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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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.
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.
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.