Liberia tunes into women’s voices
Date: 29 February 2016
Today the announcer has decided not to go by the script. She hesitates. Her hands grip the microphone and she looks down. But her voice comes out loud and clear.
“I hesitate to say this. I ask myself: ‘do I tell my story well as a survivor of sexual abuse?’ I want to use this platform because if we as survivors are not ready to tell the story the way it should be told then people will not understand the suffering of people who experience rape.
“I was eight years old when I was raped. I was hungry and the only person who was willing to give me food was someone who wanted something in exchange. In that exchange I lost esteem, my psychological well-being and since then I never really saw myself as worth anything more than a plate of rice. This is why I do the work that I do.”
Women’s voices and women’s issues are often the last on the media’s agenda—if at all. But at Liberia Women Democracy Radio, 91.1 FM, women have been broadcasting their issues in their way since August 2010.
For the station’s founder and President of the Liberia Women Media Action Committee, Estella Nelson, women-controlled airwaves are a powerful platform for ensuring women’s issues make it onto the national agenda.
“We have been striving over the years to ensure that women’s voices are amplified in our governance structures and national debates. It’s an irony because I tell people, I am not a journalist, I am social worker, but I understand the power of the media to bring change,” she said.
Sitting behind the microphone in a large and modern studio is Ladymai Hunter Summon. She has been both a producer and a project officer since 2010.
“There are many issues that affect women in Liberia and until we come on the radio and create that level of awareness, decision-makers will not hear us,” she says. “Women need to come on the radio and make sure that their issues are broadcast for national decision-makers to take action. If we keep shying away, then I am afraid that things will not work out for us.”
Some of the issues on the radio’s current programme schedule are advocating for women’s propositions to be included as part of the constitutional review process, educating the community about violence against women and girls, including early child marriage and the Sustainable Development Goals.
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka visited and was interviewed by Liberia Women Democracy Radio in their brand new studios during her visit to Liberia on 27 February.
“I would like to thank (Liberia Women Democracy Radio) for providing information that is in the best interests of women because there is a lot of information that is not customized for women, especially for women in rural areas… women need a radio station like this,” said the Executive Director.
Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted the importance of having a women’s radio station for the upcoming elections because it will provide opportunities for women candidates to be heard and for gender and women’s issues to be on the campaign agenda.
Liberia Women Democracy Radio was launched by Liberia Women Media Action Committee in 2010 with support from UN Women’s predecessor organization, UNIFEM, and funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF). In 2011, when funding ended, the station adopted several strategies to become sustainable and in 2015 moved to its own building, some of which was funded through station sales.