Amplifying Children’s Voices: The Legacy of Liberia Children’s Media Day

by Ashish Pradhan

on June 20, 2014

The smallest voices often carry the most poignant messages, and yet they are too often ignored by adults. Kimmie Weeks was one of these voices. A child broadcaster, Weeks recorded a radio show with a friend on an audio cassette to promote the reintegration of child soldiers into their communities in Liberia. His demo tape was rejected by the Liberia Broadcasting System, but he didn’t let that stop him. His perseverance paid off and paved the way for future Liberian children to grace the country’s airwaves.

Never doubting himself, Weeks—who now heads Youth Action International, a non-profit empowering children in post-conflict African countries—pitched his show to Search for Common Ground in hopes that the story would be broadcasted. He called it “the best radio program you have ever heard.” And while the recording quality was grainy, it showed enough enthusiasm and creativity for Search to record and broadcast his shows at Search’s radio studio, Talking Drum Studio. Ultimately, what started with a cassette recording became one of Search’s most recognized shows in Liberia — “Golden Kids News.”

Weeks recently spoke at the annual Liberia Children’s Media Day (LCMD) on May 31st, an event inspired by UNICEF’s International Children’s Day of Broadcasting and organized by the Press Union of Liberia with support from Search for Common Ground. Weeks recounted how his show began and emphasized the importance of perseverance. He encouraged the children in attendance to “dream big” and not to be afraid of pursuing ambitious goals.

The children, in turn, showcased the same awareness, commitment, and perseverance Weeks did years ago. They expressed their desire to positively impact their communities and hold their government accountable for its shortcomings. Fourteen-year-old Stephen Winn explained how he wanted to become a TV news presenter to highlight issues important to his community. He expressed concern about his friends who sold drugs instead of attending school, and he called on the government to offer free education to keep children off the streets. Robinson Dennis, 15, wants to use photography to pressure the government to establish support centers for orphaned children forced to sell drugs. Similarly, fourteen-year-old aspiring news anchorman Edmond Tuazama argued that the government needs to intervene and alter teenagers’ attitudes towards drug abuse.

Children also used the event to highlight their concerns about safety and security in their communities, especially impunity for perpetrators of crimes. Denise Abraham, 11, explained how easily robbers in her neighborhood could get away with their crimes because police officers only arrived the morning after incidents were reported. She called for officers to be stationed in her community to allow for quicker response times.

Youth participating in LCMD displayed awareness about complex issues and the willingness to initiate change. They echoed Weeks’s efforts as a child broadcaster to be leaders of change, and they identified issues impacting children that require efforts by adults and children alike. Programs like LCMD help children do their part by equipping them with mass media skills to help them bring their voices to important issues. As Abraham, another aspiring TV news presenter explained, “We need to tell the government what is going on in our communities.”

Liberia’s children continue to show their commitment to contribute to a positive future for their communities, and they exhibited how today’s children were following in Kimmie Weeks’s footsteps. As Weeks harked back to his experience in producing “Golden Kids News,” he reminded the children at LCMD that they were not too young to do big things. And the empowerment the children received through LCMD gave them the foundation to make this a reality.

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