EBI AND AKIL'S TALE
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And they have.
“Troç!” – the Albanian word for “say it” or “tell it like it is” – is a news show produced by children aged 13 to 18 and broadcast on Albanian National TV, reaching an audience of nearly 75,000 viewers each week.
In a country where nearly half the population lives below the poverty line and some 36,000 to 44,000 children emigrate illegally to Europe every year, a group of 70-80 young people is trying to make a difference.
“The only goal that all of us have,” says 16-year-old Ebi Spahiu, a Troç reporter, “is to bring out the truth, so that things can improve.”
With UNICEF support, Troç is proving to be one of the most innovative and influential forms of youth participation in the region. Young people themselves write and produce the programmes, which are not only popular but often produce change. In one instance, a month after an exposé by Troç reporters showed the poor treatment of children in a dormitory, local authorities met with the director of the dormitory and fired him. In another case, after the show highlighted the lack of textbooks in high schools in one town, educational authorities promptly provided textbooks in time for students to study for final exams.
Troç is part of a bigger initiative that UNICEF is developing in the region: the Young People’s Media Network, which encourages groups of young media creators through exchanges, such as missions in the Balkans, partnerships, internships, awards, grants and donations.
Using the media as a tool for building ethnic tolerance and understanding, the Troç team has documented inter-ethnic youth attempts at reconciliation and dialogue in Kosovo, Yugoslavia, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. “Through these stories,” writes Akil Kraja, 16, Troç reporter and producer, “we would like to build bridges of communication and understanding through young people of different ethnic groups. To accept the language, culture and traditions of the others is the first step if we want to have peace in the region.”
In Brazil, the impact of children’s participation in the media can be seen in a small city in the north-east region where the Casa Grande Foundation draws children and young people who are eager to learn more than what they are taught in school.
Today, Ebi and Akil are working together on a short story. Akil is filming while Ebi interviews a young boy in his home.
“Even though I had heard about Casa Grande before and admired its work, my husband and I didn’t want our daughter to come,” says Maria Macedo de Freitas, mother of Samara Diniz, 19, a reporter for Casa Grande. “Here in the sertão (interior dry land), girls are supposed to stay home, next to their mothers.”1
But Samara kept sneaking into Casa Grande after school, and her mother kept fetching her back home at her father’s demand. “She disagreed with her ‘macho’ dad,” said Samara’s mother, “something we don’t do here. But her insistence and her achievements as a reporter inspired me to also start participating in Casa Grande’s activities.” Now, Samara’s mother is the Director of Education at Casa Grande and Samara’s father is proud of his daughter.
Founded in 1992 by Brazilian musicians Alemberg Quindins and Rosiane Limaverde, the Casa Grande Foundation is supported by UNICEF and other partners. Some 70 children and adolescents participate in planning and decision-making and are included in the management of the Foundation. They produce videos, comic books, newsletters and radio programmes for children and youth. “Even though we are in a small city,” says Samuel Macedo, 17, Radio Manager and member of the TV team and a rock band, “we can have information and knowledge like any other youth in Brazil.”
In April 2001, the project team launched a magazine and a video developed with the support of UNICEF and the United Nations Foundation. The material on the prevention of smoking was so successful that it was distributed to more than 550,000 children and adolescents at schools in Ceará. “The activities that I develop here changed my life,” says Samuel, “because I didn’t use to think about the future and I didn’t care too much about life. Now I work on coordinating radio and TV programmes, I know how to handle musical instruments, computers, but most importantly, how to interact in a group.”
International media initiatives have also been an effective means of creating opportunities for children to voice their opinions. On the second Sunday of every December since 1992, thousands of children around the world celebrate the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting (ICDB). Children take to the air as reporters, presenters and producers of programmes on issues including children’s rights, poverty, HIV/AIDS, discrimination and conflict. With more than 2,000 participating broadcasters, ICDB is the largest broadcasting campaign for children in the world.
A joint initiative of the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) and UNICEF, ICDB has moved beyond the Day itself and encouraged children’s participation in the media throughout the year. Some programmes created to celebrate the Day have turned into weekly programmes; others have led to the opening of training institutes.
One such example is the creation in August 2002 of China’s Galaxy Teenagers’ TV Media Training School by the China Central Television (CCTV) for children aged 9 to 12. From the nearly 300 children of Beijing who applied and attended the admissions exam, 50 were selected to be trained as young TV journalists who can work part-time at CCTV until the age of 14. In the near future, more children will be given the chance to participate as more branches of the school open throughout the country.
“I think I’m lucky to have had this chance to be a child reporter and to do interviews in the field especially,” says Yang Yi, 12, Galaxy child reporter. “I’ve got to see for myself how reporting is hard work and what needs to go into a good interview. I think I learn patience, how to appear confident in front of the camera and how to adapt to changing conditions. Being a child reporter has broadened my vision, taking me to meet people and to be in places I wouldn’t have otherwise been to.”
1. Casa Grande, A Escola de Comunicacão da Meninda do Sertão, video produced by Senac, the National Service on Commercial Learning, 2001.