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Radio has always been a powerful tool to connect and inform people. A television or newspaper might not always be on hand to find out what is going on in the world around you, but radio is omnipresent. In the traditional sense, it’s literally an arm’s length away, while you’re stuck in traffic every morning and evening. These days, the internet has made radio even more accessible and anyone is able to broadcast just about anything they want.

Those of us working in broadcasting often wonder whether we are making an impact on our listeners. The Children’s Radio Foundation, with its headquarters in Cape Town, is certainly doing just that. Every week, over 250 trained youth reporters from the Foundation take to the airwaves at 16 radio project sites across South Africa to share their opinions and stories.

The Foundation works with local radio stations and community-based organisations to train these youth reporters, not just about radio, but also on various social issues, which forms the basis for their broadcasts. Reporters take on issues that resonate with youth in their community, including HIV/AIDS, education, the environment, teenage relationships, and LGBTI-stigma. Speaking in local languages and in a youth-friendly style, they interview community members, host debates, and bring out local perspectives.

Importantly, they try to mobilise their communities to support their efforts for change. What better way to effect change than through our youth?

Mike Rahfaldt, the Executive Director of the Children’s Radio Foundation says it’s extremely important to encourage youth to share their experiences and perspectives on issues that matter to them.

“Across Africa, in most communities, radio is the most powerful medium. Radio gets youth together to learn from each other’s challenges, and to come up with local solutions to local problems”

The Foundation’s work also stretches across 6 African countries, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Zambia and of course, South Africa. Across the countries, they reach over 9 million listeners a week.

Young reporters from all 9 provinces visited Cape Town this week, to share their successes and challenges and to learn from each other as part of the annual Youth Radio Awards. They participated in a 1 day Learning Lab, and attended various “enrichment” outings and an awards ceremony, reflecting on their work and vision as young broadcasters.

Let’s hope these future change makers can make it to mainstream radio to reach an even larger audience.

Liesl (1)

Liesl Smit – Senior Reporter and Anchor, Smile 90.4FM News