Radio in Yemen is a small industry despite its relevance as an important means of communication throughout the rest of the Arab world. However, one group of young Yemenis at Radio Shabab Net radio station hope to expand radio throughout the country in an effort not only to provide entertainment for youth, but to educate and unite them.
Radio Shaba Net was started in 2008 with the help of the Equal Access Organization; an international NGO which believes in the right of information and its broader out reach as a necessary tool for development.Despite the low use of radio in the country, the young team of twenty individuals are creating and airing several radio programs in an effort to expand its use throughout the country.
So far, the response to Radio Shabab Net has been positive, especially from the expat communities in Yemen as well as neighboring Arab countries. Many are surprised at the professional way it is managed, especially when people learn it is run by a group of people in their 20s.
For the small team of the station’s directors, they find that the success of their work serves as a vital role for the development of Yemen.
“We feel that through radio, we are able to freely address any situation we see in our community” said Feiruz Ali, a Program host at ShababNet. The radio seeks to not only comment on the every day life of Yemen, but also to influence the more important, pressing aspects of Yemeni culture, such as early marriage.
It is not uncommon to find the team trolling the streets, seeking out the opinions of the everyday Yemeni people to reflect the current attitudes and ideas of Yemen.
The Manager of Shabab, Mohammed Al-Selwi, explained that they hoped to provide a direct means for youth to participate in the shaping of Yemeni society “cutting out the necessity to wait for long bureaucratic or governmental action that is usually inefficient or tardy anyway,” Al Selwi continued, “we hope that these programs will incite youth to collaborate together in order to solve today’s problems.”
“I find it thrilling that the radio has give the normal teenager the opportunity to broadcast and express his or her thoughts,” said Shereen Al-Aghbari, assistant manager and program representative for Al-Shabab.
Shabab net has gone beyond just traditional programming and also offers training from leading experts in presentation skills, drama-writing as well as technical consultations. This includes a drama show every Thursday that is open to the public, generally composed of Sana’a University students. Through this, Shabab net has not only served as tool for the development ofYemen, but of the staff themselves.
Feiruz Ali, a program host, admitted that the radio program has completely changed her personality, particularly in terms of her self-confidence. “I am not longer afraid to stand in front of the public and deliver a speech. I now strongly believe in my ability to achieve my goals.”
Despite their success, unfortunately it has gone largely unheard of. Many youth claim they have never heard of the radio station or any of its programs. The staff points out that it is because at the moment they are only able to stream the radio online, as opposed to the more traditional means of FM radio waves.
With its online only presence, the staff expressed that it is unlikely to be used frequently because “people use slow connections at cafes which would slow their connection if their original purpose was to research or chat for example,” said Al-Selwi.
However, there are positives of online streaming, it does give the radio access to people in different parts of the country, or even outside of Yemen, and not just Sana’a.
In the near future, Al-Shabab will start services on FM radio, which will greatly expand its reach to people who are not just internet users, but people in their homes, shops, and cars. They also expect to be in a better condition to gain influence and popularity with Yemeni Youth.
Yet to do this, the staff acknowledges a lot of hard work remains, but they are more than ready for the task. Feiruz added emphatically, “It’s not as simple as one might think, but we enjoy it!”