Community radio programme gives children a loud and clear voice

© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2005/Atkinson
Young journalist Jacinta Oliveira conducts an interview for Voices of Children, a UNICEF- supported community radio programme.

By Simon Atkinson

DILI, Timer-Leste, 29 December 2005 - If you are in Los Palos, Timor-Leste, on a Monday night, don’t expect to hear the latest music hits when you tune into 100.1 FM. What you are more likely to find are programmes of teenagers discussing the importance of education, or a drama written and produced by the youngsters about a girl being sold off by her family for an early marriage.

Labirak Nia Lian or Voices of Children is a UNICEF- supported community radio programme. The editorial team of Voices of Children is run by a group of 12 boys and girls aged 10 to 19. With 60 per cent of Timor-Leste’s population being under 18, the show has played a crucial role in spreading messages about children’s rights across the country.

Though resources are limited, the youngsters of Voices of Children all received basic journalist training and the enthusiasm among them is high.

“I would like to be a journalist in the future,” says Jacinta Oliveira, 18. “To do that I need good skills and to learn about media activities, and that’s one of the reasons I got involved.”

© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2005/Atkinson
Teresinha de Jesus Miguel and Natalisio de Jesus have an on-air discussion at a Voices of Children studio.

“We have our badges and are always accepted as a member of the media,” said another proud member Egy.

Voices of Children airs two 30-minute programmes every week. The setup is being replicated in five other districts. With television coverage largely limited to the capital Dili, and TV sets expensive, radio is the most important means of communication.

Sending strong messages

Education is a topic that is passionately discussed on the show by the young presenters. Teachers and officials are frequently invited to the show to talk about the importance and benefits of schooling and some of the members of the children’s teams are school dropouts. The show also dedicates a lot of time to health issues, such as nutrition and breastfeeding.

A recent survey revealed that some 44 per cent of children between the ages of nine to 17 suffered violence in their homes. Using local experts and sometimes police officials, the show sends a strong message about the harm of domestic violence, and the urgent need to put a stop to it.

Through dramas written and performed by the presenters, the radio show also tackles the scourge of early child marriage facing the country’s many young girls.

After a successful year, Voices of Children can be heard in six community radio stations across the country. In the coming year, UNICEF Timor-Leste will expand its network to cover 11 radio stations – an effort that will make the airwaves in Timor-Leste truly alive with the sound of children.



Related links

Youngest nation celebrates children’s rights

UNICEF develops ‘Marta’, an animated role model for girls

International Children's Day of Broadcasting (ICDB)