From Nation of Change
by Jillian Kestler-D’amours
23 February 2012
FM Radio Spells Change, Success for Mid-East Women
Nisreen Awwad moves closer to the microphone as she signs off to her listeners, the words “Nisaa FM: music, change, success” displayed prominently over her left shoulder.
“The thing I love (most) in my program is when I interview simple women from the villages, because they are successful and (are doing) something different in their society,” the 31-year-old radio producer, a native of the Qalandiya refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, tells IPS.
Host of the daily morning show on Nisaa (Women in Arabic) FM, Awwad explains that positively influencing the roles women play in Palestinian society, and changing the way Palestinian women view themselves, is what she strives for.
“I got involved here because I believe in the message of the radio station, and I wanted to make (a difference for) women in our society. Nisaa FM, I think, it’s something different,” Awwad said. “I like how my work in Nisaa FM makes me involved more in women’s issues.”
Launched in June 2010, Nisaa FM is an almost entirely female-run Palestinian radio station based in Ramallah, West Bank and the only radio station in the Middle East devoted solely to women’s issues. Its director Maysoun Odeh Gangat says that the station aims to inform, inspire and empower local women.
“Through the positive role that the women are playing in the society that we portray, we believe that we can empower women economically and then socially and politically. It could be any woman from the rural areas or the refugee camp, or a woman parliamentarian or minister,” Gangat told IPS.
In addition to suffering from a myriad of human rights abuses stemming from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza, Palestinian women face challenges from within their own society.
According to a 2009 report released by the Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Centre (PWIC) in Gaza, 77 percent of the women in Gaza had experienced some form of violence; 53 percent had been exposed to physical violence and 15 percent to sexual abuse.
In 2008, the Ramallah-based Arab World for Research and Development (AWRD) research centre found that 74 percent of survey respondents did not know of any organization working on women’s rights. Some 77 percent of respondents also said that they supported enacting laws to protect women from domestic violence.
“This is a patriarchal society. This is a male-dominated society, so the change should come by addressing males, as well,” Gangat said, explaining that engaging Palestinian men on women’s issues is important to the station.
She added that talking about difficult issues – such as polygamy, divorce, abuse, early marriage, and poverty – and the ways in which women can assert their rights in these areas, is necessary for change to occur.
“Women were inspired by the fact that we bring some people or experts on issues that are contentious and negative. We’ve had some women calling and asking us, ‘Which organization did you interview?’” Gangat said.
Read entire story at Nation of Change.