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UNICEF supports empowering young people through radio worldwide

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A boy broadcasts children’s programming at the UNICEF-supported Radio Fe y Alegria FM 101, based in Guajira, Venezuela.

By Melissa Leschuck

NEW YORK, USA, 12 June 2008 – Around the world, youth radio is working to confront a multitude of issues that affect children and adolescents. By supporting programmes produced specifically by children, for children, UNICEF is channelling this power to generate global youth dialogues.

Radio Fe y Alegria FM 101 airs in the small town of Guajira, Venezuela. The station produces youth programmes focused on maintaining cultural identity and educating children about their indigenous traditions.

“In our radio programme, we encourage people not to leave our culture behind. We remind people not to forget about our customs, our traditional dress, our language, our music and everything that has to do with cultural heritage,” said radio producer Yhoen Palmar, 17.

In New York City, radio station WNYC produces ‘Radio Rookies’, a programme concentrating on the training and mentoring of teenagers in journalism. The teens produce their own stories and spread their messages to over 1 million weekly listeners.

The power of radio
In addition to reaching diverse groups of people, radio is cost-effective, a crucial factor in regions that are battling poverty.

“There is no doubt that in the developing world, radio is still the cheapest form of mass communication,” said UNICEF Radio consultant Michael Kavanagh. “Often, people are illiterate or the infrastructure is just not good enough to get newspapers throughout the country. With radio, all you need is a transistor radio and some batteries.”

Although there is an initial cost for setting up transmitters and other equipment, Mr. Kavanagh noted that once the set-up is done, “you can reach thousands, millions of people for almost nothing.”

The power of radio is undeniable – and so is the fact that youths are more inclined to listen and act when presented with issues from their peers. UNICEF-supported youth radio has done everything from advertise an event for indigenous people in Venezuela to promote free polio vaccinations in Guinea-Bissau.

Children’s broadcasting awards
In recognition of young people’s contributions to both radio and TV programming worldwide, broadcasters in more than 100 countries celebrate the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting (ICDB) each December. On that day, children go on the air as reporters, presenters and producers.

Also as part of the Day of Broadcasting, radio broadcasters have a chance to win the ICDB Award for Radio Excellence, which recognizes programmes that give children a central role and allow them to share their perspectives on – and with – the world.

“The media really has the power to change something,” said Weera Suwanachot, children’s reporter and winner of this year’s ICDB award for his programme produced by Thai Youth News. “So if the children participate in media, it means that children can change something for children, together.”


 

 

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UNICEF correspondent Melissa Leschuck reports on the far-reaching power of radio to engage young people and get vital messages to their peers and their communities.
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