By 2020 the world’s population under 30 will reach 4 billion – the majority living in the developing world. In least developed countries where Equal Access is engaged, youth under 30 comprise more than 50% of the population. Hundreds of millions of young people around the world do not complete primary school and many more suffer in poor learning environments with little support or encouragement from elders. Without basic life skills training, or information on livelihood opportunities, sexual and reproductive health or how to navigate the difficult years between adolescence to adulthood, many young people struggle to improve their lives.
Weak governments, dysfunctional education systems, and a lack of employment opportunities leave youth without the skills or resources to fulfill their potential and increasingly vulnerable to discouragement, extremist influences and violence. An essential thread of social cohesion, a good education and firm belief in one’s power to effect change can overcome poverty and inequity.
Equal Access is Changing this Story
We pioneered the use of an integrated participatory media and youth engagement model produced by youth for youth to empower young people and address the root causes of youth violence and alienation. In each country, our programs and activities address these root causes by providing education on 10 vital life skills through a nationally broadcast interactive radio series, leadership trainings, new media and SMS engagement, discussion groups and civic activities. Recognizing youth for their enormous potential, we elevate young voices, build self-esteem, provide livelihoods training and empower them as social change agents.
In Nepal, more than 50% of the population of 27 million is under 25 years of age. Until Equal Access’ flagship radio program Chatting with My Best Friend began broadcasting life skills and livelihoods messages in 2001, many had no place to turn for this crucial information. Now more than 6 million young people tune in each week to hear the hour-long youth radio show, making it the most popular program on-air and the most trusted source of health information among youth people. The program features a drama segment, songs and lighthearted banter between young hosts on everything from HIV/AIDS prevention and livelihoods training to dating and difficult life decisions. Over 1,200 youth clubs across the country meet to hear the program, talk about the issues within the context of their daily lives, and take action within their communities. The show receives more than 1,400 letters and e-mails and 5,000 SMS messages each month. With regional and national youth publications as well as online forums for ongoing discussions, Chatting… is the heartbeat of Nepali youth and their trusted best friend.
Similarly, in Cambodia nearly half of the country’s population of 14 million are under the age of 18. With so many young Cambodians eager for the opportunity to improve their lives and understand the recovery process in their country, our youth media show We Can Do It! has captured the imagination and loyal listenership of millions of young people . We Can Do It! teaches essential life skills, health and civic participation. Hundreds of self-formed youth clubs participate and take action in their communities and We Can Do it! also receives letters and SMS feedback from listeners across the country.
Building on our established and dynamic methodology, EA launched youth programs in Chad and Niger in 2008 as part of our Peace for Development initiative. and In Niger, our Youth Boulevard program has 2.4 million weekly youth listeners and addresses peaceful ways of addressing grievances, tolerance, livelihoods information, problem solving as well as additional topics including HIV/AIDS, family relations, marital violence, hygiene, and the environment.
With a broadcast reach of more than 90 million across Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Equal Access provides education where it is needed most through media–based teacher training, early childhood development programming, and non-formal life skills and livelihoods training for young people age 14-30. Through our programming and community engagement activities, youth around the world are gaining the information and skills necessary to be engaged citizens and help foster positive change.