By Stephanie Sandoval
Ambassador Jeanne M. Maloney launched the “American Voices” radio show on University of Eswatini (UNESWA) FM 88.2, the newest radio station in Eswatini, March 31.
Embassy Eswatini’s public affairs section awarded a grant to UNESWA to stand up the radio station, run by youth for youth, in exchange for a once-weekly “American Voices” radio program that will cover topics of Mission interest like: women’s empowerment, Education USA, media literacy, American culture, and more.
Only two other radio stations broadcast in Eswatini—a country of 1.1 million people—so this medium is ripe for development. The “American Voices” program airs weekly during prime listening spots, serving as a vehicle for the embassy to reach young people and a diverse range of non-urban Swati communities.
This program reaches an important demographic for the Mission—young people, who are rarely the focus of media forums outside of social media—giving them a platform to engage in dialogue on social, economic, and cultural issues. It also bolsters the journalism program at UNESWA, contributing to developing a more professional corps of journalists. Journalism students have full responsibility for program production, content, and curation. They will use the station as a training ground to develop skills in reporting, interviewing, researching, investigation, and broadcast production that will catapult them into successful careers in journalism.
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned public diplomacy programs upside down, and it has created a heavy reliance on social media for most outreach. In Eswatini, this has exacerbated the divide between (relatively wealthy) urban youth and others. In a country where less than a quarter of the population lives in urban centers, audiences are limited enormously.
Radio is still accessible and hugely important for reaching a broad audience of young people. Plus, this station will integrate social media into programming to make it even more accessible.
Embassy Eswatini live-streamed the launch event on its Facebook page in March, which included remarks from Maloney in support of the project. Maloney followed the launch event with a live radio interview on UNESWA FM—setting the bar high as the first special guest for the radio station.
Stephanie Sandoval is the public affairs officer at Embassy Eswatini.