AMARC Representative on Gender and Regulation in Community Radio in the Asia Pacific.

DILI, May 7, 2015.

This morning ARKTL caught up with Nimmi Chauhan from the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) to discuss regulation and gender engagement in community radio. Ms Chauhan is the President of the Women’s International Network for AMARC in the Asia Pacific and was visiting Dili for the international seminar on ‘Good practice for the regulation of Timor Leste’s Community Radios’.

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ARKTL: What challenges have you have found with monitoring and enforcing gender equality regulations?

I don’t think anywhere there is a regulation about gender issues. Definitely not in programming. Every radio station is free to do it their way. What we see is that, speaking only from the context of India and radio stations I know of, this is not an issue because the radio station is run by an NGO and the license is with an NGO. These NGO’s have very clear, specific, feminist perspectives. That makes it easier. But there are many other radio stations where this becomes difficult. People find it difficult. The usual thing that happens is that when you talk of gender its a women’s issue and women reporters should be talking about it and then that’s what happens. And they usually talk about health services or education or any other services that are being provided. Very few people actually talk about the rights. Because I think, firstly, most people do not necessarily have the correct perspective. And how to translate that into programming is the most difficult challenge that I’ve found and we’ve still not figured that out. Those who already have a perspective, they have figured ways to go ahead. The rest of them, who don’t have a gender perspective on their own, they’re still struggling.

ARKTL: Speaking at the conference yesterday about gender equality in station management and decision making, what would that look like?

AMARC WIN has done two surveys. One in 2008, I think, and one in 2013. It was with all the radio stations in this region. They sent out a questionnaire to them and those who wanted to participate sent them back. So if we do a comparison, and I have not gone through all the details, we see more women in programming and less in management as you go up and far fewer when it comes to the ownership part. Percentage wise, I’m not sure. We have worked on the basic report and we will be able to share that with you in a week or two weeks’ time.

ARKTL: As Timor Leste is working on developing regulation, do you think that regulation should come from the Government or each station should come up with its own rules and codes of conduct?

I’m not completely aware of the media scenario over here and the laws in timor. I’m not sure if ill be able to answer correctly. What I see is, for any country, the right for people to voice, the freedom of speech and expression, thats a very basic right. Everyone should have the right to communicate and a right to information. This is a core principle. But there has to be a question: how is this right applied? There has to be some form of legislation so it guarantees [that right]. It can’t be taken away by anyone, by whims and fancies or by some government change. At least if there is legislation it is guaranteed. That guarantee is required. What that guarantee or legislation looks like, I’m not to suggest. That’s for the government and the community, people or activists or enthusiasts in society, over here to come up with. In our role as AMARC Asia Pacific we can support the process and we may be able to share best practices from other countries so you will be able to frame something of your own better. That is one part. Legislation is required to guarantee that right for you. Each radio station should come up with their own framework of policy: things that we will talk about, things we will not talk about, these are the kind of people we would like to keep away from. And it is not based on ‘I like’ or ‘I don’t like’ a certain person but premised on certain values. That needs to be very clear.

If i can go back to the gender issue, this is where gender policy comes in. There has been a gender policy created by AMARC Asia Pacific and if your station is a member of AMARC Asia Pacific, this policy is automatically applied to you. You can use this to define how you can make your station women friendly. Some of the things include: What are working hours? What is the locality? Is it a crowded place? Is it a place where there are too many men around and women are shy to come in? So you have to clear that space then. It’s friendly and theres no one passing comments on the women. Ensure it is well lit. Safety is very important. There can be no sense of fear. Ensure that women do not always come alone. They may not have support to keep their children at home so you need to create a place where their children can play around then they come into the station and participate in the program. Those are some small tips that are there. The other thing is you have to come up with a sexual harassment in the workplace policy. Women are assured that if someone misbehaves or harasses them, they will be able take action. No one will be harassed at all in any place. We need special training for women. We assume women should come and do their own programming but maybe we invite women to do something very basic like information sharing. They may not be able to actively participate but what we do is the goal is that a woman should come, loudly into herself and give her address. Even if she says just that much, in a group of women only, that is a first step. Next time she comes in she might have some opinion about something. Third time she talks about a suggestion about something. Fourth time she talks about something else. It is a very long, drawn out process. Sometimes they will not come to your radio station. You need to go to them. Speak with them in the time they are free from other household responsibilities. Show them your recorder. Tell them ‘This is the record button and when your finished pressed stop’. Record them and make them listen back. If they start giggling, it’s the first time they’ve done it. They’ll be embarrassed in the beginning and there’ll be a lot of shy laughter around but then they’ll gradually become confident. Even one time you go to record, give it to them and say ‘So you go and record somebody’. Overcome the fear of technology. Small, small things you do on an ongoing basis.

ARKTL: Do you find these women you train are then able to proceed into management or onto boards?

That is a far more difficult question. I will say, once they have more confidence, they are willing to take on more responsibility. For example, sometimes, they have other responsibilities. If they don’t have a supportive family, then they will not be able to participate. But if they find support and if they manage to negotiate with their families, thats another thing that happens. Once they are more confident they negotiate with their family to allow space and they do it in their own small ways. Sometimes we might think this is compromise but that is how they negotiate on a daily basis to push a little further. For example, ‘So today I’ve been given permission to come out of the house to speak to somebody whose not known to me, a stranger. Tomorrow, i’ll negotiate to, say, when the stranger comes again I will take the responsibility of gathering all women in my area. So, these are small things but it is a very long process.

ARKTL: Most funding for community stations comes from government. How can community stations balance independence with this need for support?

If your community is string and believes that what your station is offering is something of value, they will contribute. If they don’t see their ownership at all, ‘You do what you want, what do I care?’. Sometimes when we didn’t have a policy in one the radio stations, they have tried this out. People are willing to donate a small amount, a token, a month. It’s not enough but it covers some cost. But it’s that contribution. So you have to build community gradually and if the community is stronger they will contribute. For example, I don’t know if you are allowed advertise or not, but in India for every one hour of programming you get five minutes of advertising. So that is what you can have, very local, small ads. For example, if you do wedding photography or birthday photography or events, you can then advertise and pay whatever you can fix as an amount. And you do a thirty second ad on the radio which says ‘This person here does photography for people and this is what he charges, if anyone wants photo you can-’, you know, you can do that. So, that’s another way of people trying to raise funds.
The other is trying to bring overheads down. Have more volunteers so your volunteers do not have to work full time. So, if you can’t come every day full time, can you come one hour every day to do one program? I can contribute to volunteer one hour. You don’t need one reporter who you need to pay full time. You can identify eight such people who can come maybe one hour. Eight hour of programming is ready. Someday, say, I can only do Tuesday and I can do one program. If you start plugging in that way, more voices will come and nobody has to do full time. What I am saying sounds ideal and I know it is ideal but if you work towards it, maybe you will achieve some success. Even if you achieve 20 or 30 percent that is some success. Personally, I think if you are taking funding from the government I would say do infrastructure costs one time. One cost. The recurring cost is something that you will have to figure a way out of. Otherwise, government will always try to, kind of, get a hand in. There are strings attached. I don’t think any funds come to you without any strings attached. They always expect something in return.

ARKTL: Thank you.

Thanks to Nimmi Chauhan for taking the time during her brief visit to Timor Leste to give us her experiences of gender and regulation across the AMARC network. If you have any thoughts on how to engage with gender issues in your stations or how to contribute to community radio regulations, leave us a comment here or on Facebook. You can also email us at arktl.info@gmail.com

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