WOMEN IN COMMUNITY RADIO: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES (summary from a panel presented in Geneva 2003 as part of WSIS) Community media is an attempt to counter power. It is devoid of profit orientation and wants only to provide the means for cultural expression. It supplies news and information at the community level. The viewing of media as a powerful media of social change lies at the heart of discussions on media. Feminist activists are drawn closer to community media: if media structures ensure a fair representation of media, it can make a dramatic difference in the way women are viewed and therefore have a powerful role to change women’s status. Since it is not driven by profit, it is not driven by the same objectives of others in the for profit area.
What is considered important in this medium is to share key information relevant to their community. It also provides opportunity to women without formal education to voice their opinions. It therefore provides balance to for profit media. We have many examples of the uses of community radio. Europe used pirated radio for women [radio Donna in Rome is an example]. These were early experiments of radio. Abortion for example was raised by women radio pirates. They all found legitimate space on community radio. Amidst exuberance of women’s access to it, we need to examine some things to ensure community radio functions properly. How are women defined, depreciated and excluded within community radios? In the Philippines we have the Tamboli project supported by UNESCO and Danida, but we have experiences in a radio station in sourthern Philippines where elected officials are actually doing programming in the community radio with a few women. Same in Thailand. Those who have government connections have access to community media.
There is also gender stereotyping among the broadcasters. Women are assigned issues of family, but economy and politics are by male broadcasters. Women are not given opportunity to experiment with the technology and skills. There are numerous examples of programs with sexist and racist and classist radio programming. We take action at ISIS to address the issues addressed above. We do training with women community radio broadcasters.
(Mavic Cabrera Balleza worked with ISIS during the Geneva WSIS in 2003. She is now Senior Program Associate at the International Women's Tribune Centre in NYC.)