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UNICEF Somalia radio project


UNICEF Somalia

Address and contact details

Ms Julia Spry-Leverton, communication officer
Ms Tisha Wheeler, project consultant
PO Box 44145
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +25 42 623 958
Email: jspryleverton@unicef.org

Project partners

Somaliland Ministry of Information

ACARO Youth Organization

SOCSA Girls Organization

HAVOYOCO Youth Organization




In Somalia the most influential new leaders fostering debate and change on important social and health issues are the youth. Youth in Somalia have seen a lot and have strong opinions on what peace, development and children's rights mean. Now the voices of Somali youth are being heard with greater credibility than ever before. As part of an instrumental new project, UNICEF is providing radio production training for youth to broadcast intelligent and popular shows over the airwaves.

Broadcasters and producers have been impressed and have given the youth free access to the airwaves. Now a countrywide strategy for building community-based youth broadcasting for behaviour change on social and health issues has begun.

Radio remains the most important tool for communication in Africa. In Somalia daily life is planned around radio broadcasts where, every day at 5.30pm, activity stops and crowds gather around the radio to hear the BBC Somali Service. Somalis have used technology to support their oral culture and built a broadcasting community that spans the war-torn country and is available to Somalis overseas through Internet streaming.

Poetry, drama, songs and other traditional forms of expression provide news and entertainment and foster debate. When Somali youth said they want their voices heard through radio they picked the most important means possible and because of their initiative people from Somalia are saying let's hear from the youth.

Aims and objectives

• Provide a strategy of support for UNICEF to assist the development of children's broadcasting.

• Define youth production for Somalia (involve children and youth at all stages of production).

• Develop year-long, quality, locally-based broadcasts for, with and by children.

• Address youth radio broadcasting training needs and production opportunities.

• Develop the regulatory environment for youth broadcasting in Somalia.

• Work with youth broadcasters to achieve sustainable financing for youth production, particularly to pay for airtime.


The youth participants are recruited from active youth groups that are currently working with UNICEF and have demonstrated organizational skills, an interest in the media and education, and have implemented projects for social development in their community.

Target audience

Youth and young adults aged 14-24, media professionals and broadcasters.

Wider beneficiaries

Somali communities in Somalia, the East Africa region, and overseas in the diaspora.

Involvement of children

In order to foster a truly community-based project that is built on the interests of youth this project has been led from the beginning by Somali youth with UNICEF support. Through interactive workshop and training activities the youth determined that they wanted to produce radio dramas, they determined the issues and content for their radio programmes, then they begun drafting scripts after a short training period.

They are now managing their own budgets and producing programmes.

Summary of project

To build the capacity of youth radio broadcasting in Somalia we began with three youth groups from northern Somalia. This pilot project was designed to serve as a model of youth media training and local youth media development. The youth were given a budget of $3,500 and close guidance from a consultant to cover training costs, ongoing capacity building costs, production and air time fees. A four-week long training period was conducted during which they were exposed primarily to radio drama production. Their themes of interest were identified through confidence-building activities to determine what issues were important to them and the development of their communities. The production was supported through a local radio drama consultant who worked with them to develop scripts. The local radio station and Ministry of Information recognized the importance of youth broadcasting by offering the use of the recording studio and airing the youth productions for free. Their training continues as they continue to work with UNICEF, a local drama consultant and the radio station to produce programmes. Their aim was to produce a total of 12 radio dramas by the end of 2002.

UNICEF Somalia is now developing a countrywide strategy to build the skills of youth broadcasting as a support mechanism for UNICEF-sponsored work in the country. The aim is to build local production capacity so that youth groups can inform their communities with special relevance to their peer groups and in language used by youth foster debate about HIV, hygiene, immunization, female genital mutilation and children's rights.


This project is a self-funded UNICEF project with support from:

Somaliland Ministry of Information

ACARO Youth Organization

SOCSA Girls Organization

HAVOYOCO Youth Organization

Strengths of project

The strength of this project is founded on the importance of radio in Somalia and the commitment of the youth broadcasters.

• Involving youth in the production of media is fundamental to designing, creating and broadcasting programmes that are interesting and relevant to youth.

• Youth producers do not see productions as a source of income but as a way to have their voices heard.

• Building youth production capacity through organized youth groups is an extension of the community service they are already active in, so they have a sense of what they want to produce.

• When training youth, they do not consider their attendance an obligation but an opportunity to take advantage of.

• Leaving the content in the hands of the youth will ensure that the programmes are about topics that are important locally and have qualities that appeal to Somali youth.

• A youth-led production will better ensure that the local community and broadcaster see the programme as a local product worthy of local recognition and support.

• When youth handle controversial issues in the media they are often not overly confrontational on sensitive political issues. (In Burundi youth are interviewing rebel leaders and engaging in previously unspeakable political debate with great success.)

• Youth have an enthusiasm for learning new technology and are excited by the media, so they are often easier to train than adults.


The greatest challenge to the project comes from the insecurity in Somalia and subsequent lack of access to areas where youth groups continue to prosper. Without a central government, training and broadcasting agreements cannot be standard but must be adapted for each situation and local authority. Other challenges lie in the lack of infrastructure throughout the country, the disparity of equipment and its poor overall quality.


Project monitoring is ongoing, however, the enthusiasm of the youth, the support from the radio station and Ministry of Information, along with the interest in the community is positive.

Lessons learned

• Media projects are best when developed by the audience for which they are produced.

• The strength of young media producers on many levels should not be underestimated.

• Community support and sustainability comes when projects are seen as local initiatives.

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