Opening lines of communication to life-saving learning in marginalized communities.
Millions of families in India are cut off from information that can help children grow up healthy, happy, and ready to learn. To get around the barriers that marginalize these families, Sesame Workshop India is using phones to make educational media an integral part of the community. The poor and deeply conservative village of Nagina in the Mewat district of Haryana does not have electricity. Children here have never seen a radio or TV before, let alone a Bollywood movie.
Yet there is one media source that’s breaking through in Nagina. In the evenings, children and parents gather around a mobile phone to tune in Radio Mewat, a nearby community radio station. What are they hearing? Laughter mixed with learning, as characters from Galli Galli Sim Sim talk about literacy and math lessons, as well as good nutrition and healthy habits like always washing hands before you eat.
This audacious children’s health initiative, known as Radiophone, is the first of its kind ever in communities like Nagina. The need for health lessons is critical here, where basic knowledge of nutrition and hygiene is scarce. Each year throughout India, approximately 1.9 million children under age five die from preventable diseases.
The pilot program began in 2011 with 31 episodes of Galli Galli Sim Sim broadcast by Gurgaon Ki Awaaz (GKA), a community station in Gurgaon, accessible via FM radio and on cell phones. So far Galli Galli Sim Sim Radiophone broadcast in Gurgaon has reached over 200,000 listeners.
In separate subprojects funded by Qualcomm and HSBC, families and classrooms use 3G-equipped xc phones to stream Galli Galli Sim Sim radio shows on demand and access related videos and print materials that reinforce healthy messages. Community radio broadcasts are typically limited to a radius of 10 kilometers. But streaming content enables a far larger audience and consistent access for migrant families constantly on the move.
Given the great diversity of culture and language in India, Radiophone relies on local relevance to break through. GKA in Gurgaon broadcasts in the language of its listeners and episodes include segments featuring Chamki, the beloved star of Galli Galli Sim Sim, interviewing neighbors in the local broadcast area.
By becoming part of the community experience, Radiophone is giving families a voice. GKA reports an enthusiastic response from listeners, who call in to offer feedback and ask questions of health experts on air. More amazingly, listeners are using the program as a forum to share community concerns such as water access issues. Women are calling in to the show as well, a sign we’re making in-roads where other media cannot.
To understand where our efforts can have the biggest impact, we’re also bringing the program to life in 10 schools with “Healthy Habits” educational materials and curriculum guidance for teachers, with support from HSBC Bank.
By combining local radio, mobile technology and engaging in Sesame education, we’re delivering critical information to families whose health may depend on it.
Schwab Charitable Fund, Qualcomm, The Restoring Force (HSBC)