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République-Unie de Tanzanie

Young reporters take to the air, in the United Republic of Tanzania

By Sabine Brandenburg

DAR ES SALAAM, United Republic of Tanzania, 20 March 2014 – “I never thought that one day I would become a reporter,” says Wastara, who is 14. “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.”

A network of skilled youth

Wastara is a member of the Young Reporters Network (YRN) of the United Republic of Tanzania. Established in 2011 with support from UNICEF, the network aims to teach young people to use radio and digital and flip camera equipment.

Image de l'UNICEF
© UNICEF United Republic of Tanzania/2013/Real2Reel
Young Reporters Network in action in Mwanza, United Republic of Tanzania.

Through the project, children and young people are also taught skills in reporting and producing quality radio and television programmes for their peers. After they’ve been trained, the young reporters can produce 30- to 60-minute programmes that are aired on community radio stations.

The reporters meet regularly to brainstorm about themes and story ideas for their programmes. The programme formats include audio diaries, commentary, interviews and talk shows. The young reporters are able to share stories about a variety of issues that affect them or are important to them, about living with HIV, living on the streets, about neglect and child rights in general.

To date, more than 200 children, like Wastara, have been trained in Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Shinyanga, Kigoma, Kilimanjaro, Mwanza and Zanzibar.


In the United Republic of Tanzania, radio is an effective medium. Fifty-eight percent of women and 77 percent of men listen to the radio at least once a week; it is the most common mass medium in the country.

“I like radio because it can be used anywhere,” says Paul, who is 13. Paul is a reporter in Ifakara, Morogoro region. “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,” he adds.

Messages voiced – and heard

The YRN recruits and trains children who are between 10 and 17 years old, as part of greater efforts to fulfil Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The article gives children the right to speak freely and express their views.

Because youth can broadcast their voices to the general public, key decision-makers and the government, all around the country, radio is a critical platform for youth empowerment. YRN therefore offers Tanzanian youth a unique opportunity to share their concerns, hopes and aspirations – and have them heard.

The structure of the programme supports youth to air their messages. UNICEF United Republic of Tanzania has partnered with local and international NGOs to establish the YRN around the country. Each NGO ensures that the reporters have a safe and supportive place to meet to plan their programmes, that they are safe and protected while reporting in the field and that they have access to key decision-makers for their programmes.

Each NGO is also allied with a local community radio station that provides airtime, as well as guidance in story development and production.

Catalysts for change

The project also aims to increase young people’s active participation in the production of children’s programmes and to develop their capacity to be advocates for child rights.

According to Linus Kilembu, a presenter at Radio 5, a UNICEF radio partner in Arusha, “The [YRN] 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- or herself.”

Joyce, a 13-year-old reporter from Moshi, Kilimanjaro, talks about how effective children’s storytelling can be. “I remember once we did a programme about disability, and I interviewed children with disabilities from my school,” she says. “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.”

And, as children participate more and more in the public sphere through YRN, ideas about child participation can begin to shift. “Children and young people in Tanzania are rarely provided with opportunities to voice issues that affect them, their well-being, growth and development,” says Jama Gulaid, the UNICEF Representative in the United Republic of Tanzania.

“Child rights rarely feature in the mainstream media, and, if they do, they are usually tokenistic and from an adult’s perspective. Yet, given the right opportunity, young people do have a wealth of knowledge, experience and ideas that are unique to them, enabling them to offer key insights and perspectives on the issues that concern and affect them,” he adds.



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Related links

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Challenges for urban children identified in UNICEF report on the United Republic of Tanzania