“In northern Malawi,” Maureen begins, “some parents exchange girls for cows.”
Maureen turns to George, her YouthAlert! co-host. She points to him, “Remember that episode?”
He nods his head vehemently. The girl’s parents had forced their 15-year-old daughter into marriage. They got the money. She got status as third wife, with contraception far from her purview.
“That’s a story we told,” Maureen says.
It’s one of more than 1,000 YouthAlert! radio programs that have aired in Malawi since the sexual and reproductive health programming took back to Malawi’s national airwaves four years ago.
Across the districts where YouthAlert! airs, three in 10 Malawian girls aged 15-19 have either had or are expecting a child. Among this cohort, one in five girls will drop out of school. The need to bring health information to some of the country’s most vulnerable youth remains a priority.
Since relaunching in 2014, the PSI-powered radio program—with support from USAID and the German Government through KfW Development Bank—has established itself as a mainstay in Malawian society, giving rural and urban youth aged 10-24 a platform to have their stories, voices and perspectives heard. From teenage breakups to young girls experiencing rape at the hands of family members, the magazine-style and youth-run show identifies topics of immediate relevance to young people’s lives.
The weekly radio program injects information on sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence prevention into the personal narratives aired, giving its monthly audience of 15,000 young listeners the tools and knowledge to own their health decisions.
“This isn’t about rescuing youth. It’s about making change,” George says. “Young people do not have to suffer in silence. YouthAlert! delivers them a platform to speak out.”
—With Contribution from Emma Beck, Associate Communications Manager, PSI
Banner image: © PSI/Miguel Samper; Illustration by Cassie Kussy