Saathi Sanga Manka Kura!!!
We live in the age where activism, impacts have been limited within social media posts, contributions are counted on the basis of promotion made on Facebook, self-proclaimed so-called changes created in the lives of people. However, there exists a radio program called Saathi Sanga Manka Kura (Chatting With My Best Friend in English) changing lives of millions for more than one and a half decades now.
What is Saathi Sanga Manka Kura?
Saathi Sanga Manka Kura is a magazine format radio program designed and developed to empower, inform and inspire young people and adolescents in Nepal. SSMK, currently a 45 minute radio magazine provides life skills knowledge on a variety of issues for negotiating relationships, effective communication, self-awareness and coping the stress and other social and personal issues and concerns like; education, career development, human rights, health, sexual and reproductive health, trafficking, and other youths and adolescents issues. SSMK empowers its listeners to take control of their own lives and make informed decisions for their better future. The radio program aims to equip young people with life skills that enable them to make a sound decision on matters related to their lives, empowering them to deal with their everyday problem and to tackle peer-pressure and stigmatization. Saathi Sanga Manka Kura is a program designed by young people for young people and adolescents of Nepal by talking about life skills training, in a non-judgmental style, empowers its young listeners to take control of their own lives and make informed and smart decisions about their future and own happiness. The program is in the 18th year of airing and premiers every Saturday and Sunday through national radios.
Initiated in 2001 with the support from UNICEF Nepal and managed by Equal Access Nepal since its inception, SSMK has persistently broadcasted its 863 episodes till date. At present, Radio Nepal (state-owned national radio), Radio Kantipur and 12 local FM radio partners are broadcasting SSMK. Because of the popularity among youth and adolescents, about hundred FM stations across the nation broadcast the program voluntarily.
With the content focus aimed at imparting life skills among young people; the program revolves around issues ranging from adolescence and puberty, sexual and reproductive health, issues relating to young people, adopting safe behaviors by resisting peer pressure, staying safe from drug abuse and HIV & AIDS, opportunities and study and a wide variety of other topics which directly and indirectly affect the youngsters in Nepal. Since Saathi Sanga Manka Kura is designed and developed by young people for the young people, it has been successful in retaining the millions of listeners until now. Frequently conducted direct engagements with listeners during field visits has been proven to show the show’s ability to maintain a consistently high popularity rating and loyal listeners. The young presents of SSMK talk to young people through radio show with the aim of equipping them with life skills required to make them able to make sound decisions on matters which directly relate to their lives, empowering them to deal with their everyday problems and to tackle a variety of adolescent issue. The content related to life skills focuses on issues which are traditionally considered taboo in Nepali society; adolescence and puberty, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), adopting safe sexual behaviors, resisting peer pressure, staying safe and resisting drug abuse and avoiding HIV infection, matters related to study and career choices. In 2001, it broke the silence surrounding the physiological and emotional curiosities that come naturally with puberty, and it continues to seek to challenge taboos and issues that are part of young people’s lives but not addressed by their parents, teachers, peers, or other media sources. And this is one of the major reasons why SSMK has been popular among millions of young people’s hearts resulting in overwhelming responses from them as well.
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SSMK was the second most popular radio program nationally after Radio Nepal news (BBC/Nielsen and DHS/New Era- 2006-2008). Similarly, the VaRG (2010) survey indicates that 91.4% of Nepali youth (7.8 million) have listened to SSMK of which 6.9 million have been listening for more than 2 years and 5.4 million listen at least one per week.
Saathi Sanga Manka Kura; The Radio Program Format
The existence of Saathi Sanga Manka Kura of 17 years now and the format has barely changed. The two young presenters; a male and a female host the show for 45 minutes at present which was originally 30 minutes and sometimes later, it was extended for an hour.
- During the first 3-5 minutes of the show; the young presenters create intimacy with listeners through the use of simple, friendly and humorous language.
- Drama/Story reflects the theme of the program and contemporary realities of young people of the country. The drama incorporates life skills with entertaining and engaging in its stories. Drama is the most popular as well as an influencing component of the show which lasts around 12-15 minutes and sometimes even longer.
- Saathi Lai Saathiko Sallaha/ Letter section is a part of the program in which SSMK hosts discuss on the issues raised by a listener to come up with possible options that the listener can act in order to solve the problem s/he is facing. One of the main reasons why SSMK is getting a huge number of queries/problems from the listeners is because of confidentiality maintained in each of the concerns.
- Hey Yuwa Jaya Yuwa/ Success Story includes the success stories of young people and adolescents from around the country. This ranges from an individual initiative to community level program which, in the end, benefits humankind in the longer run.
- Janda Jandai which literally translates “as we leave or while leaving” is a component of Saathi Sanga Manka Kura radio program which provides information about anything from disasters to health matters, study tips to HIV & AIDS.
SSMK; beyond the radio program…
The radio program Saathi Sanga Manka Kura has come a long way from airing programs related to HIV & AIDS to arm conflicts. SSMK still exists as an inspirational show for millions and the radio program hosts have become the bestest of friends among listeners with whom they can turn when they feel low, confused and troubled. In return, the SSMK hosts deal those issues with the non-judgemental, informed and honest manner.
There was 1400+ self-formed listeners’ club in almost all the districts of Nepal. Listeners’ clubs were formed by youth with an objective to listen to SSMK, organize the discussion, interaction and awareness programs on issues like HIV & AIDS, gender and caste discrimination, menstrual hygiene, study, and career. Out of those hundreds of active listeners’ club back then, one of them still going strong is in Amar Singh School, Pokhara. During my first visit to this listener’s club, I was left awe-struck with what I witnessed there. Each of them recognized me and screamed “Manoj Dai” with the surprise right after when I uttered the word “Hello! Saathi”. Their precision and familiarity with the program was something really inspiring. They’d remember the hosts when they started listening to SSMK. I found a box of inspiration instilled within them and Dear Saathi! from Amarsingh School; the visit to Amar Singh School is also one of the reasons why I am writing this post. Every time, I feel low and stressed out with script writing and other workloads, I remind myself of those amazing determined souls and I get rejuvenated. 🙂
One to one response mechanism; Letter handling!
