World Radio Day 2014: UNICEF amplifying youth voices in Zimbabwe
By Richard Nyamanhindi
On 13 February 2014, we celebrated World Radio Day.
As the media landscape evolves, radio remains the medium that reaches the widest audience, over 95 per cent of the population in Zimbabwe.
There are 13 million people in Zimbabwe and more than 60 per cent are under the age of 30.
Considering these numbers, it is vital to create spaces of broadcast for youth in the country.
Every Tuesday evening from 6.30pm to 7.00pm young people come into the studio on ZiFM to broadcast a weekly show hosted by UNICEF with support from the Swedish Government, called the Youth-Zone (Y-Zone).
The goal of the Y-Zone is to serve as a voice for young people on their development needs. As noted by one Junior Parliamentarian Mukuli Karikoga, “We have a specific objective of holding policy-makers and relevant authorities accountable on youth development issues,” and the Y-Zone provides us with such a platform.
The Junior Parliament of Zimbabwe and other youths have been using the platform to advocate for various issues affecting their constituencies such as education, health, budgeting and water among other issues.
“Before I had a lack of confidence but now, after coming on radio, I am now very confident. I can even stand in-front of many people and express my feelings and ideas without fear”, says 17-year-old Moven Kario a Junior Parliamentarian from Gweru.
According to the Deputy Minister of Media and Information, Hon Supa Mandiwanzira during the 2014 commemoration of World Radio Day in Harare, “Radio is a powerful tool of communication in the continent with young people forming a large percentage of listeners. By empowering them with the tools to produce their own shows or participating in the shows, we create spaces of youth-driven dialogue that lead to solutions and understanding in communities.”
For Moven and his fellow colleagues radio has become a powerful tool for advocacy since Y-Zone started last year in September. The Junior Parliament has more than 320 members around the country who constantly communicate about issues affecting their communities.
“The Y-Zone represents an incredible development discourse platform run by youth, for young people. Being involved in this project has helped us learn more about development issues, from education to poverty reduction to sexual issues. We are equipped with professional skills – including soft skills such as strategic thinking, team building, and policy-influencing skills – which we believe will prepare us for the future,” said Mirrian Chikumbo, a youth from Harare.
The initial challenge with the Y-Zone was the public acceptance of young people’s self-assertion. Meaningful youth participation was considered an exception rather than a norm by many people, who believed youth, should not be heard. However, over the last few months the program has made some great strides in influencing public policies. This has convinced those in policy-making positions that young people are key actors in development.
The Zimbabwean government has made it policy that all radio stations have slots for young people’s programs, but more needs to be done to ensure that views expressed on such programs feed into ongoing national debates and shape public policies on young people’s development.
In Zimbabwe, radio continues to hold its own even in an age where everything is seen and heard digitally. World Radio Day 2014 presented an opportunity to improve cooperation among broadcasters in Zimbabwe and encourage established stations and community radio stations alike to promote access to information, freedom of expression, and gender equality over the airwaves.
Looking into the future, we need to make radio and broadcasting youth-friendly by allowing young people to host their own radio programs, either in partnership or with guidance from adult allies. Through such opportunities we will be investing in the next generation of journalists and speakers, who will tell development-centred stories. This is something UNICEF and other development agencies are looking forward to and can see a bright future, not only for radio, but for young people in Zimbabwe.