Women's Human Rights and Community Broadcasting

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In Mexico there are more than 1400 radio stations. 1149 of them are commercial and 347 have a permit; 759 are AM and 473 FM stations (2). Up until 2004 only one station being run by a civil citizen association had a permit--Radio Teocelo, in the community of Teocelo in the state of Veracruz. This radio station received a permit to legally operate in 1964 but for 40 years all permits requested by civil society groups were denied. In 2004 however, after long negotiations between AMARC (3) and the Mexican government, 10 community radio stations finally received permits to operate. But none of them are owned or run by women or a women's group. Even though it is a principle in community radio to promote women's participation and gender equality, women's participation peaks at 30 per cent (4) only.

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Until a decade ago (5), womens participation and the inclusion of a gender perspectives in broadcasting were only common in state and privately owned broadcasting. In the late 1980's to the early 1990's, feminist production groups that were working directly with women, popularised the concept of women's community communication where journalists and communicators used broadcast spaces to discuss women's issues from a gender perspective. It was in these spaces that issues such as domestic violence, sexual and reproductive rights and health, political and social rights of women etc. were discussed for the first time. It was during this time too that SIPAM (Salud Integral para la Mujer, Integral Health for Women) began its radio project and joined the efforts of other feminist organisations in initiating discussions on "women's issues" from a rights-based perspective and not just from their traditional reproductive role. (6)

SIPAM developed a radio project with a community perspective that has taken up topics related to women's rights and public opinion. It contributed to the local, national, regional and international debate on social inequality that is reality for half of the population in our country.

SIPAM's radio project seeks to democratise the means of communication in Mexico as promoted by AMARC. In 1994. SIPAM shares with a common "political project committed to and positioned in the concrete local problems and rooted in the social context." (7)

For more than 15 years SIPAM has been experimenting with the tools that radio offers to pursue a political agenda in building public opinion. It takes advantage of the knowledge and experience of journalists and communicators in consultation programmes, radio debates, health features, radio workshops, reports, testimonies and radio dramas. Hundreds of women have contributed to these productions as hosts, anchors, musicians, producers, coordinators. Women have likewise engaged as active agents in their communities, organisations, or municipalities in these radio programmes, encouraging other members of the community to share their stories, ask questions and express their opinions.

The first radio programme of SIPAM, "We are no longer patient," laid the ground for the dissemination of SIPAM's as well as other feminist organisations' political work. Given the legal and economic barriers for a civil society organisation in the years prior to 2004 to obtain a permit to broadcast, the only option for SIPAM was through a government radio outfit. This collaboration was a heavy financial burden for the organisation, nevertheless we were able to obtain funding from a German foundation.

The collaboration with other feminist communication groups at the national, regional and international level was very important to consolidate SIPAM's radio work in terms of concepts, methodologies as well as technical know-how. SIPAM has formed valuable alliances with Latin-American feminist news agencies such as Isis Chile; Comunicacion e Informacion de la Mujer, A.C.; FEMPRESS; Radio Internacional Feminista; the Women's International Network of AMARC Latin-America and the Caribbean; and the European-Latin-American Network, Interconexiones. …