Enabling Children Voices: our collective responsibility

Samuel Norah, Director, Plan International AU Liaison Office Addis Ababa. Photo Courtesy

By Samuel Norgah

The International Children’s Day of Broadcasting (ICDB) is celebrated on the first Sunday in March, a day when broadcasters around the world focus on children. The day aims to promote broadcasters around the world to pay more attention to children’s programs, that broadcasters air quality programming about and for children and, the most important, allow children to be a part of the programming process.

As an organization that advances children’s rights and equality for girls, Plan International is cognizance of the impactful role of TV and Radio on the lives of children particularly girls and how their lives and perceptions are shaped, based on the content they are exposed to, through broadcasting.

It is important to underscore the transformative power and potential of radio and TV in the realization of children’s rights through information dissemination, entertainment and awareness raising initiatives. It is important to note that, the content generated and broadcasted through radio and TV transcends gender, culture, race, color, nationality and age.

The role of radio and TV reinforces several Articles in the African Charter on the Rights & Welfare of the Child, especially in relation to freedom of expression, association, cultural heritage among others. I would also like to highlight the potential radio and TV as enablers to accelerate and promote the 2021 AU theme of the year, which focuses on Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”.

This year’s International Children’s Day of Broadcasting is being commemorated against the backdrop of the negative impact of COVID-19 on children. As an organization, Plan International recognizes the devastating impact of COVID-19 on our educational sector. There are still millions of children who are currently out of school because of school closures. The impact on girls is much more severe, with increased cases of gender-based violence.

Notwithstanding the impact of school closures on education outcomes, it is important to acknowledge the critical role radio and TV played in providing alternate platforms as part of COVID-19 response plan by countries to facilitate teaching and learning for school going children.

Whilst appreciating the critical role of radio and TV in promoting children’s rights, it is important to acknowledge that, through the use of internet, a lot more children have access to radio and TV content and hence, there’s the need to ensure that content is child friendly and culturally sensitive.

Despite the benefits of radio and TV broadcasting, it’s worth highlighting a few challenges that require our collective action. There is limited access to media content for children living with disabilities. Most media broadcast, especially TV, do not provide sign language and hence deprive children with hearing impairment from enjoying the content. We would also like to encourage broadcasters to invest in their content delivery to increase accessibility to children with disabilities. There is limited participation of children in content generation. Aspiration 10 of Agenda 2040, recognizes the importance of children participation in matters that affect them. Most radio content is produced for children with very little input from them. We would recommend effective participation of children in content generation.

I would like to recommend that journalists produce media content that are child friendly and appropriate. We have and continue to witness inappropriate use of children images, especially girls by some media owners. I would like to challenge broadcasters to be circumspect and refrain from using children images inappropriately. I also would like to call for stringent enforcement of sanctions against offending media houses and propose rewards and recognition for media personnel who practice responsible journalism.

We have a collective obligation and responsibility to ensure that media becomes a platform for engaging children in a way that empowers and leverages their evolving capacity, skills, experiences and lived realities. Children should be co-creators of media content that entertains, educates and enables them to be active citizens. The use of images of girls in the media should project and enhance their self-esteem and not in a way that commercializes girls as commodities.

Plan International reaffirms its strong commitment to work with our partners to ensure active participation and positive representation of children in the media.

Samuel Norah is the Director, Plan International AU Liaison Office Addis Ababa

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