Lasses Rock the Radio

Jan 26, 2011

Female radio professionals are taking over the medium in eastern Nepal.

The first thing you notice when you walk into the offices of Menchheyam FM in Myanglung, the headquarters of Terhathum district, is that the place is occupied by women. The station manager is a woman, so are the producers, presenters, and even technicians. Of course, there are a few men here and there, but the majority, i.e. a whopping 80% of the employees of the radio station, are women. In fact, Mechheyam, the name of the radio station means “a young woman” in Limbu language and the name seems entirely appropriate for this radio station.

An interesting trend is noticeable in the media industry - An overwhelming number of young professionals in this sector are women.

An interesting trend is noticeable in the media industry, especially in the radio sector, in the eastern region of the country. An overwhelming number of young professionals in this sector are women.

In Dharan, the majority of employees at Vijaypur FM are women. At Radio Purbhanchal in Morang, everyone except the night security guard is a woman. Inspired by the increasing popularity of radios and the glamour associated with it, these women are rapidly changing the media landscape of the region.

Astha Palikhe wanted to pursue something creative on the side during her undergraduate course. She took a radio presentation and technical course with three dozen wannabe journalists, provided by Vijyapur FM station in Dharan, and was pleasantly surprised when she was chosen for a full-time position at the station. Every of the dozen and a half new recruits who joined the station with her at the time were women.

Three years later, Palikhe and the girls are some of the most recognised names in Dharan. Three of them have in fact moved to Kathmandu to seek opportunities on a national level, while others continue to rock the radios in Dharan.

Like on most commercial stations, Vijaypur FM hosts a variety of entertainment shows as well as regular news and public service programmes. Astha is in charge of managing the daily shifts as well as running a couple of entertainment and information shows. Her programme, "Family Doctor", is considered the most successful broadcast of the FM station.

In the local neighbourhood, her programme has elevated her status (similar to that of the doctor), and people come to her asking for medical advice. "The way people treat me has changed since I joined the station," says Astha. "I think my social responsibility has increased since." Binita Timsina, who runs social awareness programmes at the station, notes that radio is also platform that is giving many people social recognition. "People who didn't recognise me before now call me up when I walk down the road, and want to have intelligent discussion with me."

Women's personal knowledge, wisdom and confidence have also increased due to their media work.

According to Sunita KC, one of the newscasters at Vijaypur FM, the benefits are not limited to the aspects above; women's personal knowledge, wisdom and confidence have also increased due to their media work. "I have to keep abreast of national and international news and current affairs," says Sunita. "As a result, I feel I have gained a lot of experience and knowledge."

Vijaypur FM station manager Kishor Thulung says more than half of the radio presenters at the station are women. "They are all strong professionals," he says. "When it comes to hard work and creativity, they are on a par of with any of the men in the station."

Whether their intention was to pursue something creative alongside their studies or to seek a full-fledged career in the media, all of the radio professionals say that the opportunity had made them feel more empowered.

The station manager of Menchheyam FM, Ramala Singak says: "Even those who were previously pretty shy, are now much more involved and of course vocal in matters of society and are very active in local discussions." Ramala, who worked as a freelance radio correspondent before moving to Menchheyam, says that such opportunities are good not only for staff members' personal development, but also for the development of local society.

The experience at local radio is a great first step for professional careers in the field, says Nilam Rai, one of the presenters. "It gives you confidence and experience so you can do a better job. Since I joined the radio, I have found myself much more likely to speak up, and to speak with more members of society."


This post was originally published in Wave in January 2011.