Back then, Saathi Sanga Manka Kura used to receive hundreds of letters from listeners every week. Each listener who sent into the program received an individual response from the team addressing the problems/concerns of the letter with an appropriate life skills booklet. Those responses to letters were targeted with information about life skills as per the need and situation of the issues sent into the program. Now the handwritten letters are substituted by the technological advancement. However, the problems still exist which range from family problem to boyfriend pressurizing for sex to even more sensitive issues and are still dealt with enthusiasm and dedication. Saathi Sanga Manka Kura is the platform where the voices have actually listened. And this is why it has gained sincere trust from its listeners.
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“Due to our low economic condition, I am frequently pressurized by my parents to leave my studies. I want to continue my studies as I want to do something in life and be independent. Even if I start earning to support my studies, it is hard for me to travel for two hours every day to reach school. That’s why I feel I can’t continue my studies”. – An adolescent girl from Khotang
“I am very scared and have no one to talk to. My Uncle has been molesting me for years, and now I cannot stand it anymore. But he tells me that if I disclose this with my parents, they will not believe me and that everyone will think I am a ‘bad’ girl. Please help me, what should I do?” – A girl from Dang
“The armed group captured my land and property during the conflict period but even after the peace accord, they have not stopped tormenting me and my family because I do not believe in their ideology! But now I am going to take a stand, I am going to take arms in order to regain my self-respect and in order to lead a life of dignity”. – A problem sent in by a 17 years old boy from Palpa during the time of Armed Conflict.
Whenever I go through the problems/queries shared by the listeners, I always feel how I am living in my own constricted circle of life. I used to feel that no other person has more problems than me. But after reading the sensitive problems of the listeners who needed serious concerns, I realized how insignificant my “so-called problems” were. In fact, they were no problems at all. While there were people living their lives along with hardships and struggles while I was the one feeling bad even in smallest of things. I’m really blessed how my perspectives have changed because of Saathi Sanga Manka Kura. And on top of that, I was not just changing my own perspectives but playing my part to change the situation and solve the real-life problems of thousands of listeners as well. 🙂Saathi Sanga Manka Kura field visit to Okhaldhunga. SSMK hosts Sabita & Me listening to listeners’ Earthquake Stories.
Field Visits & Discussion sessions
Frequent field visits is a beauty of Saathi Sanga Manka Kura. Whether it be for the collection of success stories, discussion program “Sambad Hidda-Hiddai”, interaction with local youth and adolescents, life skills and radio program production training we do have field visits to different parts of the country on a regular basis. During the course of my almost 3 years of journey with SSMK, I have been fortunate enough to have visited more than 35 districts.
Once, I was on a field visit to Dang with my colleague. An adolescent girl was married to a guy while studying in the 9th standard without her consent. Her husband went abroad for work and then the problem began. Her mother-in-law and father-in-law used to beat her on a regular basis. Adding to the misery, her husband wouldn’t pick a call and later she came to realize that, he married another girl. She along with her daughter had no way out. She was abandoned in social activities and sometimes later, she was thrown out of the house as well. It was a really difficult situation. Tears rolled down my eyes!!! I was very emotional at that time.
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Apart from the responsibilities we have during the field visits, travel itself is the thing we cherish. Sometimes with ease and sometimes a bit of hurdle make a trip full of beautiful memories.
Saathi Sanga Manka Kura; Useful links
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/SSMK4U/videos One of the popular works of ours on Youtube is Silent Sorrow. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaAtbPy6t8M) Saathi Sanga Manka Kura (SSMK) partnered with slum theatre group “Nawa Tara Kishori Samuha” in coordination with non-slum theatre group “Hatemalo Sanchar” working in “Ending Slum Youth Stigma and Discrimination for Sustainable Development” with series of street drama carried in a slum and non-slum areas of Manohara, Sinamangal, and Balkhu. The drama conducted was to bring awareness to mass on stigma faced by the youth of slum and bring an understanding on how to reduce it subsequently leading to produce the documentary film “Silent Sorrow” to accentuate the objective of the project based on discrimination and stigma faced by slums.
Saathi Sanga Manka Kura Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ssmkradio/ With the growing craze in social media, SSMK is really into social media specially Facebook page is where the SSMK team is most active. We post our regular stuff, interact with our listeners and share the success stories as well.
Saathi Sanga Manka Kura; program download/ listen to it
We get a lot of queries regarding how to download old episodes of SSMK programs. Here’s the answer to it. SSMK website. Website: http://ssmk.org/ You can download or listen to the old/new programs which are updated on a weekly basis. You can also go through the Equal Access’s website in order to listen to SSMK. The link to Equal Access Nepal’s website is; http://equalaccess.org.np/archives/series/sathi-sanga-manka-kura
SSMK in visual form;
As one of the original team members of SSMK opines SSMK is not just a job but a way for serving society and nation in an individual level, I do have a similar feeling. I feel proud to have become a part of this wonderful family! And Saathi Sanga Manka Kura has become one of the best things that have happened in my life so far. SSMK has become my guide in sharpening the skills, narrowing down the interests in my life, got an opportunity to listen to hundreds of emotional stories and after all understand everything better. Like I mentioned in my previous blog about reviewing the year 2017, SSMK has helped me travel to a lot of places as well. Still, a long way to go! Until then, chatting continues… Cheers!!!