Interview with Brigitte Alepin from "Radio-Dodo"
UNESCO is pleased to make the audio and text of this interview available copy-right free for the celebration of World Radio Day 2019. Radio stations are especially encouraged to broadcast the interview, either in its totality or by exacting the answers and announcing the questions themselves.
UNESCO spoke to Ms. Brigitte Alepin, a renowned and influential tax specialist and writer whose expertise is sought by governments, NGOs and private companies. Brigitte was trained at Harvard and then returned to the Université du Québec à Montréal. She keeps Syria close to her heart, as well as the name of her paternal family from Aleppo. This led to her wanting to help people displaced by the armed conflict, especially children. A friend told her about the magic of radio and its ability to cross borders. It was enough for her to find free time and found Radio-Dodo of which she is both the soul and the lighthouse.
Q. Thank you very much Brigitte Alepin for being with us today to tell us about World Radio Day 2019. You have founded a radio initiative for child victims of wars called "Radio-Dodo", can you tell us one more about this project?
Radio-Dodo is a radio for children who are victims of all forms of violence. The idea is to accompany them in the evening at the time of the dodo to try to help make them sweet dreams and try to make them forget their worries, the atmosphere of violence. Radio-Dodo is preparing a radio program that lasts an hour with tales, stories. Each radio has a theme and tries to reach as many children as possible. We prepare three weekly programs each week, one in French, one in English and one in Arabic so children can choose the program according to the language spoken.
Q. What motivated you to start this project?
I was born in Quebec, as can be guessed by my accent. In 2004, I left for a long trip with my family, to Syria to see the city of Aleppo, hence my name, Alepin, from the city of Aleppo. It is important for me to show my son the city of our origins. My grandfather was from Aleppo. My son played with children from Aleppo. Even though I was not veiled and my son is from Quebec, there were no differences. The children welcomed my son as if they were one of them forever. When the conflicts broke out, I felt a pain, the need to help, a huge need never felt before, that there was an injustice in life, that the children with whom he had played were stuck in this conflict while we in Quebec, we were safe. From there came this need to help, visceral. As long as I did not find a way to help, I did not feel well. To give back to the children the love they gave us in Aleppo.
Q. Why did you choose radio to help these children? What is the contribution of these programs in their lives?
In 2011, when conflicts broke out, I looked for a way to help. I attended meetings at the World Bank where we discussed how to allocate large aids of hundreds of millions. I have found that when there are big conflicts, it is difficult for people who are stuck in these conflicts, especially children, to help them because when the war is there and it is very dangerous, international organizations are not going to put the lives of their employees in jeopardy to return to major conflict zones. It was important for me to help there, not just refugees who also needed help, but to help children stranded in conflict. I had a good friend who told me about a radio project he was working on, he said that radio played an important role in war because it crosses borders. I instantly thought of an international radio for children who find themselves together as a family, through radio.
We hope that this radio will become part of their habits, of their lives, that they will have the reflex to listen to a Radio-Dodo program by going to bed, that for them it becomes a place to take refuge when they feel uncomfortable.
Q. What is the contribution of radio to promote understanding and tolerance of refugees?
Radio-Dodo is a politically and religiously neutral radio program totally aimed at children. We do not make any difference between children. We believe that all children deserve to be comforted at the time of the bedtime, especially children who are victims of war or violence. In this sense, we are launching, I hope, a message of inclusion, tolerance and love for all children. I think that children, their parents and all the people who listen to Radio-Dodo can feel that we do not make differences. We do not know which country the children come from and we invite people who listen to us to make no difference either. Children inherit love and comfort. It is not important to know where they come from, what color they are, what religion they belong to, they are our children and we must protect them.
Q. I imagine that since the creation of Radio-Dodo, the programs have covered stories with various topics. Is there one that has focused particularly on gender equality?
No, we do not deal with this type of subject in programs. We try to avoid any question about gender equality. Our programs are aimed at children between 4 and 10 years old. However, our message with regard to gender equality is strong, especially this year; three little girls animate Radio-Dodo. Alice for French programs, in English by Francesca who is 9 years old and in Arabic by Raaf who is 10 years old. Giving the microphone to three girls doing exceptional work sends a message that does not need more comments than that.
Q. The theme of World Radio Day 2019 is "Dialogue, Tolerance and Peace". What would be your message for this day?
My personal message is very simple. If it is true that one has only one life to live, why not choose to live it in an environment of dialogue, tolerance and peace. I feel that life is more pleasant in these circumstances. We can do international things to promote dialogue, tolerance and peace, but start in our own families, in our own environment, to do it. This is a good way to practice to perhaps be more effective subsequently at the international level. Radio is obviously a good way, a good medium for dialogue between us internationally even if in some regions it is not accessible because there is no internet. This will always be an extremely important way to understand and interact with each other.
Thank you very much Brigitte for your testimony and for all this information on this very beautiful initiative!