Bringing Gender Equity to the Airwaves in South Sudan

Internews recently held its first-ever

Internews recently held its first-ever all-women journalist training in South Sudan

Tune into 88FM in Malualkon, South Sudan, and likely you’ll hear more than the news and music. You’ll hear the voices of community role models.

“I want to be a mirror of my nation,” said Aquilina Adhel, a journalist from Aweil, South Sudan. “I want to be the voice of the voiceless women and children in this country.”

Adhel is one of nine South Sudanese women journalists who are being supported to bring gender balance to the airwaves in South Sudan. They all came together in the capital, Juba, for a journalism training by Internews. For some it was the first opportunity to gain storytelling and news gathering skills, but for others it was a chance to build on the skills they had started to acquire in the field. For all nine, it is part of a career path, which includes paid positions as reporters at Internews’ community stations.

The journalist trainees came from The Radio Community, a group of community radio stations supported by Internews, including 88.0 Nhomlaau FM in Northern Bahr el Ghazal and 90.7 Mayardit FM in Warrap state, and others came from the disputed region of Abyei, where Internews is currently running a humanitarian information access project. This first-ever all-women training for journalists at Internews in South Sudan was a chance to bring new recruits from radio stations across the country together to hone their journalism skills.

Some of the women had been reporting since the conflict broke out in December 2013; they spoke of the immediate need to address issues affecting women and children in their communities.

“I want to be the eyes of those people who cannot see,” said Titiana Adhel Deng, reporter at Nhomlaau FM, referring to South Sudanese displaced by the violence.

Internews’ Radio Community Project Director Nigel Ballard said the nine women will help redress gender inequality in the media overall.

“There are so few women working at stations across the country, and they often don’t have the opportunities or training to get a job as a journalist right away,” Ballard said. “We intentionally targeted women trainees, and created this space to help them learn and grow and enter the media business.” Ballard hopes that together these trainees can encourage more South Sudanese women to become journalists.

Internews in committed to ensuring that the voices of women and girls are represented on the radio, as well as providing opportunities for women to advance in the media. More than 25% of the journalism talent at Internews stations are female – working as on air talent, news reporters and technicians.

“In fact the training was very interesting to me,” said Susan Aker from Mayardit FM in Turalei, “I learned how to collect the news, how to collect good information, how to convince people when you want to interview them, so many things.”

Asunta Alith attended the training with her two-month-old baby girl Josephina, as child care was provided to allow for the women to attend the trainings. Alith spoke of the need to inspire youth, especially girls, to become journalists. She hopes by covering stories on the radio about women’s issues, young girls may decide to follow in her footsteps.

Alith and the other women journalists view their Internews training as a critical component in helping to spread live-saving information on maternal and child health via radio. In rural parts of South Sudan, radio is often the only source for news, due to high rates of illiteracy and the fact that newspapers are not readily available.

The training was practical in nature, with the women journalists frequently visiting the field to find stories across Juba. The emphasis of the training was to encourage the women trainees to understand the basics of communicating using the radio. They worked to perfect the techniques over a guided two-week period, so they could make a real impact in their own communities back at their home stations without an instructor.

While in the city they were able to talk with traders in the markets, women in their homes and leaders of local organizations. The stories they discovered and recounted in the training spoke to how South Sudanese are continuing their lives amidst the ongoing conflict, hoping peace and stability will resume in the world’s youngest nation.

The nine-day Internews training for women journalists took place at the Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS), from Oct. 9-18, 2014.

Internews’ work in South Sudan is supported by the United States Agency for International Development.

Published online @

Adam Bemma is a journalist, humanitarian, and media consultant based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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