For more than 15 years I had been an inimitable part of FM Radio with names like All India Radio, Radio Mirchi,RED FM, Big FM and Radio City. I had been entertaining listeners with my compelling programming strategies, humour, wit and a decent voice!
On one such evening of December 2013, when I was talking to people about their New Year Resolutions, I got a call from a retired 88-year old Judo teacher who had difficulty breathing and could hardly speak but still wanted to give self-defence classes to girls. I clearly remember he said, “Judo is my skill &I want to use it to make a difference.” He then casually asked, what was it that I wanted to do with mine?
That day I could not stop thinking, it was maybe the next day when I put down my papers to take on a new quest. A little clueless on how to unfurl the next chapter of life, but clear in the head that my voice and years of experience could be used for development communication. And so it happened. Radio Entertainment got a mission and I got an opportunity, to be a part of the longest and the biggest public health intervention measures undertaken in India, the Universal Immunization Programme and Mission Indradhanush.
Just at the same time, I came in contact with UNICEF where plans were afoot to create a holistic discourse around Routine Immunisation by using Radio. UNICEF’s equity focus wanted to leverage the reach of radio, which is one of the largest broadcasting platforms in the world, in terms of languages, spectrum and reach.
And the two mentors who made my jobless journey priceless are (left to right) Geetanjali Master Communication Specialist UNICEF India and Sonia Sarkar,Communication officers UNICEF.
Over numerous briefing and brainstorming sessions, I became familiar with the subject. Routine Immunization in India saves 2.5 million lives each year. Despite best efforts only 65% of the children get all vaccines during the first year of their life. In order to vaccinate the 35% partially or unvaccinated children in 201 high focus districts, Govt of India launched a special campaign called the “Mission Indradhanush”. The moto is to intensify routine immunization in these districts.
With nearly 159 million radio listeners turning in, radio has fast become a crucial point of contact with the grassroots of the country. Thus began the most fulfilling phase as a trainer and key resource person of training workshops conducted by UNICEF. It was an opportunity for me to harness my creative skills and deliver the ‘dry’ subject of Routine Immunisation (RI) in a fun and innovative way on radio platforms.
Almost six months later in June 2014, I became a key resource person for a capacity building workshop of over 100 leading Radio journalists and producers on the RI Programme, organised by UNICEF, in partnership with the Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI).
The workshop also involved participation of two frontline ASHA workers, several academics, government health officials, civil society representatives and health experts of WHO and UNICEF. At the same event, UNICEF announced the first ever radio awards for child health, “Radio4child Awards”.Radio journalists, across the country, jointly produced audio products to create awareness about RI.
UNICEF received 21 products from the top radio participants. FM Stations had innovatively promoted Routine Immunisation on-air using these products. The main criteria was to talk about the key messages on-air.
The “UNICEF Radio4child” awards created five categories, two winners in each, RJ & Producer category. The categories were:BEST PSA,BEST RJ LINK,BEST RADIO SPOT,BEST JINGLE,BEST JINGLE,MISSION INDRADHANUSH BEST RADIO SPOT
The winners will be given the awards in a special event in Mumbai and will include international exposure and interaction with radio journalists from the SAARC region.
Internationally, this week is critical for the world is celebrating World Immunization Week 2015 (24-30 April, 2015) which signals a renewed global, regional, and national effort by governments, partners and donors to accelerate awareness and demand for immunization by communities, and improve vaccination delivery services using as a framework the Global Vaccine Action Plan.
This year, on the 28th April 2015, UNICEF India in partnership with Speak For Change, my organisation and Nagrik Foundation held a two-day ‘Radio Consultation on Routine Immunisation: Mission Indradhanush’, focusing primarily on utilising radio as a medium to spread critical messages on Routine Immunisaiton.
Key stalwarts from the field of radio and media were invited to the session where each of these 21 clips were showcased.