Radio helps women at risk, transforms communities
It’s hard to imagine how a small radio or a speaker box loaded with pre-recorded content can deliver generational change and shift cultural perceptions. But for the FEBC team in North India, they are blessed to hear stories of how radio has reached out for change every day.
Thirty five per cent of Indian women aged 15-49 experience physical and sexual violence in their lifetime.
In India, violence against women means female foeticide and infanticide, neglect of girl children, physical and sexual abuse, child marriage, forced prostitution, son preference, genital mutilation, dowry harassment and even death.
FEBC India has committed to transform the communities of Haryana, West Bengal and Rajasthan by raising the value and equality of women. In Haryana alone, a small state in India with a population of 25 million, there is the highest rate of violence against women in India.
How radio reaches out
FEBC India broadcasts radio dramas about domestic violence, child marriage, early marriage, child trafficking, sanitation facilities, and infant foeticide. Inspirational success stories are produced so listeners are able to hear about new opportunities available to them.
The radio stations interview social activists, lawyers, teachers and other key people from the community who emphasise the importance of change and the value and status of women. For remote areas with poor radio reception, speaker boxes with pre-recorded content are distributed.
Stories are easily heard and shared verbally which is vital among communities where there is high illiteracy.
The content produced is counter-cultural, challenging social norms and encouraging listeners to think differently about their situations. Team members share the good news of Jesus and the love of God through follow-up listener meetings, helping and preventing families from engaging with sex trafficking, child marriage and late-term abortion of female foetuses.
FEBC radio provides the ‘bridge’ into the community. It is not a one-way conversation. Many listeners engage with the local team, sending scripts they have written for new FEBC radio programs. They also ask for programs to be produced on the topics they feel are relevant to the local community. It reaches out beyond the radio studio: e.g: street plays are produced – ‘Nukadd Natak’ – highlighting the importance of girl child education.
How radio changes lives in India
Listeners are now more aware about the problems facing women in the community and can seek help immediately from FEBC’s counsellors or local authorities. Due to the impact of the programs, many young girls from the community have begun to resist or oppose early marriage. Mothers contact the station saying they have started to give more time to their children and have been motivated to self-employment to help their husbands. Also, parents are more aware and have stopped sending their young girls for jobs in cities.
Churches in each state also support FEBC’s vision and give practical help and support to empowering women.
Changed hearts of listeners
After listening to FEBC’s program on child marriage and discussing with the counsellor, ‘A.S.’ called back to say he was also a victim of child marriage. “I am not happy with this and I was forced to do it, I could not stand firm. I did it due to pressure from the society, I live in guilt. But your program encouraged me… I said to my in-laws to give her (his wife) a good education. When she is of age and matured I will bring her to my house.”
‘S’ is a 40-year-old man. A regular listener, he initially called FEBC’s on-air counsellor and argued that FEBC should not encourage girls to study – or discourage child marriage – as he felt educated girls would become rebellious and fail to respect, obey and be submissive to their husbands. But after regularly listening to FEBC’s programs he called back and apologised for the argument and said he wanted to re-think his ideology. He went on to organise a listener meeting so the FEBC team could sit and discuss issues in more detail.
His attitude has now changed towards his daughters’ education as a result of listening to FEBC’s program.
Pray for the women and girls of North India. Click here for prayer points and additional FEBC listener stories from India.More