An article written by my friend and journalist Suha Ma’ayah on the need and the power of community radio in Jordan:
AMMAN//For the past year, Muneera Shatti and Asma Raja, two young women from the Jordan Valley, have broadcast a weekly radio show that tackles the issues faced by their impoverished community, from a lack of buses and the theft of water, to boys using mobile phones to take photos of schoolgirls.
The work is not without challenges as the tribal-dominated valley on which they report is staunchly conservative and one of 20 pockets of poverty where the average income is about US$1,800 (Dh6,624) per year.
“At first there were men who refused to be interviewed by us. They would say, ‘You are women’. But they got used to us. Just last week I interviewed young men in a cafe to gauge their views regarding public services,” Ms Shatti said. “Interviewing men is something I would have never imagined myself doing before I became a correspondent for the radio.”
In one programme, Ms Shatti reported on the lack of buses connecting her town with a nearby village. Within a week, the Jordan Valley Authority responded and provided the needed bus.
“That was encouraging even though later the bus was taken away as other bus drivers protested that it was affecting their business.”
In another broadcast, Ms Raja, 24, reported on water theft.
“Farmers were stealing water from the main pipes, depriving residents of drinking water. I talked to a senior water official who promised to provide citizens with another source of water while the government closed some of the pipes to try to stop those from stealing. Since then, water theft has declined.”
Because the women do not have a licence to broadcast in their community, Radio Al Balad, an Amman-based community radio, produces and hosts their show, called the Voice of the Valley.
The women take three buses to get to Amman to broadcast the show, but for them, the trip is worth it.
Radio Al Balad has been pushing hard to get a licence to launch the first all-women community radio in Jordan.
But last month, the government turned down the licence application without giving a reason. The country’s laws do not oblige the government to explain why it rejects applications.