The power of Oxy Jeunes to channel neighbourhood youth
In Senegal, people are constantly moving to the capital city, Dakar. And many end up in Pikine, a cosmopolitan suburb 13 kilometres from the capital. Here, you can find all the ethnicities of Senegal. Many people here live precariously, trying to make money or to move to the capital. In this tenuous environment where there are few jobs for youth, there is a threat of violence, according to Famara Seydi, the finance and administration manager of the local radio station, Oxy Jeunes. But, he says, young Pikine residents have not only rallied around the station that discusses their reality, but have found a place to belong—as broadcasters.
In his recruitment efforts, Mr. Seydi targets youth who he feels are inclined to be good broadcasters, no matter their professional experience. They simply need a general understanding of their community to contribute to the station’s programs, which touch on subjects such as education, culture, health, politics, gender equality, and religion.
Mr. Seydi explains, “At Oxy Jeunes, we train our recruits and let them express their own points of view— their frustration if necessary.” Many of the station’s programs use a debate format, with a broadcaster acting as moderator.
The station has served as a training ground for more than 200 youth to develop their skills over the past 20 years. They have become technicians, reporters, journalists, and broadcasters. Today, some have a fulfilling career at big radio stations in Dakar, like Radio Futurs Médias, a company owned by singer Youssou N’Dour.Mr. Seydi manages the station staff and looks for partners to help keep the station functioning. Everyone at Oxy Jeunes is a volunteer, and gets more fulfilment from their microphone than from money in their pocket. Fortunately, some of the station’s programs generate a little money to cover costs, which include electricity, internet, and transport for reporters.
International development organizations have contributed to the success of Oxy Jeunes, supporting its efforts to include youth. Among these are the NGOs, Canada World Youth and Development and Peace. Mr. Seydi says, proudly: “They have allowed us to get established and then left us to evolve freely. Their support helped us to develop local partnerships in health, like the National Program for the Fight Against Malaria and the Senegal plan for family planning, [and also] in education and good governance.”
Codou Loum was one of the first reporters at the station. She started in 2007, after studying at the Institute of Information Sciences and Communication, and had no problem integrating into the station as a female broadcaster. She explains: “We, the women journalists at Oxy Jeunes, know how to do what the men do. I am not one who refuses to go to the field and only covers certain subjects. To be a journalist is first of all to be a person. In essence, it is to desire, to have the capacity, and to see it through.”
Mrs. Loum is ambitious, and sees her career in communication continuing. Dressed elegantly in African fashion, she says, “In five years, I see myself as a leader of my own multimedia communication company.”
After more than a dozen years leading programs on themes such as migration, the environment, and gender, she takes advantage of every opportunity she can to share her knowledge and passion. She is particularly passionate about one problem in Senegal: women’s limited access to land—both in urban and rural settings. She explains: “They often only have a small portion of land to cultivate, insufficient for agriculture. There is social and cultural inequality. They lack information on the remedies [legal solutions] to which they are entitled, and this handicaps them.”
The spirit of collaboration and the emphasis on free speech at Oxy Jeunes allows broadcasters to cover a broad range of news topics across Pikine and Dakar. The motto that guides everyone’s activities is: “for each viewpoint, a reporter.” Every beginner at the station covers activities independently, just like their more experienced peers, even on live broadcasts. In this regard, says Mr. Seydi with pride, Oxy Jeunes operates differently than many large radio stations, where everything is calculated in terms of time.
Oxy Jeunes is a new broadcasting partner of Farm Radio International. If you would like more information on how to become a broadcasting partner, go to www.farmradio.fm.