Today, February 13th is the World Radio day – a day set aside by UNESCO to celebrate radio broadcast, improve international cooperation among radio broadcasters and encourage decision-makers to create and provide access to information through radio, including community radios. From time immemorial, radios have been used to pass information to the general public. Even during wars of the early centuries and times when technological advancements were not as sophisticated as they are today, radios were very common and widely used to broadcast news and disseminate information. Today, radios are much more than communication gadgets. They are hubs of entertainment and art expressions. They are key agents of social change and a channel for education. They are also mediums through which culture is transmitted among peoples of various nationalities and races, across continents.
In today’s edition of World Radio day 2020, I would like to celebrate by shedding to light on ways in which the radio has been used to empower women and foster social change in recent times.
Radios are more common than televisions or mobile phones in the rural areas because they are affordable and cheaper to maintain. From time to time, big organizations like UNICEF, WHO and UNESCO have used radio as a means to educate people (especially those in Africa, India and other Third World countries) on the importance of female education, the rights of women to access, choose and use contraceptives and reasons why female genital mutilation should be discouraged. During the Boko Haram crises that led to the demolition of many classrooms and death of teachers in 2017, UNICEF helped create a safe learning environment for children and they were able to convince the people to send their children back to school via radio.
Also, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in partnership with Population Media Center (PMC) have ensured the wide broadcast of a radio soap opera designed to increase public knowledge around family planning, HIV/AIDS, adolescent reproductive health, women’s education, and gender-based violence. This is the use of radio for edutainment purposes in order to empower women, educate the general public and help promote social change.
The BBC world service also promotes gender equality and social change in partnership with African radio stations through radio play series, talk shows and programs broadcast weekly on national and local radio stations all over cities in Africa. These programs and plays are always interesting, suspenseful and woven with key messages that promote women empowerment.
Apart from the efforts of corporations and big organizations, well meaning individuals like Ms.Onyinye Edeh, the founder of the Strong Enough Girls initiative. Onyinye, a fellow of the Institute of Current Affairs (ICWA) organized a show to explore issues that encourage child marriage, hinder education and affect lives in Nigeria. The radio discussion focused on the links between women’s education and employment, stereotypes about women in male-dominated fields, vice versa, and the role of the government in making things better.
Some other team of resource persons – Birgitte Jallov (works with community radio for empowerment & social change in Africa, Asia & Europe), Rebecca Sako-John of the League of Democratic Women (LEADS), Nigeria, Stephanie Guyer-Stevens of OuterVoices, David Kwesi Ghartey-Tagoe -(Station Manger of Radio Peace, Ghana), Sharon Lamwaka (Executive Director of the Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence), Bassem Samir (Editor in Chief of elma7rosa radio, Egypt) and Daoud Kuttab – (Community Media Network, Jordan) have also lent their voices to creating dialogues and making cases on the importance of community radio in effecting social change and making gender parity a reality.
The success of these radio programs and many of these talk shows and discussions would not have been made possible without the OAPs who take their time to carefully understand, dissect and help deliver on these issues. OAPs who believe in gender equality are usually the ones who are at the forefront of promoting and presenting such programs geared towards educating the general public on what gender equality is all about. I celebrate them specially for the good they do in their own way to ensure a world free of gender bias and discrimination against women.
As we celebrate World Radio day, I am proud to be alive in a generation where the radio is more than just something people tune into for the news. The reality of how it is also a tool that can be used to change the negative perceptions and stereotypes that people have had for years gladdens my heart and gives me hope. People are being reached out to. People are listening and learning. They are growing. They are evolving and some day gender equality will be a reality all over the world because people use the radio to educate, enlighten and promote this good cause.