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Focus on Children: Child and Youth Development

At almost every major intersection in capital cities around Africa, in marketplaces, in front of stores, popular shops and eating places, and along crowded thoroughfares, it has become a common occurrence to see children - some as young as 4 or 5 years old - selling goods. The products they are vending range from handkerchiefs to toys, household gadgets to batteries, magazines and newspapers, framed paintings, candies, biscuits, cold water, and even plastic bags. In this program, child vendors in Liberia describe in their own words, why they are in the streets selling and not in school. Most say they don't attend school because their parents cannot afford school fees. Next we hear Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, describe a global campaign to abolish school fees for primary grades, to pressure governments to fulfill the Rights of the Child Convention which guarantees free education, and get an estimated 125 million children who are out of school into classrooms. Youth leaders from South Africa and Zambia say that youth will take the lead in making the school fee ban a reality. The governments of Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda have already taken such action. Some of the content heard in this program was recorded at the 2000 Africa Development Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Talking Drum Studios in Liberia provided audio from the radio program "Children's World."

The organization Human Rights Watch recently issued its 2001 Global report on Child Soldiers and the report's contents are alarming, documenting a growing trend in child soldiering around the world. Reportedly, in 87 countries, underage children are being recruited into government armed forces, estimates are that hundreds of thousand of children are actually engaged in active combat with governments and armed groups in more than 40 countries. Some of the worst atrocities involving severe mistreatment of children in combat situations have occurred in Africa. This Africa Learning Channel program on children kidnapped into war includes graphic first person accounts of young boys describing their capture as well as being drugged, and their participation in attacks on civilians, often including their own families. We also hear the analysis of Human Rights Watch researchers who are investigating human rights abuses perpetuated against children, and we hear about rehabilitative programs in Sierra Leone and Mozambique designed to reintegrate child combatants back into the communities where they once lived and to help them recapture their youth. Excerpts from the Radio Netherlands program, "Sierra Leone - The Scars of Brutality" are heard in this program, as well as content provided by
Common Ground Productions.

Human Rights Watch, the United Nations Children's Fund or UNICEF, and other organizations have documented the disproportionate destruction of the social fabric of communities around the world due to the massive mistreatment of women and young girls in modern warfare. In war situations, women are subject to displacement and potential loss of income and protection as a result of the deaths or injuries to spouses, fathers and other family members. But in the past decade, women have increasingly been abducted and forced to participate in and witness the atrocities of war. And young girls are being subjected to brutal rapes and sexual slavery during combat. In this program, we hear young girls as young as ten years old describe such experiences in Uganda, Liberia and Sierra Leone. We hear about one of many programs set up in Sierra Leone to provide young girls who were abducted and raped with counseling and psychosocial interventions. We also hear about programs for refugee women and young girls displaced by war that have been established in Liberia and other countries. Reports heard in this program were provided by Radio Netherlands, from its production on war in Sierra Leone, by Voices of Our World, a radio service produced by the Maryknoll Missionaries, and also Talking Drum Studios in Liberia, which provided audio from a regular program titled, "Woman."

All available statistical research suggests that youth in urban areas as well as in rural locales are bearing the brunt of challenges such as underdevelopment and armed conflict. In addition, youth in Africa are one of the highest risk groups for the contraction of HIV/AIDS. The largest numbers of children affected by HIV/AIDS are African. In this Africa Learning Channel program we hear about some positive community responses to some of the challenges facing youth. From Nigeria, we hear an anti-drug radio drama produced by young people, that describes the negative affects of marijuana use. We also hear about anti-gang and anti-gun projects in South Africa, which are attempting to teach former gang members writing skills and music production. And we hear about the day-to-day life, educational experiences and activities planned for children living in refugee camps. Content providers for this program include Communicating for Change in Nigeria through its radio series, "Ready or Not", InterWorld Radio News and Feature Service, and Talking Drum Studios in Liberia, the producers of the radio program, Children's World.

Pouring of libation and use of tobacco has been a part of traditional practices in Africa for centuries. The use of addictive substances such as alcohol and tobacco has become widespread in contemporary society, affecting both urban and rural African communities. In this edition of the AFRICA LEARNING CHANNEL we learn from an expert the different types of addictive substances and their effects on the physical body, as well as the family and society at large. We hear the candid opinions of young people in southern Africa about smoking, and a radio drama about a youth in Nigeria who gets hooked on drugs. The University of Namibia contributed content to this program, as did InterWorld, the online news service, and Communicating for Change of Nigeria.


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