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Nepal: Newsline

Radio program in Nepal helps youth cope with problems

ibc_nepal_ssmkgroup
©UNICEF Nepal/2007
The SSMK team: (clockwise from top left) Binita, Sabin, Sangita, Kaustuv, Binayak, Devendra and Rashmi

NEW YORK, NY, 6 July 2007 - Every Saturday, over six million young people across Nepal tune in their radios to listen to their favorite program ‘Saathi Sanga Man Ka Kura (SSMK)’, the Nepali name for ‘Chatting with my best friend’. In this one-hour long radio program, the young presenters of SSMK talk to young people to equip them with the life skills to support them in making sound decisions on matters relating to their lives, empowering them to deal with their everyday problems and tackle with peer-pressure and stigmatization.

With little or no access to reliable information and few people to openly talk to, young people in Nepal often find it highly challenging to learn life skills that are necessary to negotiate relationships, continue education, plan a career, or to stay safe from HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. Isolated, confused and often depressed, millions of young Nepalese seek counsel from peers or friends.

Supported by UNICEF, and now growing under the wings of the Equal Access Nepal, SSMK was initiated in 2001 with the aim of providing information to young boys and girls on topics that are on their minds and a platform to discuss issues they are too shy or embarrassed to talk with their parents, teachers, or even peers. By discussing these issues on air, and imparting life skills on issues about safe behaviors, SSMK sought to break the silence surrounding these hitherto taboo topics, thereby contributing towards the reduction of HIV infection, drug abuse and risky behavior, and building up self-confidence among young people.

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© UNICEF Nepal/2007
Every month more than 1000 listeners write in to the program with their queries and problems. The program also receives an average of 300 emails a month.

With its format of lighthearted banter between young hosts, the letters, the drama, song and nuggets of information, SSMK is a different kind of radio program designed by young people for young people. SSMK was the first radio communication initiative of its type in Nepal that was designed to talk to its listeners without inhibitions and without being judgmental.

Aside from the young format of the program, the main reason behind the quick popularity and acceptability by the young audience of Nepal is the media chosen for broadcasting SSMK - the radio.  Radio is cheap and the most accessible medium to young people in Nepal.

Over the years, the program focus has been shifting and adapting to the changing situation in the country and the resulting demands from the listeners. A recent AC Nielsen Survey in 2006 revealed SSMK to be the most popular program for young people in Nepal. Likewise, SSMK was ranked as the most popular radio program in the recently conducted Demographic Health Survey (2006).

SSMK’s is continuously assessed by its listeners mainly through the letters. Every month, more than 1,000 listeners write to the program with their queries and problems. The fact that every letter is responded to, is probably a factor that has helped to build the trust of the listeners, and has resulted in a growing listernership.  Listeners write back to say how the life skills techniques discussed in the program and in the letters helped them in dealing with their special problems or issues.

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©SSMK.org/2006-7
Listeners clubs provide a safe and comfortable place where SSMK audience members can listen to the program together and discuss the issues that have been raised by the program.

The number of SSMK listeners clubs has also grown very quickly. There are over 1,000 listeners clubs scattered across the country. These clubs were started by the listeners of the program who felt more comfortable listening to the discussions aired on SSMK with their own peers. In addition to discussing issues raised in the programs, these club members have even begun to take collective actions to resolve problems in their communities. These include activities like mobilizing health workers to provide them with information on HIV prevention or conducting talk programs related to gender and caste discrimination. Through interpersonal discussions and peer influence, these clubs reinforce the messages and issues raised in SSMK and also act as a vital link in bringing about positive behavioral changes.

The SSMK radio program is now being supplemented with a monthly youth bulletin from five development regions of Nepal, as well as a central quarterly magazine. These magazines are published in coordination with the listener club network.  While providing vital information and more shelf life on issues that concern young people, these publications are also being used as a tool for networking by the listeners' clubs. Reaching out to the e-savvy listeners, SSMK has also launched its own website www.ssmk.org

Responding to the needs of the listeners, SSMK has also launched a half hour weekly program called Kaamka Koora (or talking about work). Kaamka Koora supplements the hourly SSMK program and it is dedicated to building the skills of young people to ensure better opportunities for gainful employment.


 

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Audio
1 March 2007:
Binita Shrestha, who runs a UNICEF-supported youth radio programme in Nepal, tells UNICEF Radio about why it is a good way to reach young people.

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