3 June 2011: Young reporters' network empowers youth to be heard
By Jacqueline Namfua
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, 3 June 2011 – Modest, 17, has been living on the streets of Moshi in the Kilimanjaro Region for the past 14 months. Despite his grim upbringing and current situation, he has found a way to get his story heard and learn new skills – by joining the Young Reporters Network.
“I am really happy with this radio training, because it has helped me understand the position I am in now and my future potential,” he said. “It has enabled me to meet many people. I have learned to operate a recorder, and also to conduct an interview and create a talk show.”
Obstacles to growth and development
Child rights hardly feature in the mainstream media and the voices of young people remain significantly muted in Tanzania, even though they face a multitude of challenges and obstacles to their growth and development.
UNICEF Tanzania has partnered with several local and international non-governmental organizations and community radio stations to support the development of the Young Reporters Network.
The initiative has trained 60 children in Moshi, Zanzibar, Ifakara and commercial capital Dar es Salaam, to enable them to learn new skills in radio reporting, increase their active participation in the production of children’s programmes, and develop their capacity to be advocates for child rights.
Showcase for youth
The young reporters include children who live on the streets, are affected by HIV and AIDS, or face other forms of stigma, discrimination, hunger and violence. Members of the Children’s Council in one of the poorest areas of Dar es Salaam are also involved.
Radio is critical for youth empowerment by enabling young people’s voices to be heard all over Tanzania. Radio is estimated to reach about 70 per cent of the country’s population.
The young reporters produce 30-minute fortnightly programmes. The output showcases audio diaries and commentaries, interviews and talk shows through which children shared true stories about their lives.
Believing in young people
Each non-governmental organization works with 15 young reporters to ensure they are safe and protected while reporting and have access to important local decision-makers. They are allied with a local community radio station which provides 30 minutes of air-time every two weeks, as well as guidance in story development and production.
The broadcasts are also shared through the Tanzania Community Radio Network – as free content – and every week one of the Youth Radio Network’s programmes is broadcast on national radio.
UNICEF Representative in Tanzania Dorothy Rozga believes the Youth Radio Network offers a unique opportunity for Tanzanian youth to share their concerns, hopes and aspirations, and help change ideas about child participation.
“The Young Reporters Network uses radio to empower children and youth to produce programmes for and by children,” she said. “In particular, it is creating opportunities for some of the most disadvantaged and excluded children in the country to challenge stereotypes and confront stigma and discrimination by sharing their experience.”
Ms. Rozga added that with the Young Reporters Network still growing – through community and national radio, the Internet and the new Voices of Youth Kiswahili platform – it can become a viable, sustainable programme. “This is just the beginning,” she said.
Stop the stigma
By year’s end more young reporters will join Tanzania’s network of young reporters, including children from the cities of Mwanza, which sits on Lake Victoria, and Kigoma, in the far west of the country.
“The workshop has really helped me to learn more about radio and how we can use it to educate other children about their rights,” said Modest. “Because of our programmes the community will be more aware and informed about child rights, and hopefully they will stop stigmatising street children like me because we are just like other children.”