By Natalie Konyalian and Petra Pint
In a time of widespread backlash against the rights of both women and migrants, as well rising inequality and increasing conflicts on local and global levels, it is important to protect spaces where people affected by those restrictions and changes can talk about their perspectives. Community-based media is one such space, where voices which are underrepresented in mainstream media can be heard. Community-based media gives people the chance to produce their own content, irrespective of their background, education, skills, gender, residency status and much more. This plays a key role in encouraging people to become independent actors and participate actively in the democratic process.
The three partner organisations, Frauen*solidarität (Austria), Cyprus Community Media Centre - CCMC (Cyprus) and Panjabi Centre (United Kingdom), brought their expertise and experience in working with women and ethnic minorities together with experience in using community media as a mediator in conflict situations in a project entitled ‘Speaking Out Loud’.
Who we are
Austria’s Frauen*solidarität organises and hosts events with international gender experts, feminist and women’s rights activists. It also publishes a quarterly magazine, which it has been doing since 1982, produces a weekly community radio programme, which it has been doing since 2005, implements projects, produces educational material and runs a library in cooperation with two other organisations. Frauen*solidarität also provides media training for women and girls.
CCMC is the leading community media organisation in Cyprus. In addition to running media and communications training programmes for civil society groups, CCMC has also launched an online volunteer-based multilingual community radio station – MYCYradio – the first of its kind in Cyprus to specifically target and empower communities and disadvantaged groups that have been marginalised by mainstream media.
The Panjabi Centre in London runs a 24/7 community radio station (Desi Radio) and offers radio and computer training for men, women and young people across the community. It also organises Panjabi cultural events to empower women through song, folk dancing, storytelling and acting.
Why it is important
The right and the ability to communicate is a critical aspect of gender equality, representation and integration of migrants, and progress in peace building and conflict resolution initiatives.
The widening gap between women whose economic and personal status has improved in recent years and those who have been left behind parallels the gaps between the rich and the poor, and the connected and the powerless. The goal of the project ‘Speaking Out Loud’ was to raise awareness about the inequalities that still exist, to recognise international cooperation in women’s movements around the world (e.g. the UN World conferences on Women) and to also discuss possibilities for improvement on a local level.
In light of increased levels of migration to Europe in recent years, as well as the political instrumentalisation thereof, it was important to focus on the perspectives of migrants who have been left out of the current discourse (e.g. the Panjabi community in London). Migration affects every country, family and individual in some way. This project gave space to discuss how migrants’ rights can be strengthened and how racism can be combatted.
Inequalities and conflicts between social groups are rising throughout Europe; not just in war zones in the Global South. The project discussed current approaches to peace building and conflict resolution (e.g. the Cyprus peace process) and provided a space to think freely about possibilities for peace on both a local and global level.
Meeting each other where they are based
One of the main aims of the project was for the organisations to exchange knowledge and best practices by working with volunteers and utilising and practicing different training methods. Each of the partner organisations met in Vienna (Austria), Nicosia (Cyprus) and London (United Kingdom) where they held workshops, which were mainly targeted at women and migrants, and organised meetings. Sustainable partnerships and contacts were built and the meetings brought together activists from different organisations and backgrounds. The workshops gave participants the opportunity to share their experiences and develop a theoretical framework on the rights of women and migrants and conflict resolution and gave them an opportunity to exchange practical training on the use of community media.
The training sessions promoted empowerment through the combination of learning new media skills whilst at the same time discussing specific topics. These topics included gender justice and international feminism at the workshop in Vienna; migrant rights and representation, restrictive policies and Brexit at the meeting in London; and reporting about peace, conflict resolution and creating stories for change at the conference in Nicosia.
The products of these training workshops included videos about diversity, female empowerment and women’s rights in the workplace as well as a mixed radio programme about women’s rights and health reforms in Austria. In London, the participants, primarily Panjabi women, produced radio documentaries and radio dramas in Hindi about their situation in the UK, family issues and the current political climate. In Nicosia, the participants produced a mixed radio programme about issues related to working in the buffer zone and how to live a peaceful life around the world. They also produced radio dramas about FGM and a peaceful adaption of a story from Greek Mythology. At the final workshop in Vienna, the participants produced a mixed radio programme about the current antifeminist backlash in Austrian politics.
Keep on asking questions > sharing with a broader audience
To gain a broader understanding of the three main project areas (gender, migration and conflict resolution), the project partners conducted interviews amongst themselves, as well as with other organisations from each corresponding country, which are active in areas relating to the project’s overall theme. For example, a representative from the Association of Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) in Nicosia, Cyprus, was interviewed about how the organisation works to contribute to the advancement of historical understanding among the public (mainly young people and teachers) within the local context by providing access to learning opportunities, with a focus on the area of conflict resolution. These interviews were later compiled as short broadcasts and published on a CD to be shared with the wider public. All media productions can be downloaded from the partners’ websites and used without restrictions.
What we achieved
This project offered volunteers the opportunity to change their perspectives, it gave them new themes to work with, and empowered them to take both the theoretical and practical training back to their organisations and radio stations. It also allowed them to further expand their knowledge and reflect on the subjects that were covered and use these skill sets for future development.
Participants had the opportunity to work with international teams of trainers and volunteers, gaining new insights into the world of international community media. One participant who attended a training session in Vienna later visited the Panjabi Centre in London and produced a radio show about their experiences. Many of the people who visit and volunteer at the Panjabi Centre have little opportunity to mix with people from outside their community, this project allowed them to receive training from a totally different perspective on issues that they would not normally consider tackling. This was an important experience for them, one that they will likely share with their friends and family, spreading the knowledge that they gained.
Most of the participants from the workshops that took place in Cyprus would not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet experts from the UK or Austria, and this was particularly true for the refugees who took part. These people had had very little, or zero, exposure to such organisations but did have a keen interest in the topics discussed. Therefore, this was highly valuable information and interaction for them and will help empower them and broaden their knowledge.
The collaboration between the three organisations that took part in this project not only proved valuable to the workshop participants, but also helped build relationships between the organisers, who were able to educate themselves on issues they would otherwise not have been aware of or been exposed to. It also helped broaden the understanding of how community media, specifically radio, is useful and how it is utilised in each region, based on the local context. For example, the CCMC in Nicosia is situated within the UN-controlled buffer zone in the capital, a city that has been divided for 45 years. This makes the organisation very unique in its setup, mission and operations and means it plays an integral role in the peace process from a grassroots level. Speaking to the locals from the different regions and learning about their perspectives and the issues they deal with on a daily basis proved very enriching and helped integrate those new experiences into future projects.
#ERASMUSDAYS : https://cba.fro.at/386082
Picture: © Frauen*solidarität/CCMC/Desi Radio
Natalie Konyalian is a project coordinator, mediamaker, MYCYradio Studio Manager and production coordinator at Cyprus Community Media Centre.
Petra Pint is the editor of the magazine “Frauen*Solidarität” (www.frauensolidaritaet.org). There she also develops and organizes media workshops and is a member of the radio collective “Women on Air” (www.noso.at).