By Bandana Danuwar (Danuwar)
By working in community radio, a group of young Indigenous women in Udayapur district in eastern Nepal is making their voices heard and winning the trust of their communities. Now younger generations are inspired by their work.
Community radio is a powerful tool for uplifting the voices of marginalized communities, including Indigenous Peoples, who lack access to information in their language. Radio is a reliable and accessible means to share stories, voices, and perspectives, and to raise awareness of the issues and challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples.
Located in Nabudayatol, Rajabas in Triyuga Municipality, Radio Udayapur 102.4 Mhz, was founded in 2009. The station has a capacity of 100 watts and is run and managed by a group of women’s rights activists affiliated with the Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC), a non-profit organization that works to develop women’s and girls' leadership skills in Udayapur district. This is the third radio station in Nepal run and managed by women. The founders of the station recognized the power of radio to reach and inform women, even those living in remote areas and those who do not have access to education. They believed that radio could be a platform for women to share their voices and perspectives.
Initially, when Radio Udayapur first went on air, it broadcast for only two hours a day. But over the years, the station has expanded its reach and programming. Today. It broadcasts 17 hours a day and produces a variety of programs on topics such as women’s empowerment, education, health, and agriculture. The radio airs news in Nepali and Tharu languages at least three times a day and produces public service announcements in Danuwar, Newar, and Magar languages. The station employs ten full-time and part-time staff, eight of whom are Danuwar and Tharu working as producers, presenters, and reporters.
Urmila Danuwar (Danuwar), one of the program producers and presenters at Radio Udayapur says she was inspired to start working in radio because she wanted to promote her community's culture and language through radio. She says, “Through my program, I want to show that we are proud to be Danuwars and are rich in culture and language. I mostly feature stories from the Danuwar community, their life experiences, and mostly interview Danuwar Elders and community leaders to learn more about our culture and traditions.”
Radio Udayapur has played a vital role in empowering women in the Udaypur district. The station has provided a platform for women to speak out about their experiences and to advocate for their rights. It has also helped to raise awareness of gender discrimination and violence against women.
In Triyuga Municipality-7, Dambar Bahadur Majhi (Majhi) said that he was happy that the radio is helping to revitalize his threatened culture and language through radio. “It is important to preserve our culture, tradition, and language. Radio Udayapur is covering rituals and culture of Majhis and thus helped in their preservation,” says Dambar Majhi.
The station has also brought the problems faced by Musahar communities to the attention of the local government. These include poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to basic services. Speaking to the radio, Uddhav Thapa, chairperson of Triyuga Municipality-5 said, “I understand the problems that the Musahar community is facing, mainly about the drinking water and water for irrigation, I will work to find solutions to these problems.”
One of the challenges that Radio Udayapur had was a lack of trained women journalists and various policies to guide the station’s development. With a grant from Cultural Survival’s Indigenous Community Media Fund, Radio Udayapur has conducted trainings for young women, a majority of whom are from marginalized communities. The station was also able to build the skills of the young women journalists and strengthen the radio station by drafting necessary policies such as accounting, administration, and human resource policies. The grant also helped young women journalists to participate in the policy-making process. The station is now more organized, transparent, and well-managed. With the funds, Radio Udayapur also organized training on basic video editing and production training for young women journalists working at the station. Now, staff members at the station can produce videos from their mobile phones, which is likely to help gain our visibility. In addition, two desktop computers were purchased and have helped to operate the station smoothly. Radio Udayapur released two public service announcements in Danuwar and Tharu aimed at strengthening and promoting their mother tongue by encouraging the use of the languages at home and in community and public spaces as much as possible. Finally, the station today has its own building.
Despite challenges, Radio Udayapur has been able to persevere and has become one of the most respected radio stations in Nepal. The radio is known for its women-oriented programming and its commitment to uplifting women and girls. This year Radio Udayapur is celebrating its 15th anniversary.
- Bandana Danuwar is station manager at Radio Udayapur.
In 2022, Radio Udayapur received a grant from Cultural Survival’s Indigenous Community Media Fund, which provides opportunities for international Indigenous radio stations to strengthen their infrastructure and broadcast systems and creates training opportunities for journalism, broadcasting, audio editing, technical skills, and more for radio journalists from Indigenous communities around the world. In 2023, the Indigenous Community Media Fund distributed $420,000 in grants supporting 60 Indigenous communication projects that will benefit 87 Indigenous Peoples in 20 countries