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Published on January 4th, 2016 | by EJC


In Côte d’Ivoire, Young Reporters Connect With Their Community

This article was written by Eva Gilliam and originally published at UNICEF on 4 November, 2015. Republished with permission.

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, 4 November 2015 – Wilfried Yede looks like a shy, soft-spoken teenager. The 15-year-old is growing so fast his clothes are starting to become snug around the arms and are rising a few inches above his ankles.

“I know I’m not like other kids,” he says. “I’m not into what’s in fashion or things like that. I’m pretty simple – I make do with what I have.”

But beneath the surface of Wilfried’s calm demeanor there’s an abundance of thought and activity churning away. Today Willy is meeting up with his friend Mon Desir to study spelling.

“I have a spelling bee coming up in a couple of weeks,” Willy says. “It’s one of the things I do with the Scouts, but it helps out in all the other areas of my life. I learn new words, new grammar, and that helps with school, and my presenting at the Radio – so that I can be more articulate.”

The radio Willy is referring to is Radio Amitié (meaning “friendship”), the largest and most popular community radio programmes in Yopougon, Abidjan, and possibly the whole of Côte d’Ivoire. Over the last year, Willy and nine other teenagers have been learning to produce their own 10-30 minute radio shows and then broadcasting them to tens of thousands of their neighbours twice a month. Willy is one of 60 child reporters in the country, a project of UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire, in partnership with the Children’s Radio Foundation (CRF) and the Scouts Association of Côte d’Ivoire, of which Willy is an active member.

Willy and his Child Reporter colleagues call their radio “L’éveil des enfants” meaning ‘the children’s awakening’. They broadcast every Saturday morning from the Radio Amitié studios in the centre of the densely populated Kennedy neighbourhood in Yopougon.

“We talk about things that touch us the most, as kids,” says Willy. “Things that often adults may not want to talk about – things like sexual violence, or girls going to school, which are still big problems our area.”

Willy and his young reporter colleagues meet twice a week at Radio Amitié with Stephanie Ake, a radio journalist, presenter and youth reporter mentor.

“When kids talk about something that adults are a bit uncomfortable talking about themselves – people listen,” Ms. Ake says. “They recently did a show on sexuality, and the need for parents and children to talk about sex openly at home. And it was great! They interviewed parents, held an on-air debate, asked for commentaries, and adults participated. And the best thing is the ideas are coming from the kids themselves.”

A straightforward approach

“When I came back from the first training with the kids, my colleagues here at the radio didn’t believe they would be able to put together a show themselves,” Ms. Ake says. “But with the specific methodology of the project, they can do it all themselves, and my adult colleagues were shocked.”

“We do interviews, debates, commentaries, portraits, audio postcards, vox pops,” says Carelle, a 14-year-old radio colleague of Willy’s in L’éveil des enfants. “We can do all the formats, but me, I’m a specialist in the debates.”

The list of formats Carelle is referring to parallel standard formats heard on radio around the world. However, they have been modified in child-friendly and production-friendly ways, with no editing needed.

“When we train the kids in radio production, we focus on the preparation – preparing the theme, the questions and the interlocutor,” explains Clemence Petit-Perrot, the Director of Programmes and a veteran youth radio trainer with the Children’s Radio Foundation based in Cape Town, South Africa. “That way, when they record the format that they want to use in the show, it is ready. This makes it much easier for the radio to host the show. It’s much less work for the technicians, and the kids have learned that preparation is the way to go.”

Carelle says she has wanted to become a radio journalist since she was 9 years old.

“I saw someone speaking into a microphone, with that confidence, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she says. “I used to be very shy, just staying in my corner. But now I get out there, I talk to people, I can express myself, and I’m not afraid to ask questions.”

On the street, Willy and Carelle have teamed up to record a vox pop, a collection of short audio responses by the people on the street to a specific question.

“Together, as a group, we come up with the different themes we might want to do a show on,” he says. “Then we vote on one and develop the angle. Then we divide up the roles – who is doing what. Then we write up the questions together so we’re all on the same page when we go to the street. When we get back, I’ll have to write the script to host the show.”

“This week we decided to do a show on cyber crime, because it’s getting very bad here in Côte d’Ivoire,” Carrell says, “and we think it’s important that people know about it, and that young people chose another path, too.”

Local problems, local solutions

“Our goal is not to create a whole generation of journalists, although I’m sure several will chose that path after having had the Enfants Reporters experience,” says Ange Aye-Ake, Communications Specialist with UNICEF, Côte d’Ivoire. “Rather we want to help develop a generation of young people who are not afraid to ask questions, think critically and participate in the debates and conversations that are happening around them that concern them and their rights as children.”

Every day after school or after doing his chores at home, Willy takes a short walk around the corner to visit Josephine.

“Since last year, I haven’t seen her in a school uniform,” says Willy. “She told me she dropped out, but she doesn’t like it when I talk to her about it.”

L’éveil des Enfants recorded a show last year on how girls usually have less schooling than boys, and why and how that happens – a big problem in Côte d’Ivoire.

“Being a child reporter has added a lot to my life. It offers me the opportunity to express myself, particularly around the problems that are specific to my community. Sexual violence and girls not going to school are a problem here – and maybe together, talking about these things, we can start to find solutions.”

About the Organisation:

UNICEF is a leading humanitarian and development agency working globally for the rights of every child. Child rights begin with safe shelter, nutrition, protection from disaster and conflict and traverse the life cycle: pre-natal care for healthy births, clean water and sanitation, health care and education. Follow on Twitter: @UNICEF

Photo: UNICEF Video - Wilfried presents the radio show ‘L’éveil des enfants’, meaning ‘the children’s awakening’, on Abidjan’s Radio Amitié.

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