Before NayaPusta was broadcast on Nepali television, not one program paid any attention to the world of children. The youth news program fulfils an important role, because those interviewed can speak freely. Sometimes a report gets the wheels in motion and officials and communities come into action for the rights of children.
A boy of about twelve shows the red marks on his legs. He has been beaten by the headmaster in front of his entire class, because he did not do the exercises at gym well enough. It is a report in the Nepali youth news NayaPusta ('new generation'), the only news program in Nepal that is specially made for and about children.
Swekshya Rimal works as a researcher at NayaPusta and is closely involved in the realisation of news stories. “The boy was willing to talk, but the headmaster was not. When we went back to the school for a follow-up story, it turned out he had been fired.” This example illustrates the influence of NayaPusta on the authorities when it comes to the children’s rights. Swekshya: “Corporal punishment is forbidden in Nepal, but still occurs on a regular basis. It is great that, thanks to the broadcast, the school management took action.”
In addition to corporal punishment, there are a lot of problems in Nepal, that children may experience. For example, child marriages are illegal, but 37% of girls are married before they turn eighteen. From then on, they have to take care of the housekeeping and miss out on their education. And because of the age-old use of chhaupadi, menstruating women who have just given birth, are banned from the house. Sometimes they have to stay in a hut for almost a week, or on a mattress in the burning sun. NayaPusta regularly broadcasts stories about the negative consequences of these traditions, where people regularly died. A law has just been passed that criminalizes the centuries old custom of chhaupadi.
In action after the broadcast
Swekshya tells how children are sometimes immediately helped after NayaPusta has been broadcast. “We interviewed a 9 year-old girl from east Nepal. She took care of her sick mother and her younger brothers and sisters; her father had committed suicide. She ran the entire household singlehandedly.” After the broadcast, people from the family’s community set up actions to help with money and goods. The mother was taken to hospital. “One of the helpers, a woman from the neighbourhood, said that she only found out about the family’s situation after seeing NayaPusta.”
Swekshya Rimal, researcher at NayaPusta
Stories from all the provinces
NayaPusta is produced by Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (NEFEJ), a journalism organisation that is supported by Free Press Unlimited, with training, program development and capacity strengthening. NayaPusta is one of twenty youth news programmes worldwide that are part of the WADADA News for Kids-network of Free Press Unlimited. This year, a training for stringers was organized in Kathmandu. Local journalists from all seven provinces of Nepal came over for a training in video journalism, with a focus on reports for children. Since then, they have been working much more closely with NayaPusta and stories come in from all over the country. A great development, says Swekshya. “Children from outside Kathmandu have a completely different life and are faced with other problems. Recently there was a story about children who were taught in a school with bamboo walls and a tin roof, because there was no money for restoration after the earthquake.”
Also for adults
Not only children watch NayaPusta. Now the youth news is also broadcast on the commercial channel, Avenues Television, immediately after the sports news, a lot of adults also watch. Swekshya explains why that is important. “NayaPusta is the only news program about children, so it is the only program that can show adults the world of children. And the adults have the power to improve that world.” Now that 11 local television stations have also begun broadcasting NayaPusta, the stories of these Nepali children are being heard even more.
NayaPusta also contributes to the self-confidence of children. “Sometimes a child we’d like to interview is quite nervous beforehand. Afterwards, we are often told that it wasn’t that bad after all, which helps build their self-confidence. And children who see other children on TV will hopefully be encouraged to speak freely about their dreams, wishes or problems.” Swekshya is certain: “The right to information and the right to freedom of expression were not invented for adults. They are also children’s rights.”