Pashto Youth: Reducing Youth Radicalization Through Innovative Radio Programming

 EAA youth producer interviews listeners in Helmand Province

With 60% of the population under the age of 25, Afghanistan is predominantly a country of young people. That same 60% of the population is also the most  in need of education, employment, and meaningful civic engagement. Youth disengagement is intricately linked with and affected by traditional, characteristically conservative hierarchical systems, which often limit youth leadership and provide minimal room for airing of youth perspectives and opinions. Young Afghans who attend school are often met with poorly organized educational systems and minimally-trained teachers. At the same time, weak governance and limited confidence in the judicial system do little to inspire Afghan youth to become actively engaged in their communities. Afghan culture traditionally discourages open discussion of personal problems, be it with friends, family or trusted advisers.

With these limitations, young Afghan women and men often lack confidence, independence, and education, leaving them ill-prepared for a successful and personally rewarding life, searching for a way to be heard and engage, and vulnerable to illicit or violent alternatives.

With generous support from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, Equal Access Afghanistan has produced and broadcast 20 Pashto language youth-oriented radio programs to address this challenge. Our magazine format radio episodes are comprised of drama programs as well as interviews from the field which contextualize programming for local listeners. Equal Access Afghanistan’s Youth Today: Our Country, Our Future project targets young men in the southern and eastern provinces of Afghanistan and has reached an estimated 10 million listeners, nearly one-third of the entire Afghan population.

Radio episodes are designed to serve as an entertaining and educational way to teach Afghan youth about life skills and opportunities and are modeled after an earlier pilot project implemented in Afghanistan as well as in other Equal Access programs around the world. In 30-minute segments, listeners are presented with a theme, expert interviews, peer interviews, engaging dramas, and lively discussions. By combining practical information with the vital psycho-social elements contained in life skills education, this program series equips young people with the knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions in their lives, helping them explore a range of options, cope with challenging national issues,  and contribute positively to community and civic life.