Gender equality is going viral in Congo
“We must not stop. We must continue to report the news. We must continue to raise awareness.” – Elian Polepole, Mama Radio.
Every morning the journalists of ECI partner Mama Radio – a DRC radio station – gather their editorial board together to review the day’s docket of stories. A time honored journalistic tradition, this editorial board meeting is unique in DRC. Mama Radio is the first radio station broadcasting stories by, for, and about women in Congo. In a country that has been known for its violence against women, Elian Polepole and her team in Goma push back against the conventional narrative, creating a space for women’s issues, women’s voices, and women’s strength.
The story of Mama Radio is an example of how the Congolese people work together to overcome the issues facing their country, and also of how small targeted investments can create significant impact. Mama Radio was the brainchild and creation of the Association des Femmes des Medias (AFEM) in South Kivu, an organization that brings women journalists together from across the DRC for the promotion of women’s rights. Initially, AFEM created radio content, burned the content onto cd’s and bought airtime on local radio stations. This model was limited – AFEM didn’t have the funds to buy enough airtime to broadcast all of the material they were producing.
ECI, along with Falcon Coffees, saw this problem as an opportunity to greatly expand AFEM’s footprint. Instead of merely paying for the needed radio time, with a $32,000 investment ECI and Falcon financed the construction of AFEM’s own recording studio. Mama Radio was born. In its first year, Mama Radio has already put together 12 weekly shows in Swahili and French on issues including democracy, human rights, good governance, women’s access to resources, reproductive health, and gender.
It is often said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Mama Radio is a bold and necessary first step to shining a light on the myriad of issues faced by women in the DRC. By coming together and reporting on these problems, Mama Radio shows the world that the Congolese people are working on innovative solutions to their problems. ECI is proud to play a small part in this incredible story of solidarity, equality and hope.