Listening for Change: Fisseha’s Story

Wednesday 6 December 2017

When Jillian Farrar, Communication Specialist with Save the Children Australia, last visited Save the Children’s Radio Listening Group Program in Ethiopia’s Amhara National Regional State, she documented the stories of many participants across a range of age groups. Jillian said she was exceptionally fascinated and touched by the mature accounts of a young boy and writes his story.

Fisseha Zenawi, 12, is a participant in the youth listening group in his village of Kossoye in North Gondar zone. The listening group is part of Save the Children’s Radio Listening Program within the larger Improving Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) project in the Amhara National Regional State.

Fisseha said the most important thing about the program was that it has taught him he should respect girls and women. “Before the radio program, we used to harass girls by calling them all sorts of bad things,” he said with such a tiny voice, like he was ashamed. “We used to harass girls who were married at an early age because we did not know they were forced into marriage by their parents and that it was not their wish,” he added. Fisseha raised his voice soon after and said “But now we respect them. We understand they deserve more respect than us, because they are women.”

Fisseha knew nothing about problems related to rape and home birth. He said, “Through the radio lessons and discussions among our listening group, we have acquired in-depth knowledge about these issues. The program teaches us that newborn babies should get breast milk. When mothers in our community asked us about when a newborn baby should start getting breast milk, we tell them the baby should get it within an hour of birth. We know all these things from our radio lessons.”

There are listening groups for all parts of the community – youth, women and men. They all talk about the lessons in a different way and take different responsibilities. It is interesting to see how different – and similar – their approaches are. There is a lot of community ownership. They have taken it on as their own.

Save the Children’s Improving Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) project aimed to reduce the maternal, infant and child mortality rates in Amhara National Regional State in Ethiopia. The project worked in partnership with the Ethiopian Government to help communities reduce child and maternal deaths by improving the accessibility and understanding of MNCH services. The project also aimed to reduce the number of early marriages, by advocating for marriages to be delayed until after the age of 18 years. The project operated from 2013 to 2017, in 106 Kebeles (villages) in three Woredas (districts).