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Multimedia initiative encourages discussion among Nepal's young people

© UNICEF Nepal/2010/Shrestha
Participants send the first messages during the Kathmandu launch of the UNICEF-supported free text message programme.

By John Brittain

KATHMANDU, Nepal, 6 May 2010 – Around the world, the vast expansion of communication technology – including computers, mobile phones and the Internet – is changing lives. More people than ever before are able to communicate across local and international borders.

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UNICEF and its partners are working to harness innovative forms of communication to improve the lives of children. In Nepal, a new programme is using mobile phone technology to support one of UNICEF’s core tenets: that children’s voices must be heard.

A forum for participation

Text messaging, or texting, has become a regular part of the adolescent experience across the world. In the most remote corners of Nepal, where it can take a week to travel to the nearest town, texting can be particularly essential to communicating with other young people.

© UNICEF Nepal/2010/Shrestha
Youth Representative Ayusha Shrestha, 'Miss University Nepal 2003', addresses participants at the Kathmandu launch of the UNICEF-supported free text message programme.

Last week, UNICEF teamed up with a popular Nepali youth radio programme to launch a free text message project geared toward young people. Each week, the hosts of the radio programme, Saathi Sanga Man Ka Kura (or SSMK), are announcing a topic of debate live on the air and inviting opinions from listeners. Young people can then text their views and comments on the topic – free of charge – directly to the UNICEF Nepal website. 

“SSMK has always encouraged their listeners to write in about their concerns and issues through letters, and this has worked very well,” said UNICEF Representative in Nepal Gillian Mellsop. “But now we are moving one step ahead.”

Saathi Sanga Man Ka Kura, which means ‘Chatting with my Best Friend’ in Nepali, has been on the air for 10 years. It is run by the non-governmental organization Equal Access Nepal and has a following of millions of young people.

‘Relevant and lively discussions’

The project has already sparked much interest among Nepali youth. Over 4,000 text messages were sent to the UNICEF Nepal website on the programme’s first day – even before the first discussion topic was announced.

© UNICEF Nepal/2010/Shrestha
Members of the SSMK radio team perform a skit on the participatory power of the mobile phone during the programme launch in Kathmandu, Nepal.

“With so many young people wishing to voice their opinions and participate in a larger community, this modern facility will reach out to them,” said Deependra Joshi, the Country Director of Equal Access. “It is targeted at all young people ... to help them participate in interesting, relevant and lively discussions.”

“It seems clear that there is a real demand for this service among the young in Nepal,” ashe dded.

Ms. Mellsop noted that the service will help UNICEF and its partners determine the greatest topics of interest for Nepali young people, as well as potential ways for them to participate in public life. “This is useful and precious information that we will be able to take into account as we further develop the principles of youth participation in Nepal,” she said.

Learn more about the free text messaging programme by visiting https://www.unicef.org/nepal/.




27 April 2010: UNICEF's Bhavna Adhikari reports on the launch of free SMS text programme designed to connect the young people of Nepal.
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UNICEF Radio reports on the new mulitmedia initiative that lets Nepali youth debate and discuss important issues via free text messages from their mobile phones.
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