In August 2006, the Search for Common Ground (SFCG), in partnership with a local media non-governmental organisation (NGO) called The Antenna Foundation Nepal, began producing a radio soap opera in an effort to reach approximately 4 million youth (aged 14-24 years) from 75 districts, including those living in remote areas that have been harshly affected by Nepal's conflict. "Naya Bato Naya Paila" (which means "New Path New Footprints") is broadcast 3 times per week on national and local radio stations, and is about a group of young people from different ethnic and caste backgrounds living in a fictional village in Rolpa District. Together, they live with the realities of life in the midst of the country's transition and seek to build peace in their own communities. The soap aims to encourage direct youth involvement in promoting peace at both local and national levels, carrying the message that youth can be engaged in peacebuilding activities at all levels and have powerful impacts. The show is ultimately designed to open up space for dialogue on the conflict throughout local communities across the country.
This radio soap opera is the centrepiece of a youth-oriented edutainment programme that uses drama to address the root causes of conflict and equip the listeners with the necessary tools to manage the conflict's impact on their lives. The goal is to use an entertaining medium to shape listeners' behaviour and attitudes, towards a non-violent, non-adversarial response to conflict. Through the characters in the story, the soap opera encourages youth to build relationships across ethnic and caste lines, to take on leadership roles in decisionmaking in their communities, to participate in the democratisation process, and to strengthen inter-generational relationships. It aims to reduce the manipulation of youth into violence and encourage the reintegration of youth ex-soldiers. It is designed to be both action- and solution-oriented, with the hope that listeners will model their actions associated with the peacebuilding process by identifying with characters in the drama. (Click here to listen to sample broadcasts).
Already established, multi-ethnicity, multi-caste youth clubs in villages across the country reportedly listen to the radio soap opera together and then discuss how to take action. SFCG uses a community-based peacebuilding programme to reiterate the co-ordinated messages from the radio soap, and to shape these messages in an effort to spark changes in behaviour and attitudes. By consistently working within the community, SFCG seeks to acquire feedback and various stories from the listeners; the scriptwriters then consider their perspectives as they develop plotlines in an effort to ensure that the programme is harmonious with the intended audience.
SFCG claims that "Nepal is just coming out of a decade-long conflict between Maoist insurgents and the government that resulted in the signing of a peace agreement last year and in the emergence of a newly democratic government. Youth have played a fundamental role in every aspect of the armed conflict in Nepal, both as combatants and as key players in organizing the recent democracy movement. Although they lack opportunities to be engaged in positive peace building activities, it is clear that they are well positioned to address the root causes of conflict at a community level, and should be integral to conflict mitigation activities."
"It is sometimes difficult to find out what impact our radio programs have on individuals and communities where they are broadcast. But recently, our staff in Kathmandu received a letter from a young teenager from a remote area in west Nepal that had been heavily involved in the conflict. The letter explained that Maoists had murdered his father, and that he and his brother planned to revenge the murder. The boys found out who was responsible for killing their father and where he lived, and they plotted to kill him. Around that time, our radio drama for youth...began broadcasting throughout Nepal. The drama explores how youth can participate in rebuilding their country peacefully. As the young man listened to the episodes, he started to understand that murder and revenge would be the worst possible path of action. Even though he still felt anger and grief over the loss of his father, he realized that he could do something with those feelings other than resort to violence. He told us that he would like to become involved with the SFCG regional youth leader group to learn how to engage with the local rebel groups so that he could honor, rather than avenge, the memory of his father. The young man continues to stay engaged as a youth leader in rebuilding his community as an agent of transformation and renewal, not merely a victim of conflict."
SFCG and the Antenna Foundation Nepal, with funding from the European Commission and Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
SFCG Update - August 2007; the SFCG website; and email from SFCG to The Communication Initiative, July 11 2008.