Youth reporters: Turning cell phones into microphones

Youth reporters Uganda

Youth reporters learn how to conduct interviews with their cellphones. (Photo: DW Akademie)

How do you turn young Ugandans who love listening to the radio into Ugandan youth reporters working for their favourite radio station? How can they deliver reports, vox pops, or their own opinions, without fancy microphones and recording devices at their service? Well, they have phones, haven’t they!

Youths in Kampala and Jinja have been turning their phones into radio microphones for eight months now. By calling a toll free number at Radio One, Akaboozi, Smart FM or NBS, they reach a software that records what they have to say. The professional producers at these stations can find the youth reporters’ contributions on their computers. These mp3-files can then easily be edited and broadcast immediately.

That’s how you turn young Ugandans into youth reporters, and radio stations into favourite radio stations of young people: By letting them participate in “Let’s talk about it!”, a project run by Deutsche Welle Akademie and GIZ in conjunction with youth groups and students of Makerere University.

Here’s John Kato from the youth group “Jinja Joint Development Association” conducting interviews with his ordinary cell phone, thereby handing in a vox pop on the highly controversial Anti Pornography act, known on the streets of Uganda as the “Anti Miniskirt Law”:

JJODA video: Interview on Uganda´s new Anti-Miniskirt Law, (OV) 1’49”

“Let’s talk about it!” is a highly innovative and forward-looking project for dedicated youth groups and radio stations aiming at promoting basic human and children’s rights. It makes the big group of young Ugandans experience rights like freedom of speech and press freedom. It wants to give youths a platform for their topics and concerns, an opportunity to speak their minds. Youth and children constitute more than 70 percent of Ugandas population, the countries destiny lies in their hands. Yet they don’t play an active role in decision making processes of the country, which is traditionally characterised by the principle of seniority.

The partaking radio stations are embracing the project and have been broadcasting more programmes focusing on the topics of their young listeners. At Radio One in Kampala for instance, tuition fees for students were discussed in their dedicated morning show, using recordings from youth reporters and live call ins:

10.22 – 11.20, voice of the show host plus call in: “we are discussing….all things should have one uniform.”

Other shows are giving an opportunity for the youths to voice their opinions on domestic problems, unemployment among young people, or the quality of schools in Uganda. Or they simply talk about their favourite music and fashion styles. At “Let’s talk about it!”, anything goes – it’s about freedom of speech after all! Check out the training blog to find out more.

Natascha Schwanke, coordinator of the project at Deutsche Welle Akademie in Bonn, Germany, is happy with the course and the results of “Let’s talk about it!” so far: “When we started we hadn’t realized how difficult it actually is for youth to participate, simply because the lines will be blocked by older callers. I’m happy to see the huge effect & great appreciation from listeners, youths & radio staff on just hearing young people speaking their minds.”

by Antje Deistler, DW Akademie

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