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Broadcasting a message of change

On International Women’s Day, SCIAF Programme Officer Louise Joyce writes about a very special radio station that’s bring a message of female empowerment to the airwaves.

One of SCIAF’s most unique partners is Radio Wa, a local non-profit community radio station in Northern Uganda that’s been making waves since it first went live in 2001. Radio plays a very prominent role amongst local populations in Uganda, especially with youth in rural areas. In a country with one of the youngest and most rapidly growing populations in the world – over 65% of the population in Uganda are under 24 – Radio Wa is able to reach far and wide.

Radio Wa uses its popularity to actively promote peace and dialogue, tackling issues like gender equality and women’s rights on air. Through radio programmes like their particularly successful and long running ‘Women’s Hour’, they’re getting stuck into issues that few in the country are willing to address or discuss.

Uganda, has come a long way over the past two decades, yet females remain disadvantaged and life for many women is characterised by issues such as low status, poverty and difficulties in access to health and social services. Young girls are four times more likely than young boys to contract HIV/ AIDS (WHO). Sexual and gender based violence is also a major problem; around half of all women aged 15-49 report lifetime physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence (UN) and around 40% of girls are married or in a union before the age of 18 (UN).

In the last 12 months more than 100 gender related topics were discussed on Radio Wa, including conversations on challenging issues such as domestic violence, rape, gender based discrimination and the fair management of finances. They have also given a voice to women groups by recording testimonies and celebrating real life examples, such as successful female entrepreneurs and women in leadership positions.

Adero Ketty a teenage girl from Owang Central, explained how a programme about the negative consequences of girls not attending school had a big impact on her life. Her brother had planned to marry her off but after listening to the programme he changed his mind and paid for her to return to school.

The station also ensures gender balance within its own structure - half of their presenters are female and their Director, Magdaline Kasuku is a woman.

Radio Wa is broadcasting a message of hope and empowering the next generation – the future can be better and fairer for women.