Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chatting with my Best Friends

I visited Nepal last month. Its population about 27 millions, Nepal was still striving for its fledging peace and reconciliation process. The entire political system was affected with political divides, regionalism, and corruption.

Unfortunately, this led to economic crisis, poor infrastructure development, poverty, youth unemployment, and brain drain in the country. More shockingly, this deprived millions of young Nepalese from even getting a proper education and reliable source of information and skills. That’s why these young people continued living a difficult life, and were often confused, victimized, and exploited by different political parties.     

However, during my weeklong stay in Nepal, I came across a life skills-based youth radio programme called Sathi Sanga Manka Kura (SSMK), Chatting with my Best Friends. So when feeling isolated, confused, depressed and victimized, every week, 7.2 millions of Nepalese youth turned to this 45-minute radio show, their “Best Friend”.
First initiated in 2001 by UNICEF Nepal, the SSMK was institutionalized with Equal Access Nepal and being broadcasted from 40 different FM Stations. Today, this radio show has become an essential lifeline, trusted confident, and inspiring best friend to young Nepalese on issues ranging from dating and sexuality, HIV awareness and prevention, to caste discrimination, exploring new livelihoods and participating in Nepal’s politics and policy making. 
With SSMK producers
Those young listeners, often with not much education and no reliable source of information, learnt important life skills and knowledge through on-air discussions, peer-peer outreach programmes, innovative mini-drama, banners, listeners’ clubs, publication of magazines and life skills pamphlets, and web outreach.
An outreach program to highlight the problems of Dhading youth  
It has significantly boosted the youth’s confidence and self-esteem. More importantly, it empowered them to make informed decisions on different issues and inspired them to rise above daily conflicts, stressful circumstances, ignorance and difficulties.

It’s quite exciting to know that that the SSMK received millions of mails (letters, text messages, emails) and calls (toll free) every week. In a week, they received over 25,000 handwritten letters. A large part of the SSMK production team would spend their time reading letters and file them into different categories. By the way, the letters were categorized in 82 different themes.
SSMK host reading out a letter for us
Interestingly, everyone who writes to the SSMK gets a reply with a set of life skills booklets. In each episode of this radio programme, four to five letters were read out and discussed by the co-hosts who suggest possible ways of responding to the senders’ or listeners’ problems using life skills. They solved risky behaviors of young people.

This is why the listeners of the programme, who often were unable to share their intimate feelings and concerns to their friends and family members, started pouring out their fondest hope and deepest fear to the SSMK. This has created a very close and interactive relationship between the young listeners and the show, thereby, the programme hosts feeling like a best friend to millions of Nepali youth.
A Listeners' Club organizing bi-cycle rally to stop female students abuse
Today, Nepal has over 350 FM Stations. Such SSMK program is also replicated in Cambodia, Laos, Niger, Mauritania and Chad. 

Visit the SSMK website here: http://ssmk.org/.


  1. Interesting report. 25,000 handwritten mails is amazing surprising number but looks like young people are very desperate. That radio is doing great job. It's worth doing the job when their is impact.

  2. Yes Mr. Passu, it's very amazing to see how a radio program impacting lives of millions of young people in Nepal. Thanks for the comment. I saw u in my office meeting hall, you guys having meeting there.

  3. Come down to our meeting hall during lunch. Let eat together.