Bandana Danuwar is the station manager at Radio Udayapur, a community radio station run by girls and women based in Udayapur, Eastern Nepal. Radio Udayapur became a FRIDA Grantee Partner in 2013 with a new project – Un-Veiling – aimed at ending child marriage. Bandana joined Radio Udayapur five years ago and she found the time in her very busy schedule to tell us more about the program and work the Radio Udayapur team does.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your role at the radio?
I first joined the team just to speak on the radio, but when I became part of it my thought totally changed and I started to think about the radio and the issue of community. Later, the radio operating organization, Women’s Empowerment and Resource Centre made me the leader of Radio Udayapur. My current roles in the radio include station management, program quality control, coordination and collaboration, planning and implementation, and reporting and evaluation.
What is the story of Radio Udayapur and what work do you do?
Radio Udayapur was initiated as a collaborative effort of local women right activists who foresaw a media hub run by young women addressing issues crucial to the struggle against patriarchy as witnessed and communicated by young feminists. In our community, the belief is that boys should do everything. But it is also a community with the brave parents who send their own daughters to work at the radio. Radio Udayapur is the meeting point of will and heroism. It is a community radio led entirely by young women under 30. We are here to increase access to information for women through media. There is nine of us, all from middle-class families. Ranju and I [Bandana] faced early child marriage but we want to break it; the parents of Urmila, Sujata and Uma have only daughters and they want to show their daughters can also do anything [they want]. Ramila, Apsara and Pabitra are heads of their families. In this way our team reflects the society. Our main audience is women.
Why did you choose radio as the medium to fight patriarchy?
We envision a society where all women have access to the information they want and they are able to raise their voice to claim and exercise their rights without any fear and this is possible only through media.
How was the initial response from the community? Did you face any opposition? What’s the community’s approach to your work now?
In the beginning, the people in the community, especially parents and stakeholders, didn’t believe us. They thought that this was only for entertainment and only about music; they said that this is the only thing women’s radio is about. But slowly they have grown to believe us and now we are the number one radio station of the Udayapur district. We communicate [with our audiences] regularly through gatherings, phone calls, SMS, and also through an interactive program, meetings etc. We are producing our program [together] with our listeners and community people.
On what issues do you focus? How do you create your programs?
We are broadcasting all the issues that people want from media, but there is a women’s perspective in all our programs. We are broadcasting women’s views, perspectives, and stories, from community development to political issues. We create our program through discussions with the community people and our team. We are currently focusing on women’s right and empowerment, women’s health, children’s rights, environment, current affairs, sustainable livelihood, safe migration, team unity, water and sanitation, news, peace and constitution, culture and literature, etc.
What is your favorite thing about Radio Udayapur and your work there?
My favorite things are [in this order] the freedom in the radio station and how a new generation can push their own ideas here; team work; and the fact that there is no gender discrimination here because we are all women.
Radio Udayapur was founded in 2009. What have been your biggest achievements and what have been the biggest obstacles you faced so far?
As far as our team is concerned, we recognize that we are very capable and the community believes us. For example, last month we organized a radio program production training and 40 young women registered to participate, which means that parents are also sending their daughters out from the house to work. We can see that the community is changing slowly. Our biggest obstacle was when all our equipment, except for one printer, was destroyed by lighting and we couldn’t work for 15 days.
Your organization has joined the ranks of FRIDA grantee partners last year with Un-Veiling, a new project fighting child marriage. What activities do you undertake to reach your goals within this project?
We focus on the following issues:
(1) Peer Engagement, which includes youth counseling (group sessions between young mothers and potential girl brides), young mothers groups (resident structure of young mothers who want to change the situation). This will continue after the project.
(2) Media Activism: Radio Program – ‘GHUMTO UCHALDA’. It is a weekly program that will last 6 months and that focuses on the issues developed during peer engagement exercises. We also have a Forum Theater, an exercise developed by young girls as a key to pressurize communities to commit to ending child marriage. It has been presented at 10 places.
(3) Community Lobby/Advocacy: Meetings with pre-existing women’s and youth groups, based on the issue and level of risk, to encourage people to commit to ending this violence. We also organize community meetings with village leaders, local authorities and groups, during which legal policy interventions are discussed.
Last, but not least: what does feminism mean to you and how does it affect the work of Radio Udayapur?
I think feminism is the theory and view to get justice for women, the analysis of women’s perspectives, the capacity to understand what women want, and the belief that we should live and let live in freedom. This means that feminism is important to meet our radio’s vision.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes, I want to say: give the opportunity to those who want to do something and believe in them. Nothing is impossible, they CAN do anything.
Do you have questions about the work of Radio Udayapur? Connect with us on Facebook or Twitter! If you speak Nepali, tune in to Radio Udayapur!
Bandana Danuwar, Celebrating Womanhood: “We are broadcasting women’s views, perspectives and stories from community development to political issues on our radio. We are young women under thirty and we believe that if young girls get together to remove patriarchy, they can do it.”
Posted by Barbora Němcová