We use radio to amplify youth voices across Africa, giving them the skills and tools to speak about their lives
Our Executive director, Mike Rahfaldt shares his views and advice with South Africa The Good News, a website and newsletter that shares topical, relevant and interesting South African good news. Below is the interview done with Steuart Pennington.
In 2015, 75% of Africa’s population will be below the age of thirty. As a result, it is essential to give media space for these young people so that the society can hear what is important for them. Children’s Radio Foundation, an organization created in 2006, trains young radio reporters in five African countries. They produce and broadcast radio shows about issues that affect them, on 68 radio stations across Africa and in 25 different languages! Mike Rahfaldt, executive director of Children’s Radio Foundation, explains to us how it works.
Why was the Children’s Radio Foundation created?
Mike Rahfaldt, “Children’s Radio Foundation was created as a way of getting young people across Africa talking about issues that they think are important. We discovered after a bit of research that young people feel absolutely underrepresented in media. Children’s Radio Foundation wants to create a space for young people to go out into the communities, to ask questions and start conversations. So they can learn about themselves and about other people.”
Why using radio?
“Radio is the coolest media in the universe (laugh)! Radio is about conversation and dialogue, radio is speaking to you, it is almost like someone whispering in your ear. There is something with the intimacy associated with radio that gets us to listen differently. Radio is the most important media in Africa. On a local level, it is a place where ideas are shared and conversations about issues take place. There is something really unique about radio in terms of the lively conversations that it creates.”
How many youth reporters have you trained?
“We work in five African countries: DRC, Liberia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia. We have trained 1 300 youth reporters at 68 radio stations across the continent.”
Do you have three words to define the spirit of Children’s Radio Foundation?
“Youth-led, integrity, afro-positive.”
Children’s Radio Foundation was created in 2006, what was the biggest difficulty since the beginning?
“This is something that people who create organizations never like to talk about, but I think it is the biggest obstacle: finding what the hell are you doing, and why! You have to do things, you have to try things, and you have to not hold them precious to make the greatest impact. Probably in 2011 we really started to settle into who we are as an organization. It is not a difficulty: learning by doing is the most exciting thing.”
How do you see your organization in 10 years?
“I have no desires to take over the universe! What I see us doing in 10 years is working with the media to promote youth dialogue and youth participation in communities. Radio is where we work now, but I am very aware that there are other ways to get young people speaking and we have to adapt to it as we flow forward. For 50 years people are saying that radio will die, with TV, podcasts… What I think people forget is that radio has a very unique engagement where you can be washing the dishes, driving the car, doing homework and you can be listening in the background. I see us as promoting youth-led conversations in a sense of action at the community level.”
Today, a lot of young South Africans want to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure to help society. Do you have a piece of advice for them?
“Ask lots of questions before you do anything, and get to know people with different perspectives on what you are doing, positive and negative. I think it is fine to go into something and have an idea without necessarily knowing what you are really going to do. If you have an idea that you are going to defend until the day you die, that is probably not going to work out very well for you. Be flexible, listen, take risks, and work slowly because the long game is usually the good game.”
A last word?
“We are living in a very exciting time in a very exciting country. I would like to get people to see how young people are a lot more positive and committed about their future than we think they are. Take the time to engage with them, even your own children, around how they see themselves in the future.”
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