Hélène Boucher | May 26, 2019
It’s finally 5 p.m. on Friday in Grand Yoff, a popular district in the middle of Dakar, so the team at Afia FM can take a well-earned break. Since the early hours of the morning, the broadcasters and hosts have been taking their turns at the microphone in the three studios at this station, whose broadcast reaches as far as the city of Thiès, 75 kilometres from Dakar. At the head of the team are two women devoted to free expression and sharing ideas from their audience.
Since 2003, a team of spirited women have sought to amplify the voices of women in the community. They do this in all the major languages of Senegal—including Diola, Malinké, Pular, Sérère, Soninké, and Wolof—a point of pride for Faye N’Diaye, the program manager. With a background in journalism and communication, Mrs. N’Diaye’s enthusiasm for radio is evident through her charismatic voice and her thirst for challenge.
With 15 years of work in radio, this brave woman has confronted many challenges in a field where men’s voices dominate the airwaves. In Senegal, listeners give more value to men’s opinions. So while the broadcasters at Afia FM tackle a wide range of political and cultural topics on the airwaves, Mrs. N’Diaye has established a creative method for choosing who is behind the microphone: women host topical programs and men host music programs. For example, one themed program addresses businesswomen, and gives them an opportunity to share their initiatives with the audience.
Mrs. N’Diaye is not alone in leading the charge at Afia FM. Since 2011, she has been working with Penda Ngane Sougou, the director of the station, and the two women are a dynamic duo. Mrs. Sougou explains their goal: “Our mission is to give voice to those without voice in all areas of life and society.“ She explains that the media often promote the same voices and ideas, and it is important to encourage women to speak up and ensure that more diverse ideas are shared—not just those of men.
Grand Yoff is a melting pot of many ethnicities who express themselves in a multitude of languages. To connect with this audience, Mrs. Sougou says she must first listen to them and understand the sensitive subjects that make up their reality: for example, the stresses of family life and marriage or the aspirations of youth. Innovative programming requires broadcasting a diverse range of programs that speak to people of all age groups. This is what Mrs. Sougou calls “the field of everyday life.” This is in addition to programs about politics, food, artisanal crafts, and good hygiene, which interest individuals aged 7 to 77.
From programming to management, Mrs. N’Diaye and Mrs. Sougou share a common approach. They focus on recruiting women broadcasters: women leaders devoted to action in a man’s world. This is their rally cry.
As a community radio station in Senegal, Afia FM must find ways of financing its work. The government provides just a small amount of financing to cover travel expenses and a small amount of costs. Mrs. Sougou explains, “Afia FM is always facing a lack of funds because the government doesn’t give enough support. As a community radio station, we cannot broadcast advertisements in exchange for revenue.”
In order to remedy this situation. Mrs. Sougou looks for revenue in other areas, including partnerships with NGOs. She adds, “Without partners in Senegal, it is very difficult for community radio in terms of resources and equipment.”
Despite these funding challenges, Mrs. N’Diaye and Mrs. Sougou want to expand their operation into television to become even more visible in their community. The heart of their station, their day-to-radio programming, will never be abandoned, regardless of challenges. Their greatest pride is to see broadcasters who they have trained succeed and love that they do.
Afia FM recently became a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner. Any radio station or organization working with radio can become a broadcasting partner simply by filling out the partnership agreement. To learn more, go to: www.farmradio.fm