World Radio Day 2014

Hearing women's voices

This year’s World Radio Day, on February 13th, highlights gender equality and women’s empowerment in radio. It celebrates the role of women in radio and promotes strategies to produce inclusive content that reflects the issues that concern them.

Audio | 13 February 2014
TRANSCRIPT: February 13th marks World Radio Day. It’s a day that celebrates a medium that reaches the widest audiences worldwide. This year, the theme is gender equality and women’s empowerment in radio.

Jane Hodges is the former Director of the Gender Equality and Diversity branch at the International Labour Organization in Geneva. She says she’d like to see more women involved in radio. That means building up their confidence from a young age.

“It starts, actually much before not only age wise but in the life cycle. It starts with young girls getting the confidence to speak in public. Making them understand from primary school through junior schools into secondary schools and upwards of course, so that when they’re finally put before a microphone – as I am now – we don’t freeze up and get very nervous and ask them to re-record. I think getting young girls to understand through proper courses, role models, that they can also present and have a role to play in radio is important.”

Much has been said about the role of social media in the heady days of the Arab Spring. But radio was important too and it sent out a strong message about women’s empowerment and equality.

“I think anyone who’s got a radio and listens in, whether you’re chopping your vegetables in the evening or in the bus on the way to work  or driving in some big metropolis, hearing big democracy movements and hearing the background noise – through the radio – of women chanting along with their brothers, wanting equality for all, it has been a incredibly Important message. In fact, that’s why World Radio Day has a particularly poignant meaning this year."

Radio connects us to the outside world whether we’re stuck in traffic or at home. It can be a lifeline for remote communities. But Hodges believes more airtime should be given to issues that concern women.

“Less than one quarter of radio stories are actually about women. When national censuses tell us that most populations are 50-50 it seems an incredibly common sense approach to make sure that the content of programs would address both women’s and men’s issues.”

Often it’s only when tragedies occur that women feature prominently – like the shooting of the girls’ education campaigner, Malala, or the rape and murder of the young student in India, which shocked the world.

“It sadly seems to be attached to tragic circumstances . Let’s hear some stories from Marie-Jo, or from Belinda, saying we want to talk about women’s pay in our country because I don’t think it’s right, I’m not getting for the same work what my male colleagues are getting, in my office or on my farm, or in the public service. It wouldn’t be hard to do. It would be a sign that you’re taking your gender policies seriously and it would also, in fact, give extra impetus for men to get involved, and men who run big programmes on radios, particularly the big national news debates, for them to include content on women’s issues."

With the growth of new media, the importance of radio and the role of women in it, should not be underestimated.

Rosalind Yarde, at the ILO