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Lesedi Mogoatlhe on the Power of Youth-led Radio

Posted on 13/02/2015
By Commonwealth Foundation

Lesedi Mogoatlhe is a project manager and lead trainer with Children’s Radio Foundation (CRF) in South Africa. On UNESCO World Radio Day, Lesedi talks about how a youth-led radio project is offering an innovative alternative to traditional HIV messaging. 

Lesedi Mogoatlhe pic by Sydelle Willow Smith
(Image credit: Sydelle Willow Smith)

I have been working as a trainer for the Children’s Radio Foundation in a project called Future Positive since 2012. The Future Positive radio project is based within a youth clinic in the township of Khayelitsha, Cape Town. The clinic offers important health services to young people between the ages of 12 and 25, some of these include: termination of pregnancy, family planning as well as STI and HIV testing and treatment.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), are running a great programme where youth who test positive, can access free treatment and participate in a support group that offers additional education about living with HIV. Children’s Radio Foundation was brought on board to enhance the psychosocial support through the way of a radio project.

The biggest problem faced by MSF was young people who were ‘lost to care’, meaning they’d test positive, and not return to the clinic for treatment. Through ongoing conversations with youth, community based organisations and clinic staff, it was believed that stigma was a major contributing factor to youth not returning or ever coming to the clinic. I must admit that I wondered how a radio club could be a possible solution for such a major issue – especially if it was going to be based within the clinic; how would the youth know about us? How would sharing their stories of HIV keep them on treatment or combat stigma?

Fast-forward three years later and the Future Positive project is still up and running and going strong. The young reporters and producers in the team are only broadcasting their shows once a month for an hour at the local community radio station – 1 hour out of 720 hours in a month isn’t much I know. But this project hasn’t relied on broadcast, so much as it’s relied on narrowcast: live radio happening in the clinic on a weekly basis. The conversations are raw, candid, peer-to-peer sharing of stories, games and debates about HIV, love and life. One could say that during the radio project ‘take-over’ people forget how grim and frightening it can be to be in a clinic. Local artists and poets are invited to perform and the clinic staff themselves are invited to participate as guest speakers.

It may not be radio in the traditional sense of reaching many people all at once. It’s more a radio space – HIV and health reporting happening on the spot and a youth-led hub that has the power to bust myths about HIV, and offer support and solidarity. In a country where youth are bombarded with HIV messaging, and are experiencing ‘HIV fatigue’, this is an exciting way of using radio as an innovative way for youth to re-invigorate interest in this topic.

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ChildrensRadioFoundation_5_850Read more about the Children’s Radio Foundation’s Future Positive project, funded by a Commonwealth Foundation grant.