Action Alert

Hearing Women’s Voices: Engendering Radio for Social Justice

Hearing Women’s Voices: Engendering Radio for Social Justice
A local radio station hosts women refugees from Conakry to discuss the problems they face. Côte d'Ivoire. Photo by Ami Vitale/World Bank

Today women are working harder than ever to create social change and achieve social justice — and local radio is a helpful tool. Nationally and internationally, there are many radio stations that support women’s social action.

Nisaa FM, which started broadcasting from the West Bank town of Ramallah, launched one of the first all-women's radio stations in the Arab world. The station’s objective is not only to entertain women but inform them as well, giving women that live in conflict areas a way to stay connected. Free and open radio and internet programming, including farm programming and women’s social issues programming, benefits everyone.

In the United States, local women’s radio programming includes the program “Joy of Resistance: Multicultural Feminist Radio at WBAI.” It airs Thursdays from 9-10 p.m. The show covers many women’s issues such as mandatory minimum sentencing, women in unions and women’s roles in politics. Another WBAI program, called “From the Women’s Desk,” is hosted by The WBAI Women's Collective and airs on the first Thursday of the month. The Women’s Collective is a “unique multicultural gathering place for shared women’s voices … open to all WBAI female producers, listeners and community activists, the programs allow for learning and training for women with a passion for social issues.”

In Fiji, femLINKPACIFIC is a media initiative for women networks that supports women’s radio. femLINKPACIFIC  developed and applied ways to exchange information for women throughout their country. “In 2004, femLINKPACIFIC established a women’s mobile community radio station, femTALK 89.2FM. This radio-station-in-a-suitcase has been taken out to rural and semi-urban women around Fiji, providing them with an opportunity to speak on issues concerning them while also allowing them to suggest how these issues could be resolved. femTALK 89.2FM was a bold move because it challenged the status quo of existing decision-making structures in Fiji by enabling women to speak openly on common matters and, crucially, it also involved young women.”


In Ecuador there is a radio station run by women who are incarcerated. “The women of the ‘Palabra Libre’ radio station, produce, edit and conduct shows every week, which cover topics ranging from sexuality to environmental issues to technological innovations. We have projects among the girls that are about to be released: To create a microbusiness. To reinsert ourselves in the labor market by ourselves.” provides women with many educational, businesses, entertainment, sports, and political radio shows that can also be downloaded as podcasts. has provided an online and radio platform whose goal, according to the organization’s mission statement, is to: “educate, advocate, inform, and entertain through a variety of feminist lenses. Feminism represents a transnational, progressive movement to end patriarchy/sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression. We are committed to women’s empowerment and share an understanding that the oppression of women is rooted in patriarchy, racism and classism. We provide the tools necessary to implement feminist analysis and action via interviews, commentaries, performances, news, open dialogues and other features involving activists, intellectuals, and artists, etc.” is broadcast on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. on 90.7 FM Los Angeles, 98.7 FM Santa Barbara, 99.5 FM Ridgecrest/China Lake, and 93.7 FM San Diego. Podcasts can also be downloaded on the website.

Other online resources include:, for women in Jakarta, the women for women network, and

Fighting Social Injustice

Among the biggest problems in the world right now is human trafficking, which accounts for 12.3 million women and children forced into bonded labor and prostitution. Women also endure social injustices like being underpaid in the workforce, a huge economic gap for the four out of ten mothers who are the primary breadwinners in the family.

Radio and especially local community radio stations can provide women with basic information to start social change, and provide the less educated with basic knowledge. Local community radio broadcasts aim to provide women in impoverished countries with access to basic information. Community radio needs to be supported nationally and internationally and not viewed as third tier media. The World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) has established Communication Rights and Public Voices: Strengthening Community Radio, an “initiative to increase the number of communities benefitting from new, stronger and more inclusive community radio in order to advance democratic participation and active citizenship of marginalized people and communities. WACC is seeking project partners in the Global South to build on efforts to develop community radio so that more communities, especially in rural areas and areas where community radio is relatively new, benefit from stronger and/or more inclusive community radio.” WACC wants to strengthen a community’s rights and its voices and believes that community radio is one of the best ways to accomplish this.

