By: Natasha Burley, Development Outreach and Communications Specialist for USAID/Madagascar

During the month of May, the United States Government, led by the State Department, will host youth engagement programs throughout Africa to showcase the efforts of young African leaders, to engage with them in discussions about current challenges on the continent, and to help them discover ways to bring about positive change.

Youth debate during the taping of the show. Photo Credit: USAID/Madagascar

The month of Dialogue is part of an ongoing engagement with young Africans stemming from the August 2010 President’s Forum with Young African Leaders and follow-on events, with future high-level youth engagement activities and programs on the continent planned.

To learn more about the dialogue, visit the State Department of African Affairs’ Facebook page, Twitter, and other social media platforms that allow young Africans and Americans, entrepreneurs and business leaders, to exchange ideas on an array of topics.

The following is a blog post that highlights USAID’s work with youth in Madagascar.

“Kozy Liberty” (which means to “talk liberty” in Malagasy) is a monthly TV show aimed at encouraging youth civic engagement and open dialogue. It is produced by RTA, one of Madagascar’s largest private television channels and the most popular amongst youth. The show, aired on a monthly basis, has a subject that impacts youth and that encourages them to debate.

This month’s debate was on volunteering and what it means to be a volunteer and to give of your time in today’s society. Peace Corps Volunteers came to speak in Malagasy about their work, and why they have volunteered to come for two years to Madagascar. In addition, community health volunteers from USAID-funded PSI health program came to discuss the importance of volunteering. PSI sent six experienced peer educators youth to participate in the debate. The filming was a huge success, with vibrant, animated debates.

Young people take a side to the argument and then debate the issue on the show, using creative methods to make their points:  incorporating music, dance, interviewing experts or people on the streets, etc. The show has a SMS component for youth to participate in the debate by texting in their opinions/arguments with the most impressive argument sent in via text winning a prize.

The debate highlighted what involved, committed and energetic Malagasy youth are doing through USAID programs. It was a great opportunity for Malagasy youth to discuss the issue of volunteerism – a concept quite foreign for most.

This is the first youth debate program to air on Malagasy television and the production costs are being entirely covered by the station.  Underlining the importance the station gave to the program, it was slotted into the most popular time slot on Malagasy TV, Saturday evenings.

Watch Kozy Liberty on YouTube.