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 Wednesday 03 October 2007
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MOZAMBIQUE: Young people's radio show breaks down taboos

Photo: Bill Cocorran/IRIN
Teenage radio presenters discuss issues with their peers over the airwaves
MAPUTO , 8 February 2007 (PlusNews) - Subjects like HIV/AIDS and child trafficking, usually considered taboo in Mozambican society, are being openly discussed by the teenage presenters of radio and television programmes for young people.

Radio Mozambique presenter Amelia Maisha Tumgine, 13, is one of several presenters using the airwaves to talk frankly with their peers about subjects that matter to them but are often considered off-limits by parents.

"I don't feel uncomfortable anymore talking about difficult subjects like HIV - it is no longer an adults' problem, as it also affects children. If the issue is only approached by adults, then kids will continue to believe that it is something they do not have to deal with," she said.

According to UNAIDS, 16.1 percent of people aged between and 15 and 49 are infected with HIV. Although 33 percent of males and 20 percent of females aged between 15 and 24 know to prevent transmission of the virus, statistics indicate that only 6 percent of sexually active girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are having protected sex.

Tumgine's colleague at Radio Mozambique, Larsen Msanjate, 17, who has worked on child-to-child radio shows for four years and has had his own slot for the past year, sees the programmes as a way of helping children understand not only childhood problems but also the challenges that come with adulthood.

"I think that what we are broadcasting helps kids to grow into adults who know how to make good choices; I think that we are helping to make good changes in kids' lives - this [type of programme] is a window of hope," he told IRIN/PlusNews.

Radio Mozambique's child-to-child programme coordinator, Coutinho Zitha, said 233 children aged eight to 18 were working on a couple of dozen programmes that were broadcast provincially and nationally in 16 local languages as well as Portuguese.

The aim of the initiative is to empower children and assist them in dealing with a wide range of issues. "Our shows are designed for our listeners - Mozambique's children and teenagers - so we focus on issues like children's rights, HIV, education, pregnancy, early marriage, and other less serious matters like sports and music, during the shows that go out daily and weekly," he said.

"We have a specialised show called 'A World Without Secrets', for which we ask our listeners to write to us and say what subjects they want us to talk about," Zitha said. "So, in most respects the subject matter really is down to the kids - we just provide guidance, training and support."

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Mozambique, along with the state-run television broadcaster, TVM, a community radios network (FORCOM), and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) have been in partnership with child-to-child programme producers Radio Mozambique since 2003.

The programme format proved so successful that it was transferred to local television screens a year later in the Roda Viva TV show, presented by three young people in the capital, Maputo, and a presenter in each province.

"It's important to empower children to talk in Mozambique, because society here can be a bit closed and children are not trained in the home to talk to their peers, so the major difficulty is convincing adults and parents that it is important for their kids to participate in a constructive debate," Patricia Portela, UNICEF liaison for the child-to-child initiative, told IRIN/PlusNews.

"Many cultures on the continent dictate that while they are young they should just be children and not take part in what are perceived as grown-up affairs. This is fine to a point, and it has a lot of positive attributes as a cultural practice, but it is my sense that we should - on a controlled level - link the kids somehow to what is happening in their country; to open up a space for them to participate," she said.

"In terms of participation, we get lots of letters and emails, and participation from regional schools is particularly strong. Such has been the demand to participate from the provinces that since 2004 we have been going out into the country to do live broadcasts," Portela said.

Producers and presenters are often recruited from the audience: young people sometimes approach the programme coordinators directly, or make contact when schools participate, or are introduced by friends and classmates who are already involved. The children go to the studio twice a week after school for a couple of hours and are not paid for their work on the radio shows, but Radio Mozambique's relationship with its youthful production team appears to be mutually beneficial.

"This is a good opportunity for those children who get chosen to participate in the programmes, as it helps them to study and develops their capacity to learn," Zitha said. "But it is also good for Radio Mozambique, as it is training future professionals. We have already had a number of youth presenters move up into radio jobs as adults."

The children also believe they benefit from their participation in the programme. "It's like a mini school," said Tumgine. "Aside from the professional aspect, when we have to interact with the kids, we have to learn [about the subject to be discussed], so I learn just as much here as I do in school."


Theme(s): (IRIN) Children


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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.