Saathi Sanga Manka Kura 'Chatting With My Best Friend'
“..... it was Tihar and I was so excited because I could perform puja to my brother but my mother sternly objected, simply because I was having my regular menstruation period. My mother considered performing religious activities during menstruation a dire sin. But I knew she was wrong! Because radio program 'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura' had dubbed these rituals as a mere myth, therefore I took stand and told her that I was not going to follow this superstitious belief. My brothers supported me and later my mother gave in to our wish, and I could happily perform puja to my brother. Thank you SSMK for the knowledge that you have imparted because it has enabled young people like us to take stand and change the thinking pattern of our rigid society!
-A 14 years old girl from Kailali
Understanding Nepali youth
With little or no access to reliable information and few people to openly-talk to, young people in Nepal often find it highly challenging to learn life skills that are necessary to negotiate relationships, continue education, plan a career, or to stay safe from HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Isolated, confused and often depressed, millions of young Nepali youth seek counsel from peers or friends.
'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura' or 'Chatting with my best friend'
'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura' or 'Chatting with my best friend' is a radio program being designed and developed by young people for the young people in Nepal. Initiated in the year 2001, the radio program, the centerpiece of UNICEF Nepal, was the result of the KAP survey (Knowledge, Attitude and Practice) conducted throughout Nepal within 1,400 respondents and other qualitative studies. Today the radio program is institutionalized in Equal Access Nepal and NGO working in the field of communication development; SSMK has been producing and broadcasting weekly 45 minutes long issue based episodes for the past 10 years.
The program in its 10 years history of radio broadcasting has garnered immense popularity as its success is evident through the existence of the 6 million loyal listeners, 1,200-audience mail and a more than 1,500-2,000 text messages for a single episode, and more than a thousand spontaneously formed listener club throughout the country.
With the content focus aimed at imparting life skills among young people; the program revolves around issues ranging from adolescence and puberty, sexual and reproductive health, issues relating to young people and transitional period, adopting safe behaviors by resisting peer pressure, staying safe from drug abuse and HIV/AIDS, opportunities and study and a wide variety of other topics which directly and indirectly affect the youngsters in Nepal.
The radio program aims to equip young people with lifeskills that enable them to make sound decision on matters related to their lives, empowering them to deal with their everyday problem and to tackle peer-pressure and stigmatization.
Engaging listeners’ clubs through outreach activities
The radio show’s relevance and appeal has spawned a network of over 1,000 spontaneously formed listeners’ clubs in nearly all the districts of the country. In collaboration with local organizations and village development committees, these listeners’ clubs organize their own activities such as training programs, interactions and awareness campaigns on issues like HIV and AIDS, gender and caste discrimination, menstrual hygiene etc. Members of these clubs are playing active roles in engaging their communities and influencing long-term decision-making related to issues that matter to youth. They also refer friends and families to seek appropriate services as raised by the radio program.
Outreach has been playing supportive role to achieve the target set by the radio program through radio-centered activities at community level like facilitated discussion, regular feedbacks/ letters through listeners and volunteer activities for making the program more interactive. The listeners clubs work in coordination with the ‘SSMK youth hubs’ located in the five development regions.Program Information
- The recent VaRG (2010) survey indicates that 91.4% of Nepali youth (7.8 million) have listened to SSMK, of which 6.9 million have been listening for more than 2 years and 5.4 million listen at least one per week.
- SSMK is the most popular program among young listeners, with nearly three-fourths of men and just over two-thirds to women of the age group 15-19 listening to this program. (Source : Nepal Demographic and Health Survey, 2006 – done by Ministry of Health and Population, Population Division, Government of Nepal).
- SSMK receives around 800 -1000 letters, 200-250 emails and 2000-2500 mobile text messages every month from the young people of Nepal.
- Each listener who writes in to the program receives an individual response from the production team, with a specific template response addressing the problem/concern of the letter writers and an appropriate life skills booklet.
- Responses to letters are specially designed with life skills information suiting the trends and need of the letter writer.
- The program broadcasts through the national radio station - Radio Nepal and more than 40 local FM stations throughout the country. The program is also considering expanding its reach to audiences overseas.
Vent free: Young concerns and problems sent to SSMK
“ Due to our low economic condition, I am frequently pressurized by my parents to leave my studies. I want to continue my studies as I want to do something in life and be independent. Even if I start earning to support my studies, its hard for me to travel for two hours every day to reach school. That’s why I feel I can’t continue my studies"
"I am very scared and have no one to talk to. My Uncle has been molesting me for years, and now I cannot stand it anymore. But he tells me that if I disclose this with my parents, they will not believe me and that everyone will think I am a ‘bad’ girl. Please help me, what should I do?”
"The armed group captured my land and property during the conflict period but even after the peace accord, they have not stopped tormenting me and my family because I do not believe in their ideology! But now I am going to take stand, I am going to take arms in order to regain my self-respect and in order to lead a life of dignity"
".... my girlfriend has threatened to commit suicide if I don’t marry her. Although I have promised to marry her, I am very apprehensive that the society will treat me badly and hate me for being involved with a HIV positive person ....”
The official website of SSMK (www.ssmk.org) was launched on 22nd January 2007 with the objective of disseminating news, views and opinions regarding the radio program to its e-savvy listeners. The website is designed to suit the present day needs and trend. The special youth friendly contents and segments of the website aims create a global community where listeners can openly share their, views, and opinions about contemporary issues and make friends. Listeners staying abroad can easily listen to the SSMK program through the website. The radio archive system in the website is a media library, which enables web users to download SSMK web contents and special podcasts.
Keeping track of the changing trends of modern communication SSMK radio program also has its own fan page in the popular social networking site Facebook. The SSMK Facebook fan page informs the registered members about updates and happenings in the radio program. The Facebook page also enables listeners to directly contact their favorite radio host; this has further more smoothened listener's connection with the radio program.