In the silk producing district of Rajshahi in Bangladesh, a new voice has arrived. Residents recently heard the opening broadcast of Radio Padma 99.2FM, the first of the fourteen community radio stations planned for the country.
In the villages of Nepal, the community radio programme Sajha Awaj (common voice) allows discussions on issues of importance to the women of the community through transmission to more than 160 community radio stations. The programme is produced by the Association of Community Radio Broadcasters Nepal (ACORAB), a grantee of UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality. The programme delves into issues ranging from addressing cultural malpractices faced by rural women — such as being shunned during their monthly menstrual cycle — to women’s role in local politics and building a local motorway which is essential for rural women traders.
(Hear more about the programme from UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality Asia Manager, Caroline Horekens.)
In Latin America, organizations like Puntos de Encuentro in Nicaragua and Asociacion de Comunicadores Sociales Calandria and Movimiento Manuela Ramos in Peru, provide critical public forums for discussions on effective ways to end violence against women, on women’s access to justice and legal support through radio programming. Radio projects also form an important channel of information in post-conflict Iraq and Nepal. These initiatives are supported by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, managed by UN Women. Established in 1996, the Fund is the only multilateral grant-making mechanism exclusively devoted to supporting efforts to end violence against women and girls.
All these efforts have one thing in common — the power of the radio. According to UNESCO, radio can be found in the homes of 75 percent of the world population. For billions of people living in rural areas, or as urban poor, access to information is limited. Disconnected from the information gateway due to poverty, low literacy, limited electricity connections and access to communication technologies such as computers and internet, radio is often the only medium available. Run on batteries, lightweight, mobile and inexpensive, the popularity of the radio medium remains high, amongst the six billion people who have access to it worldwide.
Community radio uses the power of the medium, but redefines it to give a voice to the most marginalized communities. It creates a non-commercial platform, where ordinary people in rural communities, often the women of the community, own and produce the content they hear on the radio.
(Hear about community radio and women from Bianca Miglioretto, Trainer and AMARC-Women’s International Network Board Member.)
To expand the dialogue on women’s rights and to ensure that the voices of rural women are heard at the international level, UN Women is expanding its advocacy efforts through community radio. This will include innovative radio partnerships such as with the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, the leading international network of over 4000 community radio organizations. Providing glimpses into economic empowerment, leadership, and sustainable development efforts, this new communications partnership will explore issues that define the lives of rural women and their communities, and how they are creating change worldwide.