Liberian Kids Take to the Airwaves, Highlight Issues Affecting tThem

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They too, have problems that need to be brought in the public domain for discussions, debates and to find remedies to the numerous challenges they face daily, but they lack the platform.

They also have hidden talents that need to be exploited or brought to light, but it takes the elderly ones to nurture those we considered as future leaders of the next generation.

To ensure that challenges children face are brought on a broader platform for discussion by the kids themselves, the United Nations through its children’s arm, United Nations Children Educational Fund (UNICEF) launched the Children’s Day of Broadcast in 1992.

And it was in observance of the children’s day that the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and its collaborating partners, UNICEF and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), set the stage for the children across the country, represented by their peers in Montserrado, to articulate their views and also show out the talents that they got.

On Saturday May 31, 2014, the headquarters of the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) was a scene of jubilation and exhibition of talents as young people from across Montserrado County laughed, danced and sang in celebration of what is being considered as their Day.

The event was spearheaded by the PUL and supported by UNICEF and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the annual day-long event was dedicated to opening the media to children to talk about issues that have a bearing on their lives.

Liberia Children’s Media Day was born out of UNICEF’s International Children’s Day of Broadcasting, a global initiative launched in 1991. This initiative was nationalized in 2012 and expanded in 2013 to encompass all media channels, though radio remains the main focus of activities.

The children, some of whom talked to the Daily Observer at the event, spoke of their plights they are faced with in the country. Almost all of them spoke of a conducive environment where they can grow up with being harmed humiliated and abused.

Several children across the country are current serving as breadwinners for their families. Some are rape, sodomized, forced in to prostitution and hard labor. Some have no means to get education and these things need to stop if Liberian children are to reach their potentials, one of the kids said.

“There is the need to create a good environment where children can grow-up properly, have fun with friends, go to school and prepare for a brighter future, but our case is different in Liberia. Some of my friends do not even have the means to go to school. And sometimes I feel is sad to see some of my friends selling in the streets,” the kid said.

PUL President Mr. Abdullai Kamara said in any society, one of the most important roles the media plays is to serve as a platform from which citizens’ voices can be heard.

“Liberia Children’s Media Day is about inviting the country’s youngest citizens to share that platform with us in order to highlight the issues that most affect them – from their health, to their education, to their social welfare.”

Throughout the past week, children were in studios across the country pre-recording shows that were broadcast today on the state-owned station, UNMIL Radio and over 40 community radio stations.

“There is a myth that encouraging children to speak up and participate promotes disrespect for authority, but we know that reality is different,” said UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett.  “We have learned that children who have been encouraged to participate and speak up about issues that concern them are more engaged in the health of their societies, more concerned about their rights and more respectful of the rights of others. “

Topics discussed during today’s program included children’s rights, sports and family issues, including parent-child relationships. With the support of UNMIL Radio, child presenters also produced a show called “Tomorrow’s Doctor” in which they shared their visions and ideas about how parents and policy-makers can guarantee a healthy nation for children.

During each radio program, the young hosts shared information on these topics with their peers, answered questions and engaged in lively discussions. Aired on radio stations with a combined reach of over one million of the country’s 3.5 million citizens, the shows also raised the profile of children’s issues and opinions with the decision-makers who impact their lives, including parents, teachers, religious and traditional leaders and government officials at the community and national levels.

At today’s event at LBS studio, the Press Union of Liberia, UNICEF and alumni of the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting program gave remarks underscoring the importance of the day for children. The celebration was accompanied by music and a performance by Liberian Hip Co artist Picado, while children themselves served as the MCs and broadcast the ceremony live on both the state-owned radio station and UNMIL Radio.

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