Express yourself: asking fresh questions with Facebook Live in Nepal

Senior Producer/Stakeholder Liaison, BBC Media Action, Nepal

Social media is providing a platform for young voices in a new programme called Taja Sawal (Fresh Questions) in Nepal. The studio painted with murals by volunteers illustrates the vibrant and youthful approach to the new show. Pratibha Tuladhar speaks with the two new young presenters to get the full picture.

The walls are splashed with colour. A girl stands in the centre of the image, her arm extended, brandishing a pen. In one corner sits a crow - a bird regarded as a pariah in many societies. A monkey hangs above waves, clouds and local monuments. These scenes on the set of Taja Sawal (Fresh Questions) were painted by volunteers and are designed to capture the spirit of the new programme’s young audience: their concerns, queries, frustration, their eagerness to be heard, and their need to be seen.

A fresh start

True to its name, Taja Sawal offers a fresh take on things. It is a forum for Nepal’s youth to share their perspectives on a host of issues, including the education system, outward migration, unemployment, and corruption. There are, otherwise, few opportunities for young people to chat about these things in public.

Taja Sawal grew out of our long-running discussion programme Sajha Sawal (Common Questions)."We had always wanted to do something new to engage more with the young audience we have online - they are the most active population on the Sajha Sawal Facebook page," says Dipak Bhattarai, the editor. "We did a pilot Facebook Live show which was received very well last year."

The voice of the youth

We approached two vibrant young people Bivek Rai and Sujita Chaudhary to present the show - both are under 20. Bivek was working as a member of Sajha Sawal’s production staff and Sujita Chaudhary – an engineering student – was spotted when she asked a tough question during a Sajha Sawal episode about politicians meddling in the running of colleges.

The two presenters come from quite different backgrounds. Bivek, born in Udaypur district of eastern Nepal, comes from an indigenous ethnic group, while Sujita is from the Madheshi community, from the plains of Tarai. "I always wanted to do something like standing up for something, as I’m known for being a rebel," says Sujita. "Presenting Taja Sawal makes me feel like I finally have a platform to not just voice my own opinions but also those of others like me."

"It’s a different kind of programme because young people hardly get a chance to discuss concepts like federalism", adds Bivek. "Sujita and I basically act as moderators, but we also get chance to learn things and ask our questions in the programme when we converse with the guests and participants. And then there’s interaction with Facebook friends."

Presenters, participants and guests sit around in a semi-circle discuss subjects ranging from music and poetry to the newly-elected local representatives. The tone of the show is informal and guests freely talk about personal as well as professional issues. "It’s a free-thinking platform, where there are no boundaries. And that means boosting confidence while allowing young people to talk about their issues and increase understanding about politics," adds Bivek.

"It’s about the connection. When both presenter and the guest are young, it makes a difference."

Doing it differently

And because it is streamed live on Facebook, audience members get a chance to interact.

"Politics should be broken down and simplified. That’s why a show like this is important. Instead of just talking politics and parties, the young people need an explanation and chances to interact with leaders," says Anita Adhikari, a student, who has been a regular viewer and has posted questions to the show.

"Facebook Lives have been used by a number of forums and media organisations, and done quite at random. But Taja Sawal is entertaining and educational as well, which is why it draws someone like me to it," she adds.

Six episodes in, the viewing figures show how Taja Sawal’s popularity has grown. The latest Facebook Live currently has 164,000 views, more than doubling the online audience of the first programme.

The six Taja Sawal episodes have been viewed a total of more than 661,000 times so far– with engagement and audience figures increasing all the time.

Hosting a show together is not always easy, especially a live show. "It’s is an experiment for all of us, even our audience has not tasted such a programme before," says co-host Sujita "but times are constantly changing and I think we have a programme that has a future."

Watch this space.




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