World Youth Skills Day: Radio training for LYL advocates driving change

The 15th of July 2019 marked World Youth Skills Day. The United Nations (UN) designated day seeks to generate greater awareness of and discussion on the importance of technical, vocational education, and training and the development of other skills relevant to both local and global economies. Education and training are central part of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to end poverty and inequality, and it is hoped that improving access will contribute to reducing unemployment and underemployment among young people across the globe including in Botswana, where rising youth unemployment is a major challenge. Over the last decade, the rate has risen 20.7%, reaching 37.14% in 2018, according to International Labour Organisation estimates.

Addressing the country’s youth unemployment and empowerment is a key concern, and Sentebale Botswana has partnered with Botswana’s leading radio station, Duma FM, to deliver a technical skills training programme to a pool of the charity’s Let Youth Lead advocates. Following the success of the Radio Positive takeover during World AIDS Day 2018, the partners conceptualised a long-term and hands-on approach to skills development, with Duma FM providing Sentebale’s advocates with a platform to acquire, learn and develop skills that better position them as young professionals.

“It has been four weeks of radio for the youth advocates,” says Olerato Keegope, Youth Advocacy and Communications Officer at Sentebale Botswana, who has been overseeing the Radio Positive project. “Prior to this, they were invited to pre-training to familiarise themselves with the technical aspect of the world of radio. Learning new skills and being exposed to what it takes to put together a radio show has really been helpful for them and truly moved them from their comfort zones.”

Advocates run the show

Advocates Botlhe Juliet Mooketsi and Sekgabo Seselamarumo have become key presenters on Saturday’s Youth Rendezvous between 12:00-14:00, after being mentored to independently run the show including handling all the technical aspects of the show themselves. This training programme, they say, is contributing to rising their confidence, leadership skills, subject knowledge, professional skills and potential to help gain employment.

“For me it was exciting to be on radio and to get the chance to voice out my experiences and opinions to the listeners of the show,” Mooketsi, from Mochudi Village in Kgatleng District, says. “The experience helped me to step out of my comfort zone and learn to converse freely and get the skills of running a radio show.”

Seselamarumo was part of the initial Radio Positive presenters in 2018, and believes the skills learnt at the helm this time round can be used in employment and communication. “Last year we were just cued in when to talk and not but now it is totally different, we are the ones in charge. We are literally always on our toes and thinking at a speed of light. Whatever happens we are the drivers,” the young woman from Maun, North-West District, says.

“I have learnt that I need to avoid dead air in radio, to just keep things flowing even when I experience technical problems. Also, I have learnt how to technically operate radio, what to press and when and mostly to entertain and engage listeners. I can describe the Radio Positive experience as one in a million opportunity that come once in a lifetime.”

Let Youth Lead advocates Bakang Itumeleng Garebatho, Duma FM presenter Botlhe Jane Kgosimore and Sekgabo Seselamarumo pose on 18 May 2019 at Duma FM studios, Gaborone, where they trained before co-hosting Radio Positive show

Keegope, who has been accompanying the young presenters to the studio in Gaborone, has witnessed a change in the way the young advocates engage with the listeners (through text, calls and social media) and how they communicate and interpret the subject matter. “Their bravery and courage in sharing their personal stories and lived experiences is a powerful tool that helps reach out to other youth and older people too,” the Youth Advocacy and Communications Officer says.

Sentebale’s choice to host the programme on Duma FM was guided by their national reach, wide listenership and audience, made up of a wide variety of people including youth, young professionals, policy makers, the elderly, and academics. “This helps us not only reach out to other youth, but also various older people in communities and in policy/decision making positions. This multi-stakeholder approach is what we need to best intensify the fight against HIV,” Keegope explains.

Mid-way through the programme, the impact of Radio Positive is evident, and the post-show engagement confirms the need for similar shows. “While we piloted with only 12 weeks, I look forward to seeing the show go beyond that,” she says.

Young people drive change

Set up as a platform that provides a safe space for youth to share and demonstrate how their generation’s positive attitude and behaviour will lead to a renewed powerful fight against HIV/AIDS, Radio Positive’s casual but strategic approach allows the advocates to educate and inform the public in efforts to re-brand and destigmatise HIV/AIDS.

The co-hosts, whose show will run until the end of August, developed a weekly content plan. They decided to cover ‘What HIV Means to Young People’ in June, are concentrating on healthy relationships throughout July, and will discuss why youth matter during their last month. This schedule, they say, has enabled them to talk about subjects they believe are crucial to young people – including mental health, and HIV treatment and care – and has allowed them to encourage youth to drive change through inspirational stories.

Both young women, who research every topic they cover, explain the positive feedback from listeners saying they have learnt new and informative facts from the topic of discussion has also boosted their confidence as advocates.

“I believe this sort of experience would absolutely be beneficial to other young people and HIV advocates in Botswana,” Seselamarumo says. “It will teach young people to research and be up to date with current affairs and what is happening around the world. It is important that we know beyond our country what is happening, and the decisions made globally as young leaders. Such platforms can equip us with questioning what is happening in Africa for instance and we can suggest ways to bring solutions to the problems as youth.”

Seselamarumo’s message to leaders in her community and country is to take initiative and develop opportunities to teach key life and work skills. “The time is now, if not you then who? We should give youth a chance, just like how Duma FM has with us having zero experience with radio let alone media. Just one chance is all it takes to empower someone.”

This vision is shared by Mooketsi, who says young people in Botswana are not usually given a chance to share their viewpoints and gain skills that the co-hosts have been afforded through the Radio Positive experience. “I believe that these skills are very important if we are to produce strong and effective advocates in any area. As an HIV advocate this platform has been beneficial as we are able to share our experiences and voice out our truth. This platform can also help to teach the youth in generals about the importance of practising safe sex and knowing and maintaining their HIV status.”

Mooketsi, who wants young people in Botswana to be taught they can be agents of change, adds: “For so long the youth have been told that we are the future when we should have been taught that if we want to see change we should fight for its implementation. We should be given the platform to grow as leaders in our respective positions and the necessary resources to do so.”

Tune in on Saturdays from 12:00 (GMT+2) to listen to the live show, here. Get involved by calling in +267 3500 130, or sending SMS +267 76 281 885.

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