The young broadcasters starting conversations about sexual and reproductive health in Mali

Sara Dolo, a young broadcaster, wears a colourful shirt and sits at a desk at a radio station with a pink microphone in front of her.

Sarah Dolo has been learning on the job. The 26-year-old’s position as a host at Radio Toguna is her first radio experience. 

Radio Toguna broadcasts from Bandiagara, a small town in Mali’s central Mopti Region. Though Sarah has been with the station for only two years, she’s already broadcasting about sensitive topics like sexually transmitted infections and gender-based violence. 

The current series of her show is called Keneya Bôlôn (Entryway to health). It’s broadcasting as part of Farm Radio International’s “Hérè – Women’s Well-being in Mali” project, which aims to improve women of child-bearing age’s sexual and reproductive health and to strengthen the prevention of and response to gender-based violence in four regions in Mali. The project is funded by Global Affairs Canada and implemented by a consortium led by MSI Reproductive Choices, and including Farm Radio International and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF).

Developing young broadcasters’ skills

Sarah is one of several young broadcasters leading programs for youth in Mali. Radio Toguna selected her to participate in this project because of her commitment, dynamism and know-how.

When selecting radio stations for a project, Farm Radio establishes criteria based on the project’s needs and theme. Because the target audience for the Hérè project is teenagers and youth, we wanted to make sure that radio station teams reflected their audience. 

We’ve been successful in this regard: of the 36 broadcasters participating in the project, 26 are youth. (For the Hérè project, as with many of our projects, Farm Radio uses the African Youth Charter definition of youth, which goes from age 15 to 35.)

Most of the young people working on the Hérè project are students, interns or volunteers who are passionate about radio. While participating in the project, they receive training on radio production and other journalism techniques. They are also paid for their work.

Through receiving training and hands-on broadcasting experience early in their career, youth develop their broadcasting and media skills, boost their confidence and increase their employability. 

As a first-time broadcaster, Sarah has found the trainings from Farm Radio useful.

“I think that being a broadcaster is first of all about passion,” said Maïmouna N’Gnadiè Fane, our radio craft officer in Mali. She works directly with broadcasters and trains them. “If the person is passionate about broadcasting, the trainings and payment are great sources of motivation that you don’t often find in other organizations.”

Broadcasters work together at a design workshop for the Hérè project.

Meeting the information needs of youth listeners

The benefits aren’t only for the young broadcasters: Youth-focused programming brings youth issues into the spotlight. Youth’s involvement at radio stations also creates additional content for the station and may attract advertisers who cater to youth.

When youth are talking, youth listen. After all, how much more likely are you to listen to your friends than your parents?

Youth do listen to the radio, but they may access it from their phone: research from the Broadcasting Research Council of South Africa found that youth were 32% more likely to listen to the radio using their mobile phone.

Having young broadcasters breaks taboos because young people are more comfortable discussing topics like sexuality with their peers than with adults. Young broadcasters understand their audience and know how to address touchy topics using the right tone and language.

“Young people are the best placed to know youth’s information needs and challenges,” said Maïmouna.

The benefits of being a young broadcaster include “participating in the development of [her] community, continuous training through the thematic episodes and raising awareness among populations to fight against harmful practices,” said Sarah.

“Young people are the best placed to know youth’s information needs and challenges.”

— Maïmouna N’Gnadiè Fane, Radio Craft Officer

Sarah makes her program attractive for a young audience by addressing topical themes related to sexual and reproductive health and the well-being of women and children. She encourages listeners to call in to the station about the topic of the week using Farm Radio’s Uliza Interactive software

Our commitment to working with and supporting young broadcasters is part of Farm Radio’s larger youth strategy for the Hérè project, which includes hosting listening and discussion sessions at a school and health centre and using social media channels like Facebook and WhatsApp groups to promote upcoming episodes and encourage discussion.

Learn more about Farm Radio’s approach for engaging with youth in our youth brief.

The radio of today and tomorrow

It’s not always smooth sailing when working with young broadcasters. Because they have less broadcasting experience, they need more support and are less familiar with journalism standards and ethics. 

Sarah said she has faced multiple challenges, including the need to review previous trainings, the sensitivity of some topics and difficulty accessing certain areas due to the ongoing conflict in Mali.

However, young broadcasters’ lack of experience can be an advantage. They are not yet set in their ways and can be trained according to the latest criteria and standards. Young broadcasters are also engaged and ask good questions. 

When working with young broadcasters, Farm Radio staff make sure to check in with them regularly and be available to answer questions. Young broadcasters’ curiosity is what makes working with them so exciting for our staff.

“Training young people is accompanying professionally those who are the radio of today and tomorrow,” said Sébastien Nègre, Farm Radio’s regional radio craft team lead for Francophone Africa.

“During the making of this series, I was very happy to see their level of progression (becoming real broadcasters) and to know that I’m contributing to something. I think Farm Radio should be very proud to train young people who didn’t have any radio experience and turn them into broadcasters,” added Maïmouna.

Sarah says that what excites her about her work is contributing to the development of her community. She says that she became a broadcaster to “be a voice for the voiceless, raise awareness and inform her community so that it can develop through thematic episodes.”

About the project
The initiative “Hérè – Women’s Well-being in Mali” aims to improve the well-being of women and girls related to sexual and reproductive health and to strengthen the prevention of and response to gender-based violence in the regions of Sikasso, Segou, Mopti and the district of Bamako in Mali. The project is implemented by the consortium Hérè – MSI Reproductive Choices Mali, in partnership with Farm Radio International and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) thanks to funding from Global Affairs Canada.

The opinions expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of MSI Reproductive Choices or the funder.

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