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Radio Station Seeks to Empower Palestinian Women

Palestinian women are hoping to improve their lives by using the air waves. A group of women in the West Bank this month launched one of the first all-women's radio stations in the Arab world.

Halla Bazzar, an attractive woman in her 20s, begins her afternoon show. For this young professional, the job is more than just running a show. It is about giving women living in conflict a key to success. "We talk about issues that would inspire women in the future," she said.

Giving women hope for the future is one of the goals of the station, Nisaa FM, which started broadcasting this month from the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Maysoun Odeh

Maysoun Odeh

Founder and manager Maysoun Odeh tells VOA the station wants to entertain, but also empower women. "We broadcast success stories of women regionally, internationally, or locally in which they can take example from, and they know that they can do something and they can achieve something regardless of the situation," she said.

The day-to-day situation for many Palestinian women living under occupation involves supporting their children while their husbands are in prison, finding housing after their homes are demolished, and navigating their way through Israeli checkpoints.

Wafa Abdel Rahman

Wafa Abdel Rahman

Wafa Abdel Rahman, a woman's activist with the West Bank group Filastiniyat, says Palestinian women also face cultural issues.

"We suffer, as the rest of the women in the Arab world suffer, political Islam - the interpretation of Islam, which actually, is putting more burden on the women," she said. "It portrays women as if they are the key to the honor of the family. If you are a good Muslim or not depends on how is your woman. Is she covered? Is she following all the instructions, etcetera. This is really hard on women."

Abdel Rahman welcomes the new station. "We need a radio that brings out all those issues," she said. "But also to take it a step further and think how we can - not only women but also men - how we can together change the status of women and make it better."

The station, whose name "Nisaa" means "woman" in Arabic, began operations this month with the help of Smiling Children, a Switzerland-based humanitarian foundation.