Journalists to set up information hub on children; UNICEF urged to facilitate

Journalists to set up information hub on children
UNICEF urged to facilitate

Senior journalists have pledged to set up an information hub, with all data and other information relating to children's issues. These journalists, associated with 'Media for Children' - a joint initiative of Media Nest and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) - have asked the UNICEF to use its converging power to bring together different agencies on this internet community. This centre will help scribes writing more in depth stories on development issues.

"This should be a converging platform for governments, UNICEF, development agencies and media," said senior BBC journalist Ramdutt Tripathi, who mooted the idea. Mr Tripathi said that very often journalists have to run around unnecessarily for reliable information that can be available on the click of a button.

The journalists made this demand at the bi-monthly Media Hour interaction at the UP Press Club on Friday, 28 August 2009 afternoon, where issues concerning children are taken up.

The UNICEF officials, Communication specialist Augustine Veliath and Programme Communication Specialist Ms Rachana Sharma, present on at the accepted the demand in principle. "We will work out the details before Novemeber 2009, which marks the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Rights of Children charter," Mr Veliath promised the scribes.

Earlier at today's Media for Children, Ms Sharma through an audio visual presentation talked to the media about how socially relevant issues have been weaved into a UNICEF led entertainment education serial "Kyunki… Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai" on Doordarshan Kendra - DDK (state owned national TV). The UNICEF is celebrating the completion of 200th episode of the
serial with all the emotional and dramatic twists and turns that make soaps so popular. At 8.30 pm on Monday, 24 August 2009, this serial completed two centuries. "Kyunki…" has emerged as an innovative and effective agent for behavior change communication amongst Indian television viewers. Watched by over 125 million viewers across India, the gripping social drama promotes life-enhancing, life-saving messages, critical to the welfare and survival of children and mothers everywhere. From safe motherhood to HIV prevention, infant feeding to girls’ education, "Kyunki..." promotes prosocial attitudes, behaviors, and practices that contribute directly to the reduction of infant and maternal mortality rates.

UNICEF programme Communication specialist, Ms Rachana Sharma, shared this information with members of the Fourth Estate at "Media for Children," a bi-monthly media interaction organized jointly at UP Press Club jointly by UNICEF and Media Nest.

Ms Sharma said that such television serials are a positive way of heralding behavioral and social changes in society.

Naysan Sahba, Programme Communication Specialist at UNICEF India Country Office, who conceptualized the serial said in a statement issued from New Delhi. "When we began to work on the show's concept about four years ago, at the height of the popularity of the "saas-bahu" sagas, everybody said impossible, there's no audience for this. Well, we went ahead, carefully if courageously, and you can imagine our delight in that not only is our show doing well but a new wave of socially conscious TV serials, serials tackling hard-hitting issues effecting women and children, have followed suit and are taking the country by storm."

"Kyunki…" has a rather unique viewership including unexpected regulars in the form of youngsters and men. A favorite of many across India, the serial is one of the top rankers in its primetime spot of 8:30pm to 9pm and is the leading daily soap on DDK national.

Not shying away from taking up socially sensitive issues such as the ill effects of child marriage and early pregnancy, gender equality, proper use of contraceptives and prevention of HIV/AIDS, "Kyunki…" has been a catalyst in encouraging dialogues amongst young girls and families in rural India about things that they earlier had next to no say about.

Concurrent audience research shows that there has been a consistent increase in the number of viewers who say they intend to take action as a direct result of watching "Kyunki…", including informing others about the importance of education, motivating children to join school, immunizing one’s own children and regularly washing hands with soap .

The serial has also become a helpful tool and an excellent reference point for frontline workers who promote positive changes in social and health behaviors through interpersonal communication. In depth interviews with health workers, teachers and other influencers has shown that "Kyunki…" in fact reinforces many of the same ideas they work with and introduces contemporary issues in an interesting, entertaining and practical manner.

Kulsum Mustafa
(The author is a senior journalist and Secretary-General of Media Nest)

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