One headset, one microphone and several youth voices
A few years ago, Laetitia made a decision that changed the course of her life. She carefully stored away all her geometric and rectilinear drawings of houses and apartments to-be and set sail for journalism.
“My passion wasn't in plans and building houses, as much as I loved arts,” she says “It was in being the voice of those that could not be heard… Yes, I changed my path drastically, but I finally found what I had always wanted.”
Since she was at school, Laetitia was curious. She asked questions about everything and anything. She wanted to learn as much as her brain could retain and soon developed a taste for reporting and investigative journalism. With the encouragement of her teachers, she started carving her way to a new career that blends her skills, her passion and her determination to help people in her community with whatever means she has.
“Like every person on earth, I have always been searching for my happiness. I came to realize that I could only find it if I was benefitting the people around me. And the best way to do that for me was to do what I love and what I am good at the most.
To be realistic… I really only had two choices: either to leave the country and seek opportunities elsewhere – just like most of the Lebanese youth do – or to stay and fight to make a change. I chose the latter – the more difficult option,” says Laetitia.
So Laetitia stayed in Lebanon. Her community engagement relied on her journalism background. The reality is that many young people in Lebanon believe that no matter how much they speak out they may not be able to make a difference. Laetitia believed in the power of civil society to change the status quo, and became herself an activist. She only needed a headset and a radio broadcasting platform.
“We all know how big the effect of media can be on people,” says Laetitia. “Yet the media means are not always used properly. We often see entertainment programs, or some political discussions, aired during prime time, but we almost never see programs that feature youth or address their problems. This irritates me. That is why I did not hesitate in May 2017 to join the team of young journalists who would prepare and host a UNESCO radio show on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) called Chabab wa Tanmiya* (youth and development) and targeted at young people.
We not only transmit youth problems to our listeners, but we also highlight the solutions that help the community. We want people to be aligned to SDGs and to broaden their awareness of them.
Every week in our show, we give the mic to youth and other people working on youth issues. We do vox pops, interviews, news reports…. We dig deep into different topics to inspire civil society and to discuss solutions we can work on together. We want our content to be accurate and to come from the source. Offering a space for self-expression is key for us. Our audience is growing by the day. It is gratifying.”
Laetitia is one of the 1.6 million youth who make up over 27% of the population of Lebanon. She is today one of the 12% young Lebanese activists, volunteering to transform their communities.
“It is true that I have throughout the years become an advocate for youth voices to be heard. It is also true that what I am doing now is nothing compared to what is really needed for youth situation in Lebanon to get a boost. But I will keep going and adapting to circumstances so I can make some change in my community, no matter how small that might be, because everything we do for our community is significant.”
Laetitia El Haddad (Lebanon) is a journalist. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Communication, and is now pursuing her graduate studies in International Relations & Mediterranean Studies. She has experience in press and broadcast journalism, and has recently developed and hosted a radio show about SDGs, set in collaboration with UNESCO and under NET-MED Youth in Lebanon. Follow @LaetitiaLHaddad
Activities building skills among youth organizations and young journalists; to enhance youth representation in media and promote freedom of expression, media and information literacy and youth-generated media content.
Activities joining youth organizations, employment experts and different national stakeholders to engage in dialogue and work together on unemployment solutions and skills needs.
Activities empowering youth to participate in the communal and national development, revision and implementation of national youth strategies and public policies.