It’s early in the morning, you just made a nice cup of coffee and while you’re making breakfast, the radio is playing the latest news. With a quarter of your attention you’re listening, with another quarter you're enjoying that coffee, and with the remaining half you're taking care of your oatmeal.
Radio has become one of the many luxuries in our conflict-free and wealthy societies. It’s hard to imagine that this phenomenon, providing a soothing background to our other activities, can still mean the difference between life and death in countries where safety is not at all guaranteed. But it does! Celebrate World Radio Day 2016 with us and read about 5 of our projects and how they impact people's lives.
1. Radio saves lives in Sudan
Radio empowers listeners and allows humanitarian workers and rescuers to protect people. Even though most media don't pay so much attention anymore to the conflict in Sudan, people are still depending heavily on radio as a way to manage their safety. The Sudanese station Radio Tamazuj (meaning: across borders) broadcasts in the conflict area on the Sudan and South Sudan border area. Thanks to the shortwave (SW) frequencies used by Radio Tamazuj, this station is the only one covering the whole region.
Tamazuj provides local news and information to the Abyei, South-Kordofan and Blue Nile states and the surrounding areas. The radio channel is an important and valuable source of information. It broadcasts local news made by local reporters, who grew up and still live in the area. The website with English coverage gives international media, diplomats and aid workers the opportunity to be informed about the local situation.
2. Freedom of expression in Iraq
Responding to emergencies is easier and more transparent when there is freedom of expression and journalists can do their work while remaining safe. Freedom of expression is not available for everyone. After 2003, women's rights in Iraq deteriorated, followed by different wars and international sanctions against the country. In rural areas, women cannot attend school any longer. The amount of child marriages increased. In schools girls are required to wear headscarves. Men forbid male doctors to treat their women.
Although the actual situation for Iraqi women is grim, Bushra Al Ameen has hope for the future. She is the co-founder and executive director of Bo Peshawa, an Iraqi NGO focusing on women's rights and information sharing, and partner of Free Press Unlimited. Last year Bo Peshawa was relocated from Baghdad to Erbil, due to security issues. The NGO has been setting up a new safe online radio space, called Takalami (Speak Out!) where women can keep sharing their experiences, in the midst of the country's difficulties. “Radio is an important tool to rebuild Iraq,” says Bushra. “Through our radio live radio programmes we have gained a lot of information on society's and women's needs. Moreover, through these programmes women can voice their needs and opinions. Sharing experiences is very important, especially in the rural areas, since it connects women working at home. ”
3. Social impact and access to information in South Sudan
Radio has the ability to raise awareness to the greatest number of people in the quickest possible time. In South Sudan, civil war and resurging tribal wars still cause many conflicts. But the very popular radio soap Sawa Shabab is still going strong. Sawa shabab means: youth together. The cast of the radio soap consists of young people from various ethnic groups. They bridge the gap of suspicion and hostility. They work together, dance together and forge friendships. The broadcasts are translated into Arab, English, Dinka and Nuer. As a result, most people in South Sudan can understand the radio broadcasts. The series theme song has become a hit in the charts.
Sawa Shabab is about four young people from South Sudan who, despite their differences and mutual suspicions, become peacemakers in their communities. They are faced with problems and traumas the listeners can relate to: poverty, fights between ethnic groups and inequality of men and women. Apart from that, topics such as school, friendship, family, love and future ambitions are addressed. All of this takes place in a society where war is ever present and tangible. “Initially this was new and a little awkward”, says Hannah Rounding, project manager of Sawa Shabab. “But by now the cast has become very close. Their cooperation shows that a peaceful society is possible.”
4. Access to radio in times of emergency in Bangladesh
The immediate accessibility of radio frequencies is essential to saving lives in times of emergency. Borendro is one of the many local community radio stations, managed by our partner Bangladesh NGO'S Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC). On a very basic level and in times of emergency, radio stations like these are very important. For instance, when bad weather is predicted, the radio stations take on the emergency alarm role and warns people to leave before being surprised by floods.
Bangladesh is a country where a large part of the more than 160 million inhabitants have trouble reading and writing. The state media focuses mainly on the capital city of Dhaka. Here, small local radio stations are the only ones that do manage to reach all far-off corners of the country. Thanks to these radio stations, isolated farming communities have access to relevant and reliable information and are represented in the national media as well.
5. Empowerment of vulnerable people in Nepal
Radio is a powerful medium before, during and after an emergency or a disaster. Radio in Nepal is about the only source of information, for a majority of the, often illiterate, people in the country. The Nepalese organisation, and partner of Free Press Unlimted, Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists(NEFEJ) has established about 100 radio stations. The most important one is Radio Sagarmatha, that was damaged by the earthquake in April 2015 but continued to broadcast. They are currently building a new earthquake-proof transmitter, thanks to a donation from a major sponsor of Free Press Unlimited.
Nepal is a very poor country, where many young girls will be forced by their families into child marriage. Awareness among parents is the starting point to change this situation. With this goal, Sagarmatha produces a popular radio play about child marriage. Together with Sagarmatha, Free Press Unlimited also initiated a kids news programme called Naya Pusta. When the famous Dutch model Doutzen Kroes visited Nepal, she was interviewed by Naya Pusta and talked about the role of radio in raising awareness about child marriage: