South Sudan: How one woman found her voice on-air (Internews)

| February 23, 2015

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When Hellen Samuel first became a journalist in the mid-1980s, it wasn’t easy for women working at radio stations. Ms. Samuel encountered sexual harassment and inflexible deadlines.

Ms. Samuel hosts Under the Tree, a talk show on Eye Radio 98.6 FM in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. The program covers topics ranging from health and politics. She says: “Most ladies get married early. You have a family, [but] you need the job, and you have to complete your assignments on time regardless of how you make ends meet at home and at work.”

Ms. Samuel’s show provides an outlet for people to air their views and make suggestions. She says Under the Tree refers to the place where traditional leaders and elders hold meetings and make important decisions.

Ms. Samuel says: “I love getting to the heart of the audience, seeing positive results after discussing an issue on the show … [a result such as fewer] homeless children on the streets, mothers going for antenatal care, [and] people going for [voluntary] HIV testing.”

Ms. Samuel’s program highlights the problems faced by widows who are unable to work. Relatives of these widows’ dead husbands often confiscate their property, and nobody appears willing to help.

One of Ms. Samuel’s most memorable shows featured two university students who were raised by widows. The two students faced a situation similar to that now experienced by many families in South Sudan. The current conflict between the supporters of President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar has led to thousands of deaths, and an increasing number of families are now headed by widows.

The two students’ mothers never remarried and took care of them as single parents. The students – a young woman and man – sometimes missed school when there was no money for fees. When they did attend, they were taunted by bullies because they were fatherless.

On Ms. Samuel’s program, the students argued that they owed everything to their mothers, and that change can only happen through education. Ms. Samuel recalls, “It was a very, very emotional show. Even some of my colleagues in the office shed tears.”

Ms. Samuel has achieved success as a radio broadcaster. She now encourages women in South Sudan to follow their hearts. She tells them: “When you are determined, nothing will deter you from your dreams.”

To read the article on which this story is based, On World Radio Day, how one woman in South Sudan found her voice on air, go to:

For more information about Eye Radio, go to:

Photo credit: Photo of Hellen Samuel courtesy of Eye Radio in South Sudan.