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Helping Life-Saving Lessons Reach Marginalized Indian Communities.

This article originally appeared on the Sesame Workshop India site. Visit SesameWorkshopIndia.org to learn more about Galli Galli Sim Sim and all the wonderful work Sesame Workshop India does to improve the lives of and educate the children of India.

Millions of families in India are cut off from information that can help children grow up healthy, happy, and ready to learn. To get around the barriers that marginalize these families, Sesame Workshop India is using phones to make educational media an integral part of the community. The poor and deeply conservative village of Nagina in the Mewat district if Haryana does not have electricity. Children here have never seen a radio or TV before, let alone a Bollywood movie.

Yet there is one media source that’s breaking through in Nagina. In the evenings, children and parents gather around a mobile phone to tune in Radio Mewat, a nearby community radio station. What are they hearing? Laughter mixed with learning, as characters from Galli Galli Sim Sim talk about literacy and math lessons, as well as good nutrition and healthy habits like always washing hands before you eat.

This audacious children’s health initiative, known as RadioPhone, is the first of its kind ever in communities like Nagina. The need for health lessons is critical here, where basic knowledge of nutrition and hygiene is scarce. Each year throughout India, approximately 1.9 million children under age five die from preventable diseases.

The pilot program began in 2011 with 31 episodes of Galli Galli Sim Sim broadcast by Gurgaon Ki Awaaz (GKA), a community station in Gurgaon, accessible via FM radio and on cell phones. So far Galli Galli Sim Sim RadioPhone broadcast in Gurgaon has reached over 200,000 listeners.

In separate subprojects funded by Qualcomm and HSBC, families and classrooms use 3G-equipped phones to stream Galli Galli Sim Sim radio shows on demand and access related videos and print materials that reinforce healthy messages. Community radio broadcasts are typically limited to a radius of 10 kilometers. But streaming content enables a far larger audience and consistent access for migrant families constantly on the move.

Given the great diversity of culture and language in India, RadioPhone relies on local relevance to break through. GKA in Gurgaon broadcasts in the language of its listeners and episodes include segments featuring Chamki, the beloved star of Galli Galli Sim Sim, interviewing neighbors in the local broadcast area.

By becoming part of the community experience, RadioPhone is giving families a voice. GKA reports an enthusiastic response from listeners, who call in to offer feedback and ask questions of health experts on air. More amazingly, listeners are using the program as a forum to share community concerns such as water access issues. Women are calling in to the show as well, a sign we’re making in-roads where other media cannot.

To understand where our efforts can have the biggest impact, we’re also bringing the program to life in 10 schools with “Healthy Habits” educational materials and curriculum guidance for teachers, with support from HSBC Bank.

Next for RadioPhone: nine more community stations, anticipated to reach over 1.5 million new listeners, and an expanded curriculum, with 60 new episodes on literacy and math now in the works. By combining local radio, mobile technology and engaging Sesame education, we’re delivering critical information to families whose health may depend on it.

Partners

Schwab Charitable Trust, Qualcomm, The Restoring Force (HSBC)

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