News / Africa

Uganda’s Mama FM Gives Women a Chance to Be Heard

Mama FM puts women’s voices and perspectives on the air, in a country where 85 percent of radio voices belong to men, Kampala, Uganda, June 18, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)
Mama FM puts women’s voices and perspectives on the air, in a country where 85 percent of radio voices belong to men, Kampala, Uganda, June 18, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)
In a country where only 15 percent of voices on the radio belong to women, one Ugandan radio station aims to make them feel they have a place in the media landscape. Mama FM is the first female-run radio station in Africa. Its goal is to combat stereotypes and make sure women’s voices are finally heard.

Grace Mazirwe, a university student in Kampala, knows she wants to work as a radio technician. But she says it is a challenging field and at Ugandan radio stations it can be especially challenging for women.

“You know, sometimes ladies who are engineers, they are not respected too much when they go out. Maybe they try to say they don’t know, maybe they are slow at learning,” she said.

That is why she chose to intern at a community radio station called Mama FM.

“These people they are really treating me well, said Mazirwe. "They keep encouraging me. They are like, ‘yeah, you can do it. You are a lady, but still you can do it.’”
 
Mama FM is a community radio station challenging stereotypes by covering issues that affect normal Ugandan women, Kampala, June 18, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)Mama FM is a community radio station challenging stereotypes by covering issues that affect normal Ugandan women, Kampala, June 18, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)
x
Mama FM is a community radio station challenging stereotypes by covering issues that affect normal Ugandan women, Kampala, June 18, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)
Mama FM is a community radio station challenging stereotypes by covering issues that affect normal Ugandan women, Kampala, June 18, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)

Launched 13 years ago by the Uganda Media Women’s Association, Mama FM is Africa’s first radio station run entirely by women. Director Margaret Sentamu says that in an industry dominated by men, it has an important role to play.

“The goal of the station is to have a woman expressing herself without fear or favor, to bring more women’s voices onto the airwaves. Because we know that most of the mainstream media kind of marginalizes women’s voices and issues,” she said.

In a county where literacy rates are low, most people get their news from the radio. But according to Mama FM’s statistics, only 15 percent of the voices heard on Ugandan radio belong to women.

Perception

Not only do men tend to be the ones speaking in the Ugandan media, says Sentamu, they are nearly always the ones making editorial decisions.

She adds that this affects the way women are portrayed.

“Their pictures get in the newspapers maybe because they have stabbed a man, maybe they have been sexually violated, maybe they are fighting. And maybe sometimes you get women who are dressed skimpily. And that’s when they appear in the media,” said Sentamu.

A radio station run entirely by women, Sentamu says, projects a more realistic image of women’s lives. But it also challenges the idea that women need to be managed by men.

“This station was actually started to provide a platform for women to prove themselves, that we are here, we can handle [it] and we are in charge. When it comes to positions here, all big positions here are managed by women,” she said.

Ordinary women

Mama FM’s coverage focuses on the problems and experiences of ordinary women. They broadcast a two-hour show on domestic violence, for example. And when they do cover breaking news, the focus is on how it affects women.

This, says Sentamu, is what sets their coverage apart. “I would say that we cover almost the same topics, but it is the angle that matters. Here it is a women’s angle. We know that men make news, but we make sure that women also comment on what men have said,” she said.

But it is not only women who listen to Mama FM. A survey in 2007 found that nearly four million men and women across the country were tuning in. The youth are listening as well, says Sentamu.

And as more interns like Mazirwe are trained and move into the mainstream media, she adds, Uganda is starting to accept that women also have a right to be heard.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs