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At a glance: Sierra Leone

‘Voice of Children’ becomes a national fixture in Sierra Leonean radio

© UNICEF Sierra Leone/2008/Savage
Two young members of the ‘Voice of Children’ project bring their message to the children of Sierra Leone.

By Lóa Magnúsdóttir

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, 20 August 2008 – At its launch in 2003, the UNICEF-supported ‘Voice of Children’ project in Sierra Leone was the first post-conflict radio programme of its kind. Its success has served as a template for a similar programme in Liberia, as well as projects in other countries emerging from conflict.

Mary Fofana, 11, clearly enjoys her involvement in Voice of Children, a public-service radio programme created by children, for children. “News reading is my favourite,” she explained. “I like to follow what is happening in the world.”

‘A true capacity builder’
One day recently, Mary worked up the courage to deliver a speech about the programme to a crowd assembled in the office of Vice Chancellor Aiah Gbakima at the University of Sierra Leone’s Fourah Bay College in Freetown.

Mr. Gbakima was impressed by her remarks. “This project is a true capacity builder,” he said. “I am looking forward to welcoming these creative and industrious children to the university in a few years. It will be our privilege to have them amongst us.”

Giving children an ‘active role’
The Voice of Children project is based on one of the principal rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child – namely, children’s right to express their views freely and have their views given due weight.

© UNICEF Sierra Leone/2008/Magnúsdóttir
UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone Geert Cappelaere is interviewed by young journalists from Voice of Children.

The project serves as a meeting point where children can express themselves, share information, play and laugh. The Voice of Children programmes include music, comedy, sports, news and current affairs, as well as advice from doctors and social worker. Given the wide reach of radio in Sierra Leone, the project is intended to be heard by all children, whether they are in or out of school, rural or urban.

“Voice of Children radio nurtures the creative energy of children and young people, giving them an active role in shaping their environment and their societies,” says the UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone Geert Cappelaere.

Growth with support from UNICEF
UNICEF has supported the Voice of Children programme since the beginning, providing training for the children as well as studio equipment, office supplies and other forms of assistance.

The programme recently moved from the radio station at the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone to the station at the University of Sierra Leone, Fourah Bay College. This relocation mirrors the country’s own shift from recovery to development, as the last international peace consolidation mission comes to an end. 

Even as Voice of Children settles in at a national radio network, UNICEF has pledged to maintain its support to ensure the continued growth of the programme. For UNICEF, the ultimate goal is for Voice of Children programme to reach every child in Sierra Leone.




Annabel Hynes, 15, host of the 'Teen Talk' show on Freetown's Voice of Children radio station, talks about youth radio in Sierra Leone.
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