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8439: The Nation (Barbados) on Haitian child journalists (fwd)

From: Tequila Minsky <tminsky@ix.netcom.com>

The Nation (Barbados)

Young Haiti's voice - Saturday-16-June-2001

by Marsha Deyal

HAITI, a country which has endured bad Press for both its realities and the
myths that surround it, has new advocates spreading the truths of its
triumphs and trials across radio waves and the Internet.

They are the children of Haiti, whose courage and creativity have generated
new interest both at home and in foreign countries as far as Japan about key
issues affecting Haitians.

Operating under the programme Vwa pa Nou (kreyòl for Our Own Voice), run by
Plan International, Radio Nederland Training Centre, and The Panos Institute,
40 young people from the Trou-du-Nord and Forte Liberté areas have been
carrying out radio broadcasts, on a few of the country's 300 radio stations.

The 11 to 16-year-olds broadcast in kreyòl, and later their programmes are
transcribed and translated into English, French and Spanish for the Panos'
Internet site, www.panosinst.org/radio.

Jan Voordouw, the Panos Institute's regional director for the Caribbean and
Central America, said the programme had been quite successful.

"Having children express themselves in the media is revolutionary, because
most children in Haiti are not allowed to speak for themselves.

"However, if we want change in Haiti we have to start with the young people.
Many believe that children are the hope of this country, and we have tried to
get children talking about issues affecting them and the country in general
on radio programmes.

"The response has been very positive. People in the communities are very
happy and surprised that they can get such interesting information on a
variety of subjects from children.

"And the children say it straight. They would say: ‘We want clinics because
the children will not get better if you keep them at home in bed waiting for
God to intervene. We need to have doctors.'

"It's the same with school. They will say that most of the children around
them are not going to school, but that every child has a right to go to

Journalists threatened

Although the young people have enjoyed broadcasting their stories, they have
concerns about a long-term commitment to journalism.

The profession may not be as repressed as it was under the Duvalier
dictatorship in the 1980s, but journalists are still uniformly and
consistently threatened, and three were killed last year.

"The children say: ‘We want to be journalists, but we also want to live 
we are 40'," Voordouw said.

However, for now, the youths are enjoying the experience and moving forward
in producing their programmes. They have been receiving enthusiastic
responses from children around the world who have been logging on to
translated transcripts of the programmes on Panos' web site.

"Kids in Canada, El Salvador, Japan and West Africa have contacted us through
the Panos web site.

"We've translated the e-mailed letters for the Haitian children, and started
a correspondence.

"We hope that one day we can have cybercafés where the children will have
more direct access to their peers (at least those who also speak French), or
that we could set up an online Internet meeting one day with translators
present," said the Panos director.

Voordouw urged that any Barbadian youth organisations with any similar
interests should get in touch with the young people of Vwa pa Nou via the
Panos web site.

"The children would enjoy that contact," he said.