Did someone say Feminist FM? Introducing ‘Nsawya FM’ – Saudi Arabia’s first ever all-female (and volunteer) radio show. With a manifesto of giving a ‘voice of the silent majority and raising awareness of women’s rights’, the weekly programme is part of a sea change that has occured in the lives of our Saudi women. Recently, they were granted the permission to drive, after years and years of protests. While any political resolve centered around the fact that women are ‘real’ and not second-class citizens is to be celebrated, things are still far from perfect. As Nsawya FM also acknowledges still has a long way to go, ‘The poor quality of the sound and the whole production, in general, reflects the non-professional nature of this project’ (and this is not to mention the distressing nature of the radio station’s content). This said, I don’t see the ‘poor’ quality as a bad thing, but rather, it is evidence to me of the very lengths that underrepresented and mistreated women will go to make their voices heard. This fills me with hope and with strength. Amidst the ‘poor’ sound quality and the harrowing news stories of real women’s experiences in Saudi Arabia, there are glimmers of this hope, ‘We started this project to archive this phase for history, so that people would know we were real, we did exist,’ explained Ashtar, the station’s presenter.
Ashtar, who uses Twitter to give life to her thoughts and opinions, has worked hard to carve out an identity for herself as ‘an activist who uses the media to express her ideas’. I was so moved by this statement when I think about my own freedom to post whatever I like on social media without repercussion, and how I don’t often – as I’m sure many of us are guilty of – give the most ‘real’ representation of my life. I am usually more concerned with the latest filter than I am about getting my message and ideas across, as this is a freedom I have the opportunity to afford. Astar’s statement is to me, and should be to a lot of us, how much we should nurture and honour our privilege as women who have these freedoms, and harness this power. It was Astar’s following statement that really got me thinking: ‘the Saudi authorities could ban Twitter at any moment’ she states, ‘and we would lose the archive of our thoughts. She goes on to add ‘the radio gives us the opportunity to record programmes and broadcast them on other platforms’.
There is not one young woman in any corner of our entire world that should have the archive of their thoughts, their very sense of self, snatched away from them and erased. Let us hope that recording these voices will make the expressions of young women immediate and the new wave of feminist FM unforgettable.
– Junior Editor
Girl News International