Bhubaneswar. Minakhi Manjari Ganta, 17, from Rayagada district had never been into the studio of a radio station in her life.
But on World Children’s Day on Monday, she not only got a chance to see one but also partiticipated in a programme. “I had never imagined that I would get a chance to learn the things that I have learnt today about a radio station. I sang a song with a message for the rights of women and narrated a story on-air. We also spoke to radio jockeys who were very encouraging,” the tribal girl said.
Participating in a radio programme was also a new experience for 16-year-old Anil Pradhan from Kandhamal district. “We spoke about child marriage, how it affects health, our childhood and education. I am very happy and hope it will be helpful for the parents, community and audiences who are listening to our programme on the community radio,” he said.
At least 39 adolescent and young girls and boys like Minakhi and Anil took a stand against child marriage in their own communities and spoke about the need for education, better health, ending violence and gender discrimination and an end to the practise of child marriage on four community radio and one FM station of Odisha.
As a part of the UNICEF led World Children’s Day commemoration in the state, the children from Kandhamal, Koraput, Dhenkanal, Keonjhar, Rayagada, Puri and Khorda, were heard on Radio Choklate, FM channel in Bhubaneswar and community radios stations – Voice of SOA in Bhubaneshwar, Radio Dhimsa in Koraput, Radio Namaskar in Konark and Radio Muskaan in Phulbani in the state.
Child marriage is still an issue in the tribal and also some non-tribal districts of the state.
The World Children’s Day on November 20 is commemorated as the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This year globally, UNICEF is observing the day as a children’s ‘takeover’ of institutions such as media, corporates, schools, etc., with the aim that through these platforms, voices of children around the world speaking about their rights and concerns will be heard and amplified.
In Odisha, the collaboration with radio stations (community radio and FM) gave the children an opportunity to share their stories and experiences, giving voice to thousands of other children, who are married early, unschooled and unprotected.
The initiative this year is in partnership with Action Aid, with whom UNICEF advocates to end the practice of child marriage in the state. Children who refused child marriage are empowered as champions to end this practice in their communities.
Yumi Bae, chief of field office, UNICEF Odisha, said: “Concerns expressed by the children are real. They must be heard and respected as they guide us in making this world a better place for every child. We are extremely grateful to all the radio stations that partnered with us here in Odisha, giving the children the space to talk, interact and learn.”
Debabrat Patra, regional manager, ActionAid, Bhubaneswar, said that children themselves were now champions against child marriage. Opportunities through community and FM radio gave them a voice that reaches many more people to stand against the practice, he said.