Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Women's Radio MAMA FM, Kampala, Uganda

400 women and men of all ages filled the lawn in front of MAMA FM Sunday afternoon: it was the annual meeting of the 33 self-organised listener clubs and community-based self-help groups, who had decided to organise around the MAMA FM programmes. They had come to share their views on why and how MAMA FM had made an important difference in their lives – and how they would like to see the programme continue. Filling the lawn and the many lined-up plastic chairs as they were coming from church or other Sunday chores, the 150 people around 12 noon (when I had to leave) became somewhere between 4-600 during the afternoon – and the important sharing and planning meeting ended with each and every one of the participants who wanted, passing through the radio studio to send their special greeting… this went on quite some hours! But it was worth the wait: my voice on my radio!

MAMA FM is situated in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, and is one of the country’s few community radio stations. Mama has been planned since 1997 and on air since 2001 and is Uganda’s first of its kind. Started by the Uganda Media Women’s Association, UMWA, it is a radio focusing on the plight of the under privileged and minorities and is seen to be the first women radio station in Africa. It covers a radius of 250 km and around 13 mio. People. Mama FM targets particularly women between the active age of 15-45 and broadcasts gender sensitive educational programmes and provides a practical experience for female journalists. MAMA FM also wants to ensure space for especially rural women’s voices. Research has shown that in general, the number of women speaking through radio compared to that of men is low with a ratio of only 15 women out of 100. In Mama FM that is turned upside down!

When speaking with the women and men, younger and older, who had gathered to celebrate their radio, they all said that the reason why MAMA FM is important – compared to the other commercial radios – is that the programmes are dealing with important issues in the daily life – and the programmes are produced by people like themselves, so they trust it!

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