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Radio Programs Empower Women in Afghanistan

Rachