AT a smart television studio in Lilongwe, Malawi, a teenage television presenter, whose diminutive age does not seem to mean she is any less feisty, is interviewing Plan International CEO Nigel Chapman.
The questions come thick and fast: “Why Because I am a Girl? What makes it different? Will boys benefit too? How are Plan countries responding in terms of raising cash?”
As the recipients of a new government licence to run its own child focused TV station, the teen journalists at Plan Malawi’s former Radio project – known as Timveni, meaning let it be heard – have certainly earned their colours.
“Even the studio, full of the Timveni project team - mostly girls - and the facilities rival the best in the world,” says Chapman.
Timveni will be the first child-run and child-focused TV station in children’s rights NGO Plan’s global operation, operating alongside the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.
The station gives a voice to Malawi’s thousands of teenage girls, who still face challenges such as early and forced marriage, walking long distances to get safe water, high drop out from school due to poverty and abusive cultural practices.
Journalists such as Violet Banda, 19, have highlighted violence and abuse against children in Malawi through their work at the station.
By giving children a space to tell their personal stories, Banda uncovers cases of rape, abuse, and forced marriages. Banda, who was born with HIV, says she is committed to holding her government accountable for responding to the crimes she exposes, and ensuring the rights of its citizens.
With Banda’s help, Radio Timveni has gained a wide audience, and has caused other media outlets and the Malawian government to investigate reported cases of abuse.
The Timveni project was inaugurated in 2006 by Plan Malawi, with funding from Plan Sweden and UNICEF.
The aim was always to give a voice to Malawi's young people, who make up some 54% of the population.
Initially the channel used radio as its principal outlet, its programmes transmitted on Malawi national radio, but in recent years the operation has successfully branched into TV.
In 2011, Timveni spun off as an independent organization with funding support from Plan Malawi and Plan Sweden.
Plan Malawi’s Acting Country Director Lilly Omondi noted that the Malawi government is among the first in Africa to give a platform for the youth and children to own a media organisation and have their voices heard.
“This is a positive step as it will raise awareness of children’s capacity to participate in their own protection whilst seeing the live presentation of fellow children giving stories that will impact communities on child rights,” Omondi said.
“The issuance of the license today brings to fruition the dream that Plan Malawi and Sweden National Office have long awaited for. The reality of children’s rights being realised here in Malawi has come.
We thank the government of Malawi for this bold step,” she added
As part of the schedule, a 30 minute programme focusing on children’s concerns is aired once a week on national radio and Television of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.
The programme is just one that fills a gap in a country where most girls do not have a platform where they can voice issues affecting them.
“The television license which has been granted will help children and youth in Malawi to fully participate and express themselves freely in developmental matters,” said Timveni’s executive director, Manyanda Nyasulu.
“Timveni will able to reach out to more children and youth in Malawi, promoting their rights, talents, life skills and education. The station will continue involving vulnerable children, particularly girls, including the disabled with the aim of promoting their skills and talents.”
Nyasulu added: “Our dream is to establish a media school which will train children and the youth of Malawi in media skills, involving them in the production of radio and television programmes.
“This will assist them to attain exposure, experience and inspiration and also act a tool to disseminate messages of awareness on issues of their rights.”
Plan International’s Chapman added: “As the graduates of this project enter the media market, they will certainly be candidates for the future female leaders of Malawi!”
For more information, please contact Jane Labous, press officer, Africa, on + 44 (0)7540 048494, +44 (0)1483 773330, email@example.com, skype: janelabous
Notes for editors
Because I am a Girl is Plan's campaign to fight gender inequality, promote girls' rights and lift millions of girls out of poverty.
Across the world, girls face double discrimination due to their gender and age, leaving them at the bottom of the social ladder. Research has shown that girls are more likely to suffer from malnutrition; be forced into an early marriage; be subject to violence or intimidation; be trafficked, sold or coerced into the sex trade; or become infected with HIV.
Plan International will launch the Because I Am A Girl campaign on October 11th, the Day of the Girl. Go to www.plan-international.org/girls for more information.