13 Feb Promoting girls’ education and literacy through radio

Innovate ME intern, Hela Ali, shares her experience working on a radio drama to promote young women’s education and literacy in Ethiopia


As part of YCI’s Innovate ME international youth internship program, funded with support from Global Affairs Canada, I have been tasked with the planning and execution of a radio drama series with Education Development Center’s (EDC) READ II program in Ethiopia. The program’s overall objective is to contribute to Ethiopia’s goal of improving the reading proficiency of 15 million children by 2023, with a focus on six target regions—Addis Ababa, Amhara, Oromia, Somali, SNNPR, and Tigray. READ II implements activities in support of seven mother tongues: Amharic, Tigrynia, Afan-Oromo, Hadiyaa, Sidamu, Walliaytta, and Af-Somali.

In Ethiopian culture, approximately 80% of the population reportedly use radio as their main source of information. Radio is an excellent means of reaching a wide audience, beyond READ II, and encouraging behavioural change. Most primary schools in Ethiopia have access to the Education Radio Station, which has proven to be a great medium for reaching all students in READ II’s targeted schools. The radio drama will also have an engagement element with reading material that READ II has provided for schools to use in discussion within gender clubs. The core of READ II’s gender approach is to reduce gender disparities in academic performance, retention, transition to upper grades and participation in education activities. The greater focus will be on adolescent girls in upper primary grades, as it is known that girls are particularly vulnerable to dropping out of schools during that time. The radio drama will encourage change in behaviours and attitudes towards adolescent girls’ education and help embolden parents and communities to support their learning.

The radio drama will address and support various issues young women face in schools to help increase student enrollment and retention rates while decreasing student drop-outs.  A rapid assessment identified the key barriers to education across each region and the data analysis findings displayed overlapping themes. The rapid assessment indicated that both communities and schools provided different barriers that lead to adolescent girls having a higher drop-out rate than boys. The community, which includes parents, overloads girls with domestic chores, family caretaking, early marriage, gender-based violence and, in some regions, risk of child trafficking. Through the schools, educators are seen to be empowering boys to learn and participate, while not valuing girls’ contributions. In many cases, girls are also shamed and blamed for assaults or harassments adding to the perpetual discrimination of young women.

The radio drama will help to illustrate these barriers through its characters, conveying the lived experiences shared through the rapid assessment and described by adolescent girls themselves. It’s an ‘edutainment’ approach where educational messaging meets entertainment to increase connectivity with all audiences. Our primary target audience for this project is adolescent girls and the secondary audience is adolescent boys and the larger community. It is important to share the voices of the young girls impacted and how young boys and families, who are a part of the larger community, greatly influence their journey. Though it is equally as important to discuss the critical role of men and boys in achieving gender equality and ensuring that they are engaged to develop a deeper understanding from the perspective of both genders.

The YCI Innovate ME internship has given me the great experience of owning the project planning process through setting up meetings, data analysis, reporting and connecting with external partners to collaborate on production. As with most projects, the challenge is often the waiting period before we can progress – from document drafts to approvals from head office and responses from external partners, it can take some time. This means that I will only work on the planning stages but I am excited to be a part of this project. I can’t wait to see how leveraging radio will help break down education barriers and improve the lives of young women in Ethiopia.


About Hela

Hela Ali is one of YCI’s first Innovate ME interns working in Ethiopia with the EDC Addis Ababa team as a Research and Communications Officer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in International Development and African Studies as a double major from York University. She is passionate about youth empowerment and access to employment and education. In her career, Hela aims to collaborate with global partners to ensure access to education is not a barrier for rural communities.

Want to intern overseas, develop your career and make a difference? Apply for YCI’s Innovate ME international youth internship program today.

Click here to learn more about Innovate ME


Innovate ME is generously funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada. 


About Innovate ME
Youth Challenge International’s Innovate ME program focuses on career transformation and is designed to significantly enhance youth employability in Canada and abroad, providing the tools, resources, experience and coaching to take careers to the next level. Implemented in partnership with Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Innovate ME provides employment training prior to departure, career coaching during internship placement, and career transition support and networking opportunities upon return to Canada.