A Newfound Interest
Pacia, a 17-year-old member of the H’Mong minority ethnic community in Laos, has not let her parents’ stop her from learning –even if they have made her drop out of school. On the contrary, she has attended several Plan sponsored training sessions for youth radio announcers. Each time she has interviewed a community member with an issue to include in her radio program she has learned something new.
Pacia is a member of a children’s group in the Paktha District that has provided her with the knowledge and technical skills needed to run local radio programs. These radio programs are part of a joint pilot project between Plan and the Provincial Department of Information, Culture, and Tourism.
More than half of the pilot trainees have been girls who are eager to become good announcers and engage in personal development. With their positive attitude, they have done a really good job, and I can say that they are fast learners,” notes Vixien Chanhthamaly, Plan Laos’ Child Rights and Child Participation Program Assistant.
Personal and Communal Benefits
The project has benefited far more people than just the trainees. “I now feel confident since I participated in the training. I acquired new skills ranging from news and script writing to speech, and interview techniques. I know what is happening around my community and I love to share that information with other villagers. Broadcasting is fun," Pacia says. In fact, Pacia has enjoyed her role as host and now wants to make it her profession. When she holds a microphone, her natural shyness disapears and she is transformed into a bold, articulate speaker.
Pacia is also pleased to serve her community by educating them through her radio programs. “Most people in the village do not know how to read or write, so the easiest and the most effective way of communicating with them is through local radio. I feel happy when I am broadcasting a program, as I want to support my community. Two times a week, Cheameng and I work together as a team to develop a program which offers different materials, including music, local news, and information on topics like child rights and child participation and community hygiene,” she says.
Scope to Grow
In Houay Lum Paan, where Pacia lives, the local radio reaches just 69 houses with 320 members, but Chanhthamaly sees the possibility of expanding the pilot areas to the nearby villages. He also hopes to expand the content of the programs. Currently, radio programs are being used to conduct local business, making announcements, but there is a demand for more creative and child-centered programs. A recent survey conducted by Plan and local authorities revealed that listeners would like to hear more storytelling and spot radio as well as more child-appropriate music. There is also a call to use language that than be easily understood by children and to provide more information on Plan’s messages.
Chanhthamaly also shared his vision of sustainability: “As a part of our long-term plan, we are hoping that children and village members will continue this activity on their own even without support from Plan. The idea is to create a sense of ownership and to encourage people to see the benefits of having local radio programs in which their children can express their ideas.”
With talented and devoted announcers like Pacia, the road to a sustainable future is half-traveled.