The Benefits

Basic information that includes newer and healthier life options, information about HIV/AIDS, updated information on farming, new techniques in child care, and access to public education are some of the benefits of broadcasting over the air for those with limited access to media. One example of the benefits of community radio is in Bangladesh, where illiterate women are beginning to use community radio to listen to courses from the Bangladesh Open University:
“Bangladesh Open University is the only University in Bangladesh which is imparting education through distance mode. Their main objective is to reach the unreached. From the empirical study of other countries, it has been found that women are benefited mostly from BOU. Community radios in countries like Bangladesh provide education to more than 60% of the population that is illiterate and living below the poverty line.”


In countries in Africa, where gaining access to the internet or television can be difficult, local radio helps keep a community together. Local programming keeps the culture and languages alive and allows people access to local government activities and political developments. One great example of local radio dealing with women’s social injustices is 101.7 MAMA FM in Uganda. This station was founded following concerns about women being unable to access information.

“101.7 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’s radio station in Africa and third in the whole world. It covers a radius of 400 km and targets particularly women between the active age of 15-45 and the general public. MAMA FM seeks to promote developmental interactive communication. It aims at broadcasting gender sensitive educational programmes and offering training/practical experience for female journalists.”

In South Africa, a local farm can provide a village with its food and jobs, but the lack of knowledge in agriculture has given professional farmers with more land an advantage over smaller villages. Local farming radio shows are helping turn the tide to benefit local farmers by providing villagers with basic farming knowledge, using “prerecorded cassettes from the Department of Agriculture and farm radio scripts and information packages from the Canadian-based Developing Countries Farm Radio Network (DCFRN). The South African Community Radio Information Network (SACRIN) is currently in discussions with the national Department of Agriculture around a partnership that would promote farm radio issues on community stations through live and pre-recorded programmes.”

A Free Internet

It is vital to keep the internet open and keep fighting for net neutrality. Corporations like Verizon or Comcast will benefit if they are able to determine which companies can have the highest upload and download speeds on the internet. The removal of net neutrality would play a big role in reducing the number of local stations that can stream online because corporations will choose their own “lanes” on the internet. This could prohibit local stations from even having access to the internet. We need an open internet so that local online radio stations can provide benefits to people who need help accessing information.

The topic of net neutrality has been in the media for months now. Business Insider writes “Net neutrality creates an even playing field among content providers both large and small to the web. And it's great for consumers because they can access everything they want online for no extra charge. Getting rid of net neutrality means Verizon or Comcast could similarly choose which content to promote based on their own self-interests.”

Fortunately, The Local Community Radio Act of 2010 was signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 4, 2011. This law eliminates restrictions on local low power FM stations, which make giant contributions to local communities, and helps them stay on the air.

The State Department has also been fighting to enforce net neutrality. Marvin Ammori writes in The Huffington Post, “Alec Ross, the State Department's Senior Advisor for Innovation, and Andrew McLaughlin, the Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer at the White House, stated that the United States would lack credibility abroad without a strong Net Neutrality rule here. Net Neutrality is the principle that ensures users' access to the speech, content or software of their choice online, without interference from Internet service providers. It keeps the Internet open to everyone's speech, from the largest corporation to the newest blog, and the FCC is seeking comment on its proposed rules to strengthen Net Neutrality.”

The world relies on internet radio to access information like podcasts and international radio shows. Without local radio programming and internet radio there would be no place women can turn to for help, information and education. Let us show support for local radio as a valued communication tool, and let the world know how important radio is to people everywhere.

Posted or updated: 3/17/2015 11:00:00 PM
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Suggested Pages:

*Women's Rights

*Action Alerts

Take Action:

  • Learn what you can do to help WACC raise funds for project support of local radios. Visit the WACC website  to raise awareness and support the Communication Rights and Public Voices: Strengthening Community Radio initiative with donations and by presenting your own project proposals.
  • Visit Off Our Backs Radio Shows to find programming for women on local radio shows that is available nationally. There are 30 stations to choose from, with information on when the show starts, from which market and station ID, and on what topic.
  • Visit Edison Research to open The Infinite Dial PDF. You can learn more about the importance of radio and see how its value has grown over the past decade.
  • Tune in to, where The Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community (IDVAAC) is hosting a weekly Blog Talk radio show called is a vehicle to discuss critical issues associated with domestic violence in the African-American and African diaspora communities.
  • Read “Chapter III - The Social Community,” sections S: Media Violence and Christian Values and T: Information Communication Technology, in The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church.
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