In “Why Radio Matters,” Mary Myers outlines numerous applications of radio which she believes to be extremely effective if applied correctly in a development setting. Her emphasis on the ability of radio to educate and empower reminded me of a small UNESCO-funded conference I heard about recently from a friend in Nicaragua who works for AMARC (Asociación Mundial de Radios Comunitarias). Last October, female radio broadcasters from all around the country convened in Matagalpa to discuss sexism they face in their everyday lives as well as the most effective and empowering ways to discuss sexual violence on the air. Among the things highlighted by the workshop were linguistic techniques to avoid assigning blame to victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse and the importance of using “vos” rather than “tú’ whenever possible in such discussions.
The workshop followed the enactment of Nicaragua’s recent Law 779, which was officially enacted in June and essentially provides the country with a far more modern, protective set of laws surrounding issues of sexual violence, spousal abuse, and women’s rights as a whole. While the law has been seen as an impressively comprehensive step towards sexual equality in Nicaragua, it has drawn resistance from native tribal populations, such as the Mayagna Indians, who see it as a threat to their existing tribal laws. The female broadcasters at the conference discussed tactful ways to encourage sexual equality in such situations without imposing judgment on existing cultural standards. Another interesting dimension of the conference was a discussion of the problems caused by the particularly odd work hours experienced by radio broadcasters. Many of the women ended or began work at odd hours in the morning and different radio stations had various ways of ensuring that they were at least somewhat protected while walking to and from work on deserted streets.