara, 14, Dar es Salaam.
Wastara is a member of Tanzania’s Young Reporters Network (YRN). The network was established in 2011, with support from UNICEF, and aims to teach young people new skills in handling and using radio equipment and digital and flip cameras. To date, over 200 children have been trained in radio reporting and handling of digital and flip cameras in Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Shinyanga, Kigoma, Kilimanjaro, Mwanza, and Zanzibar. The young reporters produce 30-60 minutes programmes which are broadcast on collaborating community radio stations.
Youth participation and civic engagement
Through the project, children and young people are also taught skills in reporting and producing quality radio and television programmes for their peers. The YRN recruits and trains child volunteers, aged between 10 and 17, in an effort to fulfil Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which gives children the right to speak freely and express their views. The project also aims to increase young people’s active participation in the production of children’s programmes and develop their capacity to be advocates of child rights.
Using radio to communicate is an effective way of getting young people’s messages across to the general public, key decision-makers and the government. Radio remains a critical platform for youth empowerment for enabling young people’s voices to be heard all over Tanzania. It is the dominant mass communication channel and is estimated to reach about 70 per cent of the population in the country.
“I like radio because it can be used anywhere. At home we use it to get information. Even when there is no electricity we can still listen to the radio. In my village, we don’t have electricity, but we still listen to the radio”, says Paul,13, a young reporter in Ifakara, in Morogoro region.
Voicing concerns and hopes
The Young Reporters Network offers a unique opportunity for Tanzanian youth to share their concerns, hopes and aspirations, which can help to change ideas about child participation. The young reporters meet regularly to brainstorm themes and story ideas for their programmes. The radio programmes include audio diaries and commentaries, interviews and talk shows through which the young reporters share true stories about their lives, about living with HIV, living on the streets, about neglect and child rights in general.
UNICEF Tanzania has partnered with several local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to establish the Young Reporters Network in the country. Each collaborating NGO ensures that the young reporters have a safe and supportive place to meet regularly to plan their programmes; they are safe and protected while reporting in the field; and have access to key decision-makers for their programmes. Each NGO is allied with a local community radio station which provides airtime as well as guidance in story development and production.
Catalyst for change
“The Young Reporters’ Network programme is very beneficial to the community because there is no better person to talk about a child’s life and about what that child needs than the child him/herself,” says Linus Kilembu, Presenter at Radio 5, a UNICEF radio partner in Arusha.
“I remember once we did a programme about disability and I interviewed children with disabilities from my school. A lot of our listeners called the radio station to give their opinion on disabilities as we were airing the programme. It made me happy to hear that most of them were asking to stop discrimination against children with disabilities”, says Joyce Mwanza, a 13 year-old young reporter from Moshi, in Kilimanjaro, northern Tanzania. “Whenever I visit my grand-parents, they tell me ‘I heard you on the radio!’. That makes me feel very proud”.
“Children and young people have good ideas and deep insights into issues that affect their lives including education, safety, and social change. Children and young people see themselves as part of the solution to some of the challenges facing them today. Yet children and young people seldom get opportunities to air their views. I strongly believe that Tanzania will be a better place for all if the voices of children – half the total population – are heard more often”, says Jama Gulaid, the UNICEF Representative in Tanzania.