Launched in August 2010, Liberia Women Democracy Radio (LWDR) is a community radio station based in Monrovia, Liberia that focuses on raising the voices of women and increasing women's access to information. Sponsored by the United Nations Democracy Fund, facilitated by UN Women, and implemented by the Liberia Women Media Action Committee and the Young Women's Christian Association, the radio station seeks to highlight gender issues and to provide practical training and exposure to female journalists.
According to organisers, Liberia Women Democracy Radio is the first radio station to focus on women's issues and women’s empowerment. However, the station is aware that if they are to change the perception of women in Liberia, their programming must also be attractive to men. A little under half of the reporting staff is male. Organisers say this is partly due to the shortage of experienced female journalists but it's also done intentionally, to encourage male consideration of female interests.
The station broadcasts 12 hours a day and is available in eight of Liberia's 15 counties. Programming ranges from live talk shows to almost 30 pre-produced programmes as well as music that does not defame women. Many of the programmes and the news are broadcast in simple Liberian English so they are accessible to ordinary women. The station also runs a research department and organises community forums for women to share views.
To boost women's numbers in newsrooms, the station has a training programme that reaches seven female university students in three universities in Monrovia. Two of the station's working reporters also receive continuing education through a pilot programme called New Narratives, launched in July 2010 to link female journalists in Liberia for one-on-one training with veteran international reporters.
Women, Gender equality
According to organisers, the Liberian media is hugely male dominated, and only one in six journalists are female. Male journalists tend to focus on politics and issues many ordinary Liberians do not understand. They seldom touch on subjects such as high levels of rape, teenage pregnancy, female genital mutilation, or problems retention of girls in school. LWDR aims to reach ordinary women with stories around issues that affect them.
The studio is currently undergoing a financial transition, as their startup funding from the United National Democracy Fund is set to expire in March 2011. A team is now working to establish an endowment account with a local bank to accept donations. The team is also working to start selling airtime, seek sponsorship, and raise funds.
United National Democracy Fund, UN Women, The Liberia Women Media Action Committee, The Young Women's Christian Association