West African children take to the airwaves to make their voices heard

© UNICEF Liberia/2006/Jallenzo
Hundreds of Liberian children participated in this year’s International Children’s Day of Broadcasting, including these young people at UNMIL Radio. In background is UNICEF Representative in Liberia Rozanne Chorlton.

By Patrick Slavin and Alusine Savage

Each December, UNICEF’s International Children’s Day of Broadcasting (ICDB)  involves young people worldwide in media programming and production, giving them a chance to express their opinions on major issues and develop new skills. Here is one in a series of stories about youth media.

MONROVIA, Liberia and FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, 18 December 2006 – This year’s ICDB on 10 December served as clarion call for broadcasters in Liberia and Sierra Leone to engage the voices of young people, providing them with a platform to air their views on reversing the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

“Who’s doing the 8 o’clock news?” producer Sharon Vincent Avorkliyah shouted out to a hallway jam-packed with child broadcasters at the studios of United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Radio.

“I am,” said Richie Kpadeh, 15, with his schoolbag tucked snugly around his shoulders.

With a handwritten script, Richie and eight other children kicked off a full day of children’s programming on UNMIL Radio. Their professional, one-hour newscast featured interviews with Liberia’s Ministers of Gender and Development, a former Minister of Education, the head of UNMIL’s HIV/AIDS Section and UNICEF Representative in Liberia Rozanne Chorlton.

© UNICEF Sierra Leone/2006/Savage
Julia Grey-Coker, 10, of the Leone Preparatory School conducting an interactive phone-in programme on Radio Mount Aureol at the University of Sierra Leone.

In Liberia, ‘a good day for the kids’

“This is exactly what the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting is all about – the voices of children being heard,” said UNMIL Radio Chief Joseph Roberts-Mensah. “We turn over our station every year to children, and they do everything from news, judging a talent show and preparing a quiz contest to producing, writing and acting in dramas.”

Almost 200 Liberian children took part in programming on the 2006 ICDB theme, UNITE FOR CHILDREN  UNITE AGAINST AIDS. “And once again we want to thank UNICEF for its unflinching support and for helping to make ICDB a good day for the kids,” said Mr. Roberts-Mensah.

Since Liberia joined the global observance of ICDB in 1993, children’s broadcasting has gained momentum, expanding from 1 radio station and 10 child broadcasters then to at least 38 radio and television stations and more than 400 child broadcasters this year.

United front in Sierra Leone

Meanwhile in neighbouring Sierra Leone, children used ICDB 2006 to call for a united front in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Acting as announcers, producers, newsreaders, disc jockeys and talk-show panellists, young people occupied 52 radio and 2 TV stations across the country to air their views about the disease and its impact on children.

In Sierra Leone today, more than 5,000 children under the age of 15 are living with HIV and some 1,900 are in need of anti-retroviral drugs, but virtually none of them is receiving treatment. In a country already classified as one of the least developed in the world – where almost one in three children dies before his or her fifth birthday, largely due to malaria and vaccine-preventable diseases – AIDS poses an unprecedented threat to human development.

ICDB has made significant inroads into broadcasting for children since its inception in 1993 in Sierra Leone. More than 150 broadcast journalists across the country are now involved in the initiative. And as more radio stations are set up, UNICEF is providing technical and financial resources to help them address emerging child welfare issues.

In the run-up to ICDB this year, UNICEF also assisted in the launch of Sierra Leone’s first children’s newspaper – yet another vehicle for young people to make their voices heard.

Sabine Dolan contributed to this story from New York.




18 December 2006:
Listen to clips from the children’s programming on United Nations Mission in Liberia Radio.
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Related links

First children’s newspaper launched in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone: Children’s forum takes on trafficking and other concerns

Liberia launches Girls’ Education National Policy [with audio]