BY DHAN BAHADUR LAMA, DIRECTOR, THE HIMALAYAN INNOVATIVE SOCIETY
AND MADELINE VAUGHAN, COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER, ADARA DEVELOPMENT
It’s 6pm in the evening. You’ve had a long day – first at school and then helping your parents collect firewood and tend to the yaks. But today, you are not tired. You’re in a hurry to get back to your house for a very important reason – you wrote a story at school that is going to be read out on the radio for all your friends and family to hear!
This would be an exciting moment for a child anywhere in the world, but for a child in Humla Nepal, who is probably the first generation of their family who has ever had the opportunity to attend school or to learn to read and write, this moment is special.
Encouraging the literacy and creativity of Humli children is just one of the reasons Adara has partnered with The Himalayan Innovative Society (THIS) to run two alternating weekly FM radio programmes in the remote Nepali district. These programmes also have the very important job of raising awareness on child rights to protect children from the dangers of child trafficking.
For many of us living in the time of Spotify and YouTube, radio is a thing of the past. But the reality is, radio is still the most pervasive of all mass media, reaching the widest audience in the world. Where social media can put us in media bubbles of like-minded people, radio is uniquely positioned to bring communities together and foster positive dialogue for change. And for the people of Humla who live extremely remotely, radio is a very important medium. Around 30,000 people in Humla have access to a radio.
Six years ago when Adara began to support the first radio programme in Humla, trafficking of children from the region was still a significant problem. Parents were desperate to get their children out of poverty and into good schools in Kathmandu, and so were susceptible to the promises of child traffickers who would deceive parents into paying them to take their children to boarding school, when in fact, the children would be placed in orphanages in the city, or trafficked into the sex trade.
The goal of that first radio programme was to raise awareness of the dishonesty of the traffickers and to show parents the horrific consequences their children were faced with when they ended up in orphanages – oftentimes very vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse. Local politicians, police officers, women’s groups, and child victims of trafficking were all invited to speak and give different perspectives on this difficult issue. Over time, the radio program evolved to include discussions on other child rights issues, such as child labour and the importance of education.
We introduced the second radio programme three years ago to more actively include the children of Humla. We interview the children who are the top of their class. We run story writing competitions and creative poetry competitions and feature the winners one the show. And we invite children on to the programme to share their experiences and their opinions.
These radio programmes have been very successful in making parents more vigilant about trafficking. Now, if someone comes to them promising to educate their child, parents are more cautious know the questions to ask. Last year, there was not one recorded incident of trafficking in Humla. This is due in part to this greater awareness in the community.
In 2017, the radio programmes will continue to advocate for the children of Nepal. THIS have big plans to run similar programmes in other parts of Nepal, particularly districts where many children have been separated or trafficked following the 2015 earthquake.
Back in Humla, picture a family crowded around a small radio. A mother is grinning widely as her child’s winning story is read aloud. She can’t believe that her daughter has such an imagination! As the story comes to an end, all of the family applaud. A child grins and then yawns, finally allowing the busy day to catch up with her, and goes to sleep that night, proud as punch.
In 2017, it is 10 years since Adara’s partnership with THIS began, and we are so incredibly proud to partner with this organisation. In November 2016, THIS were awarded a National Level Family Based Alternative Care Award for their 14 years of hard work and contribution for the children of Nepal. Congratulations THIS!