‘We’re not giving up’: A radio station for Afghanistan’s ladies

From Taliban-controlled Kabul, Radio Begum is broadcasting the voices of girls which were muted throughout Afghanistan.

Station workers fill the airwaves with programming for ladies, by ladies: instructional exhibits, e-book readings and call-in counselling.

For now, they function with the permission of the Taliban which regained energy in August and has restricted the power for ladies to work and ladies to attend faculty.

“We’re not giving up,” pledged 48-year-old Hamida Aman, the station’s founder, who grew up in Switzerland after her household fled Afghanistan a couple of years after the Soviet Union invaded.

Hamida Aman, founding father of Radio Begum, poses for an image on the radio station in Kabul [Hector Retamal/AFP]

“We have to show that we don’t need to be scared,” mentioned Aman, who returned after the overthrow of the Taliban’s first regime in 2001 by US-led overseas forces.

“We must occupy the public sphere.”

‘Vessel for voices’

The station was based on March 8, International Women’s Day, this 12 months, 5 months earlier than the Taliban marched into Kabul and finalised its defeat of the US-backed authorities.

From a working-class neighbourhood, it continues to broadcast throughout Kabul and surrounding areas – and dwell on Facebook.

“Begum” was a noble title utilized in South Asia, and it now typically refers to a married Muslim lady.

“This station is a vessel for women’s voices, their pain, their frustrations,” Aman mentioned.

Radio Begum station director Saba Chaman, proper, along with her colleague [Hector Retamal/AFP]

The Taliban granted permission for the broadcaster to remain on the airwaves in September, albeit with new curbs.

Radio Begum’s 10 or so workers used to share an workplace with male colleagues who labored on a youth radio station.

Now they’re separated. Each gender has its personal flooring and a big opaque curtain has been put in in entrance of the ladies’s workplace.

Pop music has been changed with conventional songs and “quieter music”, Aman mentioned.

Nevertheless, workers members mentioned working on the station was a “privilege”, with many feminine authorities employees barred from returning to places of work.

The Taliban is but to formalise a lot of its insurance policies, leaving gaps in how they’re applied by the group throughout the nation. Most public secondary colleges for ladies have been shut for the reason that takeover.

But twice a day, the radio studio resembles a classroom.

Hamida Aman, left, speaking to college students earlier than the beginning of a category on the radio station [Hector Retamal/AFP]

When AFP information company visited, six ladies and three boys – all aged 13 or 14 – pored over their books because the presenter gave an on-air lesson about social justice.

“Social justice is opposed to extremism,” mentioned the 19-year-old trainer, a scholar of journalism till a couple of months in the past.

‘Golden opportunity’

Mursal, a 13-year-old lady, has been going to the studio to review for the reason that Taliban blocked some secondary colleges from reopening.

“My message to girls who can’t go to school is to listen to our programme carefully, to use this golden chance and opportunity,” she mentioned. “They may not have it again.”

There are additionally on-air classes for adults. In one such lesson, station director Saba Chaman, 24, learn the autobiography of Michelle Obama in Dari. She is especially pleased with a present the place listeners name in for psychological counselling.

In 2016, simply 18 % of girls in Afghanistan had been literate in contrast with 62 % of males, based on the previous training ministry.

“Women who are illiterate are like blind people,” one lady who can not learn mentioned on air. “When I go to the pharmacy they give me expired medication. If I could read they wouldn’t do it.”

Just a few months after the Taliban seized energy, Aman met with spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, and instructed him the radio was “working to give a voice to women”. He was “very encouraging”, she mentioned.

But the future is unsure.

In September, the nation’s main impartial TV station Tolo News reported that greater than 150 shops had shut over restrictions and monetary troubles.

Radio Begum is not taking in promoting income.

If no funds are obtained inside three months, the voices of those ladies will disappear from the airwaves of Afghanistan, Chaman mentioned.

“My only cause for hope at the moment is knowing that I am doing something important in my life to help Afghan women.”

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