Women’s Radio: by and for Nepal’s ‘didis’

Women’s issues rule the air-waves in  FM friendly Nepal. Nepal is the only country in South Asia that can boast of five all-women radio stations.

Nepal had countless Private FM radio stations in 2007, but Kamala Kadel was the first woman who fully owned and operated ‘Radio Purvanchal’ entirely staffed  by women.  She was a pioneer when she started Radio Purvanchal.

“Although women had long been working in the media sector of Nepal, they had no access to the decision-making level until we started Radio Purvanchal,” said Kamala Kadel.  “I was the first woman to be a station manager of a radio station and nowadays, other radio stations have also started having woman as station managers.”

According to her, Radio Purvanchal, based in Biratnagar, has more than a million listeners in eastern Nepal and employs 14 women.

Kadel said, “There were many issues and problems faced by women in general, especially domestic violence, but they were too shy to come forward and speak. So we decided to use radio as a medium for empowerment of women by creating an avenue for them to express their issues and problems.  Many women do not know about their rights.”

Since 2007, five other women-run radio stations with a focus on women’s issues and challenges have been established.

One has reached as far as Jumla, one of the most remote parts of the country. Started in July 2011, Nari Aawaj FM transmits 10 hours of programmes every day, reaching more than 100,000 listeners in Jumla and its surrounding districts.

“Women are not usually treated and paid equally even if they perform as well as their male counterparts. This tendency encouraged us to start our own radio station,” said Gauri Kathayat, Chairwoman Nari Aawaj FM.

Kathayat said, “The literacy rate among women is very low in our area and they have to work as long as 18 hours a day. Many do not know about their rights. We have been broadcasting awareness programmes for them through our radio. Importance of getting citizenship cards is one of the issues we have been consistently raising.”

Radio Udayapur, based in the district of the same name in southeastern Nepal, provides legal advice to women as part of its programming.

Vandana Dhanuwar who runs a programme called Nyaya ko Khoji.

Vandana Dhanuwar who runs a programme called Nyaya ko Khoji.

“We run a programme called ‘NyayakoKhoji’ (Search for Justice) where women send us their issues and we provide them with legal advice,” said station manager Vandana Danuwar.  “Getting legal advice otherwise can be a costly and difficult thing for women.” Her station reaches about 200,000 listeners and employs an all-female staff of 14.

In general, having women in management has meant more air time for issues of particular concern to women, as well as services and events specifically targeting them.

“In 2011, a woman was accused of witchcraft and physically abused and there was no one to speak for her. We broadcasted about the incident and held a meeting with the chief district officer, deputy superintendent of police and a government lawyer, demanding justice for her. She was finally able to get justice for the crimes committed against her,” said Kadel, of Radio Purvanchal.

“Accusations of witchcraft, crimes committed against women for not bringing enough dowry in marriage, and rights of physically disabled women are some of the major issues we raise through our radio,” Kalpana Chapagain, who chairs the Board of Directors of Radio Didi Bahini in Parbat district.

Radio Didi Bahini has garnered the Vocational Award from Rotary Nepal and regularly receives donations from Nepalese living abroad who listen through online streaming. “We organise two women’s festivals annually and get more than 100,000 participants,” Chapagain said.

“When we started Didi Bahini radio, many people said this female-run radio would not last long,” Chapagain said. “But nowadays people have a feeling that if women are given the responsibility, they can do a wonderful job.”

Besides providing a platform for increasing treatment of women’s issues in the media, the radio stations have conveyed a positive message about women’s capabilities.

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Posted by on May 9, 2013. Filed under DEVELOPMENT,Nepal. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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