FemTALK: Radio is Us!

femLINKpacific young women on air“In May 2004, as the then Coordinator of femLINKpacific, I witnessed a new reality – our first suitcase radio broadcast,” reflected Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, fem-LINKpacific’s Executive Producer-Director ahead of a month-long commemoration of World Radio Day on FemTALK89FM. “ at broadcast hosted by student volunteers brought the diversity of Suva-based civil society together – human rights and disability activists, ecumenical groups and the Fiji Media Watch – they all became part of a monthly broadcast.”

“In that journey since then, I have o en been asked about our audience. Our community radio approach with FemTALK89FM has been that our target audience, the women, in rural communities are de ning the content.”

This has resulted in investing in a rural community media network, resourcing conveners, correspondents and production meetings. Radio is reaching the women because it’s their program.

“Since femLINKpacific’s early days,I was putting in practice my personal beliefs that amplifying women’s peace and security via a media platform would enable more women to feel con dent enough to discuss their issues in a safe space that wasn’t commercially driven but for and by women,” said Tabua Salato, femLINKpa-cific’s General Manager.

femLINKpacific suitcase radio stationSalato is not alone in her beliefs:

“In the early days, when we just had a tape recorder, I embraced community radio as a tool to engage women, record their voices and document their narratives,” continued Adi Vasulevu, femLINKpacific’s convener for the Northern division. “ is was key as Fiji was emerging out of con ict at the time.”

“We needed to break the silence, so we created an enabling space where women’s thoughts, voices and ideas mattered.”

“FemTALK89FM is the only platform where space is given to the women as well as other minority groups in the community,” added Losana Derenalagi one of femLINK- pacific’s conveners in the Western division. “From the mat, it amplifies and increases their visibility as leaders in their community.”

Look At My Abilities, hosted by women from disability networks, continues as a weekly show since 2013. We also have Rainbow Connections, the launch of which coincided with the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) 2013 with our LGBT allies.

Investing in the future

Fane Boseiwaqa, now a convener in the Western division, started out as a young woman, out of school and looking for something to do. A wife, mother and leader in her own right today, she recalled the investment in her over a decade ago.

femLINKpacific rural team“As a founding member of the Generation Next project (2007-2011), I was given the con- dence and felt empowered as a young woman to have a voice and speak out on the issues that women and young peopled faced in the com- munity,” she said. “ e suitcase radio station, travelling around Fiji, was a platform for the women to come together and have a safe space.”

Sulueti Waqa also began her community radio journey as a volunteer. Encouraged by her mother in the Western division, Waqa started as a volunteer in the capital city and is now a key member of the team in the Northern division’s Labasa Community Media Centre.

“It is not only a tool to educate the women, but also the policy makers so that they are aware of the issues in the community,” she shared. “It has also helped me develop my understanding of other technology – not just using a tape recorder, which is sometimes the most accessible and appropriate technology – but finding new ways and new equipment to document, compile and share the voices of women in all their diversities.”

Not only have we seen the value and power of community radio as women through our networks grow, but ourselves.

“At 15, I saw my mother and Sharon Rolls broadcasting at the Labasa market with rural women singing into a strange-looking machine,” said Lucille Chute, femLINKpaci c’s Program Assistant based at the Northern division’s Labasa Community Media Centre and Adi Vasulevu’s daughter. “When I asked my mother, I was so excited to nd out that it was a suitcase radio station where you could speak, share your stories and even sing – which would be broadcasted on the radio.”

“We would be visited by the suitcase radio before we got our very own in 2011, becom- ing the rst and only radio station on Vanua Levu. It brought together all the rural women; they were afraid, shy and silent, but they kept coming to talk and share.”

As we embark on the 13th year of FemTALK89FM, we celebrate all that we have been able to achieve and our vibrant network of women in all their diversities. We commemorated the World Radio Day on February 13, but it most de nitely is not just a one-day event. Our radio broadcasts say ‘Radio is You’ everyday.