Women Making (Sound) Waves

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The West Bank just experienced its first economic upswing in years, but here’s another cause for hope: Palestine’s first all-women’s radio station launched last week. Nisaa FM—that’s “women” in Arabic—broadcasts a mix of news and entertainment from Ramallah in the West Bank for a few hours a day. The station’s first shows have featured stories about female unemployment in Europe, the digital prowess of Arab women, and a profile of the Speed Sisters, a Palestinian race car team. Although it hasn’t focused on Israeli-Palestinian relations yet, one of its aims is to inspire women living in a male-dominated, conflict zone.

“We suffer, as the rest of the women in the Arab world suffer, political Islam, which actually is putting more burden on the woman,” Wafa Abdel Rahman, a West Bank activist, told Voice of America. “We need a radio that brings out all these issues.”  The station’s founder and manager, Maysoun Odeh, told EuroMideastNews that she hopes men will also listen in. “Without men, we cannot do anything in this society, as is well known,” she said.

If Odeh’s past jobs are any indication, there’s reason to believe she can, in fact, draw a male audience to the female-led program. She once managed 93.6 RAM FM, a short-lived but popular English-language station that attracted large numbers of Israeli and Palestinian listeners. (The show’s final 2008 broadcast ended with John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.”) There’s also good reason to believe that radio could succeed where other organizing efforts have floundered: Media experts have noted radio’s ability to reach far-flung, less-literate populations, like the inroads that radio PSAs have made against female genital mutilation in Ethiopian villages, or the children’s radio project in Senegal. Odeh certainly thinks it’s possible. She said Nisaa FM’s success stories, which range from international to local, will convince Palestinian women “that they can do something and they can achieve something regardless of the situation.”

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