Pikin To Pikin Tok, a radio programme to support Ebola-affected children

From 2011, Child to Child was working in partnership with the Sierra Leonean NGO, the Pikin-To-Pikin Movement, to implement a 5 year community-based Early Childhood Development project in the remote Eastern district of Sierra Leone.

This project was running successfully until the Ebola outbreak halted all activities in March 2014. Nationally all schools closed and public congregations were banned (except for Church and Mosque meetings). In August 2014 The Pikin-To-Pikin Movement reported that numerous people involved in the project had died of Ebola, including: pre-school children, primary school children, parents, adult community volunteers, teachers and one head teacher. Tragically one volunteer lost 9 members of her family, including her newborn baby.

Over 8000 children were orphaned in Sierra Leone. Consequently older children – almost exclusively girls – have taken on the parental role. This has resulted in a huge drop in the number of girls accessing education, potentially condemning them to a life of unskilled labour. The Family Support Unit in Kailahun District, where we are working reported that the rates of teenage pregnancy had increased by 400%, thought to be largely due to transactional sex as girls try to secure basic amenities such as food but also due to a worrying rise in sexual violence and rape.

A study by Plan International highlighted that women and girls were among the most vulnerable social groups in this Ebola outbreak.

What are we doing?IMG_7505

We couldn’t continue our project as it was originally designed because it required children to come together in groups – a major public health hazard. So we turned to radio. Radio minimises the risk of Ebola transmission as no public gathering is required and allows larger numbers of beneficiaries to be reached.

In December 2014 we commissioned an award-winning radio production team** to produce the radio series Pikin to Pikin Tok (which means Child to Child Talk in the local language Krio). The team has extensive experience of working across Africa and with children in a child-centred way.

In line with the objectives of our original project, the Pikin to Pikin Tok radio series is intended to enhance children’s social, numeracy, literacy and life skills. It is made up of three different programmes – Story Time, Under the Mango Tree and Messages Through Music – each of which target different age ranges as follow:

  • Story time targets the younger children, although it is suitable for all age ranges. It uses traditional stories to address the issues facing the children. For example, the story of the three goats shows how when the goats work together, they are able to overcome adversity. It is also intended to support the development of numeracy and literacy skills.
  • Messages through music targets the mid-range of children and uses music to address the range of issues children are facing. Simple songs promote the importance of hand washing to avoid the spread of diseases including Ebola.
  • Under the Mango Tree targets the older children and is designed to support them to develop critical life skills. This programme directly addresses the issues that have emerged in the wake of Ebola, including stigma and exclusion, disability, sexual violence and teenage pregnancy and helps children to critically think through how they might best deal with them.

Many of the programmes address health and hygiene, critical issues in the wake of the Ebola outbreak.

In line with our ethos to work in partnership with children, we recruited and trained groups of children as ‘young journalists’. They have helped to identify stories, interview key stakeholders and record audio content. Our radio team mixes this audio content into high quality programmes which are then broadcast by local radio station Radio Moa across Kailahun District.

To make sure children are able to listen to Pikin to Pikin Tok, we have distributed hundreds of solar powered wind up radios. We have also created listener groups, where children come together supported by trained adult facilitators to listen to the programmes and engage in discussions about the issues being addressed. Children are encouraged to phone in after the radio broadcasts to express their views and opinions.

Focus on genderIMG_7285

Pikin to Pikin Tok is especially designed to help overcome the severe disadvantage and exclusion that girls often face in education systems and the wider community. Consequently gender is mainstreamed across the series with continual messaging about gender equality.

The voices and views of women and girls are consistently heard throughout the programmes on Pikin to Pikin Tok. For example national and local high-profile female role models share their experiences of overcoming challenges; female fictional characters illustrate how girls can participate in all matters that affect them.

Sensitive topics that especially impact upon girls are being tackled, including sexual violence and teenage pregnancy, to ensure that girls and boys are informed about the issues and better understand their risks and vulnerabilities. The listener groups support girls and boys to discuss these challenging issues both separately and together. These groups are especially designed to help girls develop the confidence and self-esteem to deal with these very challenging issues, supporting them to identify strategies that they can use to keep themselves and their peers safer.

Episodes are also being made specifically for parents and adults in the community. These are intended to challenge prevailing often negative attitudes to girls, for example, the preference for early marriage.

Visit this page to learn more and donate.

**The radio production team comprises:

  • Penny Boreham, series editor
  • Keziah Gbondo, community radio project lead, Sierra Leone
  • Showers Jalloh, musician
  • Usifu Jalloh, storyteller
  • Angela Robson, project management, radio and film production
  • Rich Woodhouse, audio engineer

Expert Child to Child advisers have included Grazyna Bonati, Gulzar Kanji & Dr. Sonal Zaveri