Nelly Bassily | October 4, 2010
In August 2010, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, presided over the launch of the Liberia Women Democracy Radio in the capital city of Monrovia. This is the first radio station in the country dedicated to raising the voices of women and increasing women’s access to information.
At the launch, President Sirleaf said, “We want you to bring a strong voice to the women. I hope you will have great influence in trying to promote the enhancement of women’s role in this society.” The station, to be known as LWDR FM 91.1, is sponsored by the United Nations Democracy Fund.
LWDR aims to provide a platform for women to talk about issues rarely heard on other Liberian stations. They want women to start playing a role in shaping their country’s future. Women bore the brunt of the violence during the civil war. Seven years later, they are still the most vulnerable group in society. Their voices are rarely heard. Increasing access to health services for women is still a huge task. The World Health Organization estimates that three quarters of those infected with HIV in Liberia are women.
Kimberline Kpelle sells dried goods on the side of the road in Monrovia. Today she is wearing a beautifully-tailored Liberian suit as she attends the launch. She says, “Sometimes we don’t have people to speak for us. We listen to the radio station and they speak for us; we, the young girls.”
The station knows that to change the perception of women in Liberia, their programming must also attract men. A little under half of the reporting staff is male. Twenty-two year old Winston Daryoue is the News Director. He says, “Sometimes when you cover a story, you want to take it from the conventional style, but you have to look at the gender side of it. You have to adapt to the new way of reporting it.”
President Sirleaf encouraged girls and young women to pursue education and careers, and urged the station’s management to join in the fight against illiteracy and sexual violence.
Leaving the station, the President remarked, “We still have some serious problems in Liberia; serious problems regarding rape, regarding the retention of girls in school. I hope through this station they will be able to focus on that problem where the other stations won’t be able to focus exclusively. That will help us a lot.”