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Young volunteers support Radio Salam – a vital channel of information for Batken

© UNICEF Kyrgyzstan/2004/Aitieva
A young journalist preparing for a live radio show.

BATKEN, Kyrgyzstan, 20 September 2004 – Batken is not an easy place to reach, nor is it an easy place to live. Natural disasters and inclement weather do little to help. Surprisingly, the rocky soil does nourish lush gardens of apricots in the pockets of flat land surrounded by mountains. For the local people, Batken means rocky soil, apricots and Radio Salam – a UNICEF supported radio station that highlights the concerns of young people.

Schoolchildren cheerfully divide the history of Batken into two eras: before and after Radio Salam began to broadcast. Radio Salam came to life three years ago with support from UNICEF in partnership with Internews and The International Tolerance Foundation.

Radio Salam is a part of UNICEF HAFY Project, which stands for Healthy Airwaves for Youth. It unites five regional radio stations scattered about in different parts of the country. Journalists and youth volunteers come together to learn to produce interactive radio programmes aimed at the youth population.

© UNICEF Kyrgyzstan/2004/Aitieva
Modern equipment and an active crew help to gain audience.

In its early stages and gaining momentum, Radio Salam has been fuelled by gusts of appreciation while uplifting thousands of hearts in need of help and support. It creates a place and time for young people to speak out, as well as to listen to each other, and to study together as well as to entertain.

Programmes on Radio Salam cover such issues as hygiene, inter-generation gaps and prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. With very scarce economic development in Batken, Radio Salam serves as a community-based radio – a radio that raises awareness and helps to solve problems within the community. Deteriorating school infrastructure in Batken has raised hopes that Salam Radio could help in filling educational gaps currently affecting children in the community.

About 30 volunteers from Batken University collect information and develop scripts for radio programmes. Aidai, a third-year student at the university and a volunteer for Radio Salam, says:  “Our group is working on scripts for the Daily Stories Programme. This programme tells people that an institution is not a solution to any of their problems. Children should live with their families. We take our work very seriously, knowing full well that people trust and listen to the radio’s messages.”

In a letter to the radio station, Ainura, a 16-year-old school girl, writes: “We love Salam and not because it is the only radio here. We love it because it has become our teacher, advisor and dearest friend. I find all the programmes useful. I would like to specially mention programmes on history of our region and on health issues. It is Radio Salam that warned me about HIV/AIDS and answered difficult questions on reproductive health. At school, we were told about hygiene and diseases caused by non-boiled water, but my family started to boil water only after they heard a programme about anthrax on the Radio.”

UNICEF believes that it is the people of Radio Salam – young volunteers and enthusiastic staff – that are the station’s greatest asset, helping it to grow towards self-sufficiency and, perhaps one day, stand on its own without any need for support from UNICEF.



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