To promote women’s participation at all levels of the life of community radios for development, many different approaches have been undertaken in different situations — through facilitators or by women or women’s groups joining forces — at times taking the form of ‘pure’ women’s community radio stations.
Three different cases for this are shared here, presenting different approaches:
- a women’s radio station initiated by an association of self-employed women in Ahmedabad in India;
- a women’s radio station reaching about 13 million people in Uganda, of Uganda Media Women’s Association (UMWA); and
- a local Radio Muthiyana (= woman) by Mozambican Association of Women in Media.
Community radio in India promotes women's progress
A women’s community radio station was in 2009 the Self Employed Women’s Association’s latest powerful step forward in support of women’s progress. Based in a village near Ahmedabad, the radio is providing access to practical information to women on relevant day-to-day issues. The initiative is generating endless opportunities for women.
One of them is Sangeeta Solanki, who was confined to household activities until she enrolled herself for SEWA's computer course, leading her to the editing table in the radio station that she is involved with, improving the quality of radio programmes to be broadcast on Rudi no Radio. SEWA’s initiative to start Rudi No Radio has made hundreds of women get access to knowledge and to turn into producers.
Several women’s community radio stations have been initiated by national women’s and media associations. The example below, from Uganda: MAMA FM is a ‘community of interest’ radio, covering large parts of the country:
101.7 MAMA FM – A women’s Community Radio in Uganda
‘MAMA FM is a community radio station set up by Uganda Media Women's Association, UMWA, to address the plight of the under privileged and minority. It is the first women radio station in Africa and third in the whole world. It covers a radius of 400 km and 13 mio. People, targeting particularly women between the active age of 15-45 and the general public. MAMA FM aims at broadcasting gender sensitive educational programmes and offering training/ practical experience for female journalists.’ On air since 1997 MAMA FM aims to use radio to ensure space for especially rural women’s voices. Research has shown that in general, the number of women speaking through radio compared to that of men is low with a ratio of only 15 women out of 100.
MAMA FM set out to redress this situation as well as the fact that women’s ‘day-to-day needs and aspirations are largely ignored and that they are therefore left behind in the development process.’ MAMA FM wishes to ‘empower society to appreciate the issues of the least heard women, children, people with disability, the youth among others, through the active use of media for sustainable development.’
In other cases, the national women’s and media association creates a geographically focused women’s community radio station, as is the case with Radio M’thyiana in Mozambique:
The Voice of the People on Radio Muthiyana - the Women’s Radio
A tiny local radio station on the outskirts of Maputo is performing miracles for local residents by giving them a voice. The local radio station Radio Muthiyana has been created by the Association of Women in Media and Communication (AMCS). From the studio in a small, insignificant house on the outskirts of Maputo, 15 volunteers ensure that listeners can get in touch with each other. The station also seeks to hold local authorities accountable for any failure to meet their obligations, give people in poor remote areas a chance to talk about their lives and problems, and make sure the locals get involved in debates on current topics such as abortion and AIDS.
"What we do is really simple, but it works. To take an example, we recorded a debate on the waste collection problems people were experiencing in this neighbourhood. We played the tape to those responsible for waste collection at the local municipality and got their comments. "Our listeners were able to hear those responsible being held to account. More importantly, the municipality went on to tarmac the rutted road that was preventing the garbage trucks from getting here," says Palmira Velasco, Managing Director of Radio Muthiyana.
The peeling walls, the holes in the concrete floor and the meagre radio transmission equipment bear witness to the fact that the voice of the people faces a constant battle to make ends meet. The station goes out of its way to lend women a voice – besides Portuguese, the country’s official language, the station also uses the local language Changana, because many women in the area are not fluent in Portuguese. To ensure involvement, also by the women who may not proactively find their way to the radio, the volunteers have also set up listener clubs for women in the nearby countryside.The women meet once a month and record discussions about their problems on tape. The tapes are picked up by volunteers from Radio Muthiyana and played for those in authority who are given an opportunity to respond. Finally, the recordings are edited and a tape of the programme is brought out to the listener groups.
These are but a few examples of initiatives to improve access of women to the voice a radio station can provide, and to bring women’s interests more prominently to the public agenda.
 Community radio promotes women's progress; 02 December 2009 in (photos from the website): http://southasia.oneworld.net/ictsfordevelopment/community-radio-promotes-womens-progress