Khadija Abdalu from Orkonorei FM tells the story of how, despite prejudices in the Maasai tradition, she succeeded to become a radio station manager. She speaks about gender-related programs on the radio and their impact on encouraging women to participate in political and civic processes. Listen below to the audio with Khadija Abdalu.
To know more about Orkonorei Radio visit the web site of the project:https://en.unesco.org/radioict/radios/orkonerei-fm
My name is Khadija Abdalu, and I’m working with the community radio in Simanjiro, known as Orkonerei community radio. Its main purpose is to work for the pastoralist community, mainly Maasai in Simanjiro area in Manyara region. After I graduated from my journalism studies, I went once for the field practicum in one of the regions in Arusha and later joined Orkonerei community radio in 2003. I wanted to practice more and to learn more about the community, so that’s why I was eager to know what the community radio can work in, and why they are working in the villages and not in the Arusha town.
Because I wanted to learn about what is in the community, I wanted to get close to them. We usually heard that the Maasai community doesn’t want to be associate with other tribes, and that is what inspired me more to know about the kind of life they want to live. We heard that when they go to their place and they find out that there are more tribes than theirs, they shift the place for another place. They are normally used to shifting from one place to another for heading their cattle. This is their kind of life. So I wanted to know why they are moving. Then I realized that it is because of their big cattle, because usually Maasai like to have cows and goats. They gain more cattle but have no place for them to graze. They have to move from one place to another.
According to my experience, in most cases when we are going to the field we should be dressed in their traditional clothes, dressed like a Maasai. When they see you, they feel like you like their tradition, so you are friends.
I can say that there is a gender stereotype, I think in most of the places. And because of that some men think that women will have hardship working, they have to be creative. “You cannot be an engineer; you cannot be a manager” – I think that is their thinking. There are many issues for the development, and women are not considered. I know that women are the most powerful to bring about development and bring change. I don’t know about your place, but in Africa we think that in the family it is men who are considered the head of the household. In some communities, for example, in the Maasai community women do not have the right to speak in front of the man. This is the tradition and culture. And some note that since the creation of the world women have been created by the side of the man, so they took it as an excuse, so that we are not “complete”. We can’t stand alone; we can’t do some of the jobs. For me, that is a challenge. “You are a woman; you have to do the household work. This is not the place for the women; this place is for the men.”
When I started working with Orkonerei community, it was hard for me, because it was considered that women are a step below. When our employer, he is a Maasai also, saw this situation, he was the one who brought the changes. He says: “I know that this is our tradition, but I think that we have to give the right to women”. That’s when he started employing many women and giving them high positions. Maybe not very high, but in a consistent way. For example, you could be a manager, news editor. And he is strict to that, he told staff: “She is your manager, you have to respect her at work. When you are at home, practice the tradition, but this is place for work”.
In 2004 I started a program for gender equality. For the first time we invited women to participate. Because they think that – even the women themselves - they think that “you are a child, you don’t know anything about this gender, because we are an adult; how can we learn from you, you are like our daughter”. We taught them about gender, because they are adults, and we can learn from them. Then we continued to educate them, to encourage them to participate, to tell them there are things they can’t do and they can do, to engage them to collaborate and cooperate with their children, especially with girls, to speak on the radio. For the first time community radio had a role to play to sensitize women to engage in civic society and education through the program.
We also have the program “Good Governance” that we started in 2010, before the election. We involved the women and men to talk about that and also the leaders themselves. Sometimes we brought in the role models, for example the governors elected from the community, or the women who had the special seats. For now what we see is that without women being accepted by the society, we must encourage them more to talk about that in the society, in order to be accepted. It is difficult for them to win the support of men and women in the community, so they themselves have to create an environment to be accepted in the community. So when we give them the time to speak on the radio I think that is where we can engage the women in the civic education. For me, media coverage is important in promoting especially women and encouraging them to stand for the election and not just sit and wait for the special seats. They have to participate!