Feminist media can change the world

Christina Cadore | May 02, 2019
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From printed pamphlets and bulletins to twitter storms and trending topics, media as we know it has come a long way since its inception in the early 19th century. The transformation of the media has not only changed the way we see and interact with the world, but has also been used as a tool for feminist actions since the very beginning.  World Press Freedom Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on how media continues to galvanise women’s movements to achieve women’s rights.

Free press can spark a movement

Celebrated every 3rd May since 1993, World Press Freedom Day is a chance to celebrate media in all its diversity as well as call for media to be open and fair for all.

Knowledge is power. We are all familiar with the statement that having access to information is key to freedom. This sentiment extends to World Press Freedom Day with the acknowledgement that a free media that both provides accurate and reliable information and ensures people’s voices are heard is a significant step to enabling people, particularly those that are most marginalised, to get their issues understood and addressed. Media has the ability to educate, inspire and broaden our horizons, but perhaps most importantly it has the power to mobilise.

Throughout history women’s movements have used media as a tool to share information and urge women to come together to push for their rights. In recent years campaigns such as #MeToo have been instrumental in shining a light on violence against women and propelling this discussion into the main stream.    

Radio: the power to mobilise

There is no doubt that the internet has become a useful tool for women’s movements around the world. Although it is not without its risks for women activists, the internet has given a platform to marginalised communities and increased access to information helping them to organise and mobilise for change. Yet for many women all over the world a more traditional form of media is helping to pave the way for women’s rights – community radio.

Community radio stations are operated and influenced by the people they broadcasting to, airing content to specific, often overlooked, communities. Community radio has proved an effective tool for women’s movements, due in large to its ease of access. Not only are radios affordable, but shows can be broadcast in local languages instead of English, helping messages to reach rural women who do not speak English.

Radio can be used to raise awareness, through scripted dramas and talk shows audiences can easily understand topics and connect them with their own lives. In the UK, BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The Archers’ went viral for its storyline on domestic abuse. This triggered a country-wide discussion on coercive and controlling behaviour in a relationship.  

Work with our partners has shown how community radio has helped to change attitudes and behaviours towards women and women’s rights. In Kenya this has helped with the effort to reduce harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and early forced marriage. 

Radio is also instrumental in organising and mobilising women to take collective action. This is true of the thousands of rural women in Uganda who are defiantly standing up for their land rights in the face of forced evictions. While corporations forcefully (and often violently) evict women from their land to make room for factories and crops, Ugandan women are taking to the airwaves to share their stories and call for justice.

Through National Association of Professional Environmentalists’ (NAPE) Community Green Radio women are being given a platform to demand their voices and concerns are heard in their communities and beyond. The radio has provided a way for women to grow in confidence and claim their rights. Not only is this a rallying cry for all women to affected to get involved and expand this movement but it also gives women the skills to speak in public courts and insist on fair compensation.

Support a growing movement

Radio has the power to equip women and girls with the tools to change their lives. Women’s voices are broadcast through the airwaves, unlocking strength and resilience to the emerging sisterhood listening.

Each day the movement of women resisting forced land grabs continues to grow in strength and numbers. Right now, we have the opportunity to support this growth through our Reclaiming Stolen Livelihoods appeal. For every pound raised the UK government will double the donation through UK Aid Match until 28th May. 

Find out more and donate here

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