A DAY IN THE LIFE: UK Director, Katie Abbotts | Children's Radio Foundation

We use radio to amplify youth voices across Africa, giving them the skills and tools to speak about their lives

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Over five thousand miles may separate us, but I found much in common with our youth reporters in Zambia. We want the best for our communities and young people and we all feel we have a role in bringing about the change we need to see to make that happen. Whether that is at home in the United Kingdom or Kitwe, Zambia.

Usually I spend my days hunting down funds and promoting the work of CRF in the United Kingdom. I spend my days on conference calls, hovering over spreadsheets and nights worrying about funding. It is a welcome, refreshing change to visit our youth reporters in Kitwe.

We arrived on World Water Day and spent the day with youth, visiting a local river. They told us the river was polluted and that when it floods, the children can’t cross to get to school and many people who are dependent on the local charcoal trade have their livelihoods cut off. In the face of this, not despair but activism; making radio broadcasts to tell this story, making sure local people know their rights. They do this with Agents of Change Foundation, our local implementing partner.

Eye health is a big issue in Zambia; dust, pollution, dirty water and lack of knowledge around health care contribute to the problem. But the youth reporters are broadcasting on this issue and taking care not to produce shows which are too long and educational – they call them ‘audience killers’ – so they intersperse well-researched evidence and advice with humour and interviews with local people. Youth reporter Jenny Lombe tells me, ”People on the street, normal people know more than we think, we just help them open up.”

Youth reporter Muka added, “Young people are allowed to think and express themselves, think about solutions to problems – this is my favourite part. The youth reporters are encouraged to think of the future and solutions issues that may face them.”

More evidence for me that the Children’s Radio Foundation doesn’t tell, it doesn’t lecture, but provides the background for Zambia’s bright young people to deliver messages in the way that they believe will work.

The youth reporters are fizzing with ideas. They want to make more shows. They want to tackle more problems such as youth empowerment in the sense of recognising talent beyond academic achievement. Muka says, “This entrepreneurial spirit, could impact on the whole of Zambia.”

Teenage pregnancy, child abuse, substance abuse, corruption, and politicians. The youth reporters have big topics on their minds, they feel responsible to document them and broadcast what they and their communities have to say. They are not waiting for a solution to come in from somewhere else, they feel the responsibility, ownership and power to say and do something about this now. And they have the backing of the radio station owners, who tell me these young people are one of their stations biggest assets. Benedicto NG’Andwe station manager Radio Icengelo told me, “I wish I’d had the training they had, I would have set myself bigger goals in life. They are already injecting change into our communities and influencing local people and they take this outside the radio booth, wishing to solve problems and motivating each other.”

Back in the UK and I have a meeting with a fellow fundraiser, who tells me, “fundraising is like breathing. The minute you stop, you die.” An exaggeration of course, but a useful analogy, the road to raising funds is a long hard hill-climb as any fundraiser knows, but we are powered by the energy and feistiness of our youth reporters who push us up those long hills. And the funding partners who join us on the way.

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