Role of Radio in combating trafficking
Mass media has always aided the process of transformation of societies and institutions. The invention of the Gutenberg printing press in the 16th century led to various debates around democracy and human rights in Europe. The ongoing Covid-19 lockdown, though necessary for stopping the pandemic, has come at a huge human cost in the form of migration and displacement of labourers and workers and their children. The dangers of children being targeted by organised gang of traffickers have risen manifold as parents are socially and economically vulnerable.
Within a span of only 11 days, the Childline India helpline received more than 92,000 calls seeking protection from child abuse and violence. A report by India Child Protection Fund (ICPF) also claimed a 95% increase in child pornography content consumption between 24th and 26th March 2020. Before the lockdown, online exposure of children was limited but with lockdown, it has increased manifold. And schools and educational institutes resorting to digital means has only made matters worse as that has not just meant increased online exposure but also unsupervised exposure. All these evidences point towards a growing need for protection for our children. In such circumstances, strengthening the safety net is paramount, but spreading awareness about the danger is of equal importance. Mass communication tools will come in handy to raise awareness across all class of people.
Use of Radio
Radio should be used as a powerful communication medium for creating awareness on issues related to child protection. The reach of print and TV are limited due to literacy issues and cost, besides logistical challenges due to the lockdown.
With newspapers reducing the number of pages and they also not being delivered in the first place, Radio can help parents, teachers and other stakeholders in spreading awareness about dangers lurking around their children. Radio also gives language advantage.
It is only last week that a research by AZ Research PPL stated that 82 per cent people have been tuning in to radio during Covid-19. In fact, the FM Channels are emerging as the second credible source of information. The research is based on a sample size of 3,300 listeners above the age of 18.The radio industry witnessed a listenership of 51 million people, which is nearly as much as television’s reach of 56 million and social media’s reach of 57 million, said the research. (Source: Hindustan Times)
All India Radio (AIR) broadcasts in 23 languages and more than 140 dialects across India. Most public service announcements could be comfortably made using this medium.
Advantage of local dialect and context
An FM radio station in Haryana will use not just use the local language and dialect, but also the local context which would be very different for a state like Telengana. The goals may be the same, but language makes all the difference. For example, trafficking of minor girls is a serious crime that has impacted many states. In Jharkhand, for instance, girls are trafficked into bonded labour, sex slavery or domestic servitude by placement agencies.
Local radio stations would make use of local languages to create awareness among family members of potential victims. According to activists across the globe, children will be more vulnerable to trafficking in the aftermath of Covid-19.
Raising awareness level as solution
Sensitization about dangers of trafficking and how parents can be lured with false promises of better life and free education of their children could be done through radio messaging.
The full potential of radio for bringing about a positive social change is yet to be tapped. For example, community radio stations were launched 15 years ago. These have a reach of 5 to 10 kilometers and are meant to address local issues. Partnerships between NGOs, radio operators, the government and philanthropists can make a difference here. If a local community radio reaches even 50,000 audiences daily, a sustained campaign against trafficking can built around eliminating this crime at the grassroots level. Radio Snehi of Siwan,Bihar ,Radio Mann of Madhya Pradesh,Radio Jamia and IIMC radio of Delhi are some community radio stations which pick up social issues often.
Positive impact due to mass media campaign
A sustained awareness campaign on saving the girl child ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ through the mass media yielded positive results what stringent laws could not. Print and electronic media were used extensively for the purpose but perhaps the most compelling role was played by radio. Both the state-owned All India Radio and privately-owned FM radio stations partnered with activists and NGOs and ran highly effective awareness campaigns. The result: There has been a remarkable improvement in the sex ratio in Haryana where even traditionally patriarchal panchayats now flaunt their Beti Bachao credentials.
FM Radio campaigns
Similarly, a campaign on Safe Childhood was run by Red FM in association with Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation was run two years ago to bring awareness on child abuse and trafficking. The move was appreciated for its positive outcome: unique stories came out in the open. Also Ginni, a popular RJ who runs Suno Na Dilli, an award-winning show, did talk about human trafficking sometime back to raise awareness about this crime.
Radio can really take this thought process and amplify it ahead to states, districts, zones and homes to make this topic a drawing room conversation. Radio channels could invite subject matter experts for addressing Q&A sessions that will further sensitize the public about the crime of trafficking. More the conversations that could be induced around this subject the better it would be for curbing this heinous crime. Radio can be a really quick and cost effective medium in achieving the objective of sensitizing people at large about trafficking.
As Nobel Peace Laureate Shri Kailash Satyarthi has always emphasized that let every child be free, safe, healthy and educated and Radio as a platform can be really useful in taking this thought ahead.
Paroma Bhattacharya (Journalist and now associated with Kailash Satyarthi Children’s foundation)