Living Dangerously

“When I heard about giving birth in a hospital on Radio Sila, it was the first time anyone suggested that to me,” says 37-year old Achta Abakar Ibrahim, a Darfur refugee and mother of ten. “My first six children I had at home, …it was just so much easier in the hospital. There they know what can go wrong and that made me so much more confident.”

Women and children often fare the worst during conflict and in refugee situations. After the terrible earthquakes in Nepal this month, Viviane Fluck, who is conducting a post-earthquake humanitarian information assessment for Internews, noted that violence against women has been on the rise during the disaster. Fluck recommends leveraging Nepal’s vibrant community radio sector to help mitigate this situation.

On the other side of the world, in Chad, journalist Houda Malloum reported for a community radio station set up by Internews to serve refugees from Darfur. She focused an episode on the problem of attacks on Darfuri women and girls who were leaving the refugee camps to gather firewood. The episode helped alert local authorities to the problems of violence against women, and at the same time gave the women alternatives so that they could avoid areas where they might be attacked.

Women’s issues need to be heard so that humanitarian organizations can respond to their particular needs. Women journalists can help drive the debate beyond guns, troops and tents. Local women journalists can provide a better understanding of what women need to take better care of their families and safeguard themselves.

Many of the women journalists Internews has worked with in humanitarian crises have risked their lives or pushed against societal norms to become journalists and get women’s voices heard.

Houda Malloum, Chad

“As a woman, I feel as if it were me who had lived through those moments. It’s difficult. African women suffer a lot. If there is a possibility to help them, to give them everything they need to help them avoid those risks…”

Journalist Houda Malloum (right) interviews a woman in a refugee camp in Chad for a weekly radio show she produced — “She Speaks, She Listens.” — that focused on violence against women and girls.
Journalist Houda Malloum (right) interviews a woman in a refugee camp in Chad for a weekly radio show she produced — “She Speaks, She Listens.” — that focused on violence against women and girls. (photo: Guillaume Michel/Internews)

Fatuma Abdi Gedi, Dadaab, Kenya

“Our community, they don’t usually have women journalists or hear ladies on the radio. So through the Gargaar program I have gotten the opportunity to be a role model for others.”

Reporting from the Kenyan community of Dadaab — host to the world’s largest refugee camp — Fatuma Abdi Gedi’s reports have made more women aware of why their children should go to school and helped them access health care services
Reporting from the Kenyan community of Dadaab — host to the world’s largest refugee camp — Fatuma Abdi Gedi’s reports have made more women aware of why their children should go to school and helped them access health care services. (photo: Internews)

Ibtisam Omar, Libya

“I want to make a program where I can represent any girl in Libya. I can do this program instead of her, and she can listen. As a result, society will hopefully pay attention to girls and their needs.”

Woman in Libya recording a radio segment
After the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, a group of young people with no radio experience cobbled together Radio Shabab FM, hoping to participate in Libya’s budding civil society. (photo: Benedict Moran/Internews)

Hellen Mangindo, South Sudan

“Most ladies get married early, you have a family, you need the job and you have to complete your assignments on time regardless of how you make ends meet at home and at work. When you are determined, nothing will deter you from your dreams. If you really want to be a journalist, you can make it.”

Women listening to radio in South Sudan
Women in South Sudan listen to an Internews-supported radio station. During the conflict in South Sudan, Hellen Mangindo was on air continuously providing listeners with a familiar, calm presence and clear information on what was happening. Hellen presents her own social affairs show — Under the Tree — focusing on women, children, health, reconciliation and healing. (photo: Emily LeRoux-Rutledge/Internews)

Alice Bafiala Mutombo, Democratic Republic of Congo

“The media educates the community about their rights. To have their own radio station is very important for a community — it is a way for them to tell their own stories, that they feel are important, in their own voice, and I am so proud to be supporting that.”

Children at a radio studio in DRC
A journalist interviews children in a radio studio in DRC. Like many other children, Alice Mutombo spent weeks marching through dense jungle, where she listened to news of the war on a battery-operated radio and developed an interest in journalism. (photo: Internews)

Kalaivani Saravani

“The Sinhalese people in Akmeemana village opened their hearts out to me even when they knew I was a Tamil and couldn’t speak Sinhala.

I was touched when they wanted to tell me their problems. They wanted their sufferings to be heard by Tamil listeners of the radio stations. They, too, were trying to reach out to their Tamil brothers and sisters to say that all poor people have the same problems, regardless of whether you are Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim.”

Woman interviewing a man in Sri Lanka
Until she participated in a journalism training workshop with Internews, Kalaivani Saravani had a burning hatred of the Sinahalese in Sri Lanka. They had been responsible for the death of her father, a Tamil. Kalaivani went through a personal transformation after she was assigned to report on a story where she had to interview Sinhalese villagers. (photo: Matt Abud/Internews)

Mary Wagura, Kenya

“I used to arrive at the radio station every day at 8 a.m. and not leave until the evening. It didn’t matter that the sun was beating down against my head as I sat on the bench outside the reception door. This went on day after day until the management decided to hire me.”

Mary Wagura in the field in Kenya
Mary Wagura received training in conflict-sensitized journalism as part of the Internews Reporting for Peace project. The training equipped her with essential skills to cover the aftermath of Kenya’s post-election violence of 2008. Impressed with her growing expertise in handling conflict-related stories, Mary’s managers decided to make her the dedicated “peace beat” reporter. (photo: Internews)

Amani Shnino, Gaza

“I was really touched when I started writing about the situation in Gaza, and one of the readers posted a comment saying ‘Thank you Amani, you really touched the reality of Gaza, and talked about things that concern us.’”

Gaza schoolgirls
In Gaza, children were happy to be back in school with their teacher after the conflict wound down in September 2014. Amani Shnino was selected for Internews’ multi-media training that included video reporting and story production. Since then, she has been producing video and radio reports, as well as writing a blog and a column about IDP camps for a Lebanese journal. (photo: Julia Pitner/Internews)

Julia Paulo Ding, South Sudan

“I want to become a better journalist. When I see people in the media, I want to be like that. They’re doing a good job helping people by sharing stories.”

young woman reporter in south sudan
Julia Paulo Ding, 22, lives and works in the United Nations Protection of Civilians (UN POC) site. She is working with Internews, learning how to produce humanitarian information audio programs. The programs, called Boom Box Talk Talk, serve as a two-way communication platform for those living in the POC. (photo: Adam Bemma/Internews)

Learn more about the women journalists that Internews works with around the world and Internews’ new five-year initiative, Women’s Voices, Powering Change.

(Banner photo: A woman brings her baby to a free clinic at Gouroukoun IDP camp in eastern Chad. credit: Meridith Kohut/Internews)

This story originally ran in Medium