The Children’s Radio Foundation
Radio helps young people across Africa get their voices heard
Radio is a popular communication channel around the world, even in the digital age of television, social media and the internet. This is particularly the case in Africa where even though internet coverage is still low in many countries, 90% of people have access to a radio. Radio has the power to reach remote areas and is the only regular form of media in some isolated communities. It also has the power to lift the voices of the marginalised, disenfranchised and disempowered. Radio programmes can tell human stories, which connect people across divisions and create empathy.
The Children’s Radio Foundation uses radio to create opportunities for youth-led dialogue, participation, leadership, and active citizenship in communities across Africa. They aim to create opportunities for young people to shape their own futures and strengthen themselves, their families, and their communities. They train youth reporters and help them to start up radio programmes in different radio stations reporting on topics of their choice. Some topics discussed include HIV, environmental activism, LGBTI issues, street child experiences and teenage pregnancy.
Photo credit: Sydelle Willow Smith
Patou Izai is an LGBTI activist in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In 2011, when feeling isolated after coming out to his family, Patou founded Jeunialissime, an advocacy group in Kinshasa that works to fight stigma and discrimination faced by LGBTI youth. The Children’s Radio Foundation works with Jeunialissime to use radio as a tool for dialogue and activism in the LGBTI community. Jeuniafrica was the first-ever LGBTI radio show broadcast in DRC, which is also distributed online via social media to a wide audience in DRC and beyond. Jeuniafrica has helped its young reporters escape social isolation and be open with one another about their true thoughts and feelings. One reporter said, “Jeuniafrica is the only place where I can talk openly with people who have the same sexual orientation". Through doing so, she believes she can "help other lesbians to open up about their sexuality".
Presenting and producing a radio show gives young people a platform for their voices to be heard. It tells them that their opinions and interests matter and that people will listen to what they have to say. In addition to learning the technical skills of radio production and soft skills of verbal communication, the experience engenders a sense of self-belief and self-worth that is invaluable when growing up. Children’s Radio Foundation has trained 864 youth reporters in six countries across Africa so far and their programmes have a combined 9.3 million weekly listeners.