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Radio, Feminism and Syria

Since its birth in the 1920s radio has been a beacon for change in many aspects of human life. Most notably it has been used to amplify women’s voices all around the world.  Today, with the advent of the internet, the radio has, if anything, become even more powerful. The introduction of podcasts along with the social media revolution has sent powerful messages to women and about women all around the globe.

Image credit: WILPF
WILPF International Secretariat
13 February 2020

Since its birth in the 1920s radio has been a beacon for change in many aspects of human life. Most notably it has been used to amplify women’s voices all around the world. 

The British radio magazine programme Woman’s Hour, which first broadcasted in 1946 and was the first radio programme dedicated to women, has not shied away from tackling the most important and difficult issues facing women. 

Today, with the advent of the internet, the radio has, if anything, become even more powerful. The introduction of podcasts along with the social media revolution has sent powerful messages to women and about women all around the globe.  

The power of radio

In spite of decade long predictions of its demise, audio broadcasts have not lost their particular power to communicate. They occupy a niche as the ideal secondary medium – you lose yourself in a podcast while commuting to work or sleep to the rhythm of your favourite music.  

In the morning, the sound of the radio in the background while the kids are getting ready for school is a reassuring companion that is still the soundtrack to the beginning of many people’s days. The ubiquity of smartphones now means that the soundtrack can continue to play when you leave the house.

Its unique ability to reach a very wide audience anytime of the day and the comparatively low cost of production in comparison to other media makes it an essential tool available to even the most marginalised groups to help change societies. 

A girl, shown from the neck down, holding her phone interacting with a boy holding a radio

In the last five years, there has been an explosion in public consumption of podcasts. The online world has re-democratised access to the platforms where people can make their voices heard. Audiences can now witness young girls producing their own viral feminist content such as Feminist Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies by Scarlett Curtis. Women activists producing material that once was niche like When Feminists Rule the World by Nobel Women’s Intitiative, Tea with Mama Cash  and The Guilty Feminist by Francis Deborah Francis White. 

Both traditional linear radio broadcasting and downloadable podcasts have the power to deliver messages and affect change without need for expensive images or the distraction they can cause. Audio broadcasts are often a far better way of conveying potentially complex ideas and information quickly. It is a focused medium that can reach anyone, anywhere in any remote place in the world. 

Caroline Mitchell, an expert on radio and participation describes her desktop as “a transnational audio time machine: through it, I can listen to women’s voices across different eras and continents.” She explains that her heart starts beating a little faster, listening to an early recording of Florence Nightingale’s voice made in 1890 or the sound of the New York Feminists’ Network where she says “I feel like I actually sitting amongst them.” 

Christine Ehrick a historian with an interest in gender and audio, argues that “women’s growing visibility in the twentieth century was accompanied by a greater audibility.”

Radio and Syria

“Growing up in one of the most oppressive regimes on earth meant that childhoods were robbed away from a whole generation. School was militarist, styled on North Korea. But one of the happy memories I and so many other Syrians cherish is the sound of the radio every morning playing the songs of the legendary Lebanese chanteuse, Fairuz. For a half an hour we felt optimism before the military exercises began at school. A member of WILPF’s team  says and continues: 

After the uprising in Syria, radio outlets flourished. More than 22 radio stations opened in rebel held areas and nearby in Turkey. A lot of them were community stations talking about issues confronting Syrians in their everyday lives during  the conflict. Some of them had a greater agenda of building civil society in Syria while others had a purely feminist agenda.  

Radio Souriat (Syrian Women’s Radio)

Radio Souriat was founded by Amera Malik and inspired by a Palastinian Radio Station Called Nissa (Women). Amera said her dream was to create a media firm called Souriat (Syrian Women) focusing entirely on women and women issues in Syria. After the uprising, Radio Souriate emerged as an online radio. The team behind it began producing programmes and conducting interviews all about women and to broadcast them to a general Syrian audience. 

As the uprising went on and power cuts became a regular problem, Radio Souriat turned to social media as a new outlet for their activism. 

Amera says: “Radio is my passion, I feel it is the most powerful medium and has the ability not only to truly shape societies but also connect them.” 

Since its inception Radio Souriat has been tackling difficult issues facing women in Syria. From honour killing to sexual harassment. It gives a platform to women in Syria to make their voices heard and it runs many projects on the ground to raise awareness about women’s rights and advocate for change.

Though far from a traditional radio broadcaster, Radio Souriat understood the power of the medium in delivering messages. The ‘radio’ in their name is there to evoke the powerful impact of the great radio broadcasts of the past on Syrian history and to signify that women now aspire to a similarly powerful voice in the country’s future, that they will use to broadcast the messages about women’s rights and equality loud and clear. 

Radio Silence 

The war in Syria is still going on and the last few weeks have been amongst the bloodiest. With Idlib devastated by air strikes and barrel bombs, with most of its population made homeless the world has greeted these many tragedies with radio silence. 

Most of the radios operating in the area have had to shut down, a number of radio journalists have been assassinated or forced to flee. In the face of this kind of persecution, we can only hope the experience of a free press and a free radio that Syrians have cherished as a respite from the propaganda of an oppressive regime can survive and endure.


World Radio Day

Proclaimed in 2011 by the Member States of UNESCO, and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 as an International Day, February 13 is World Radio Day (WRD).

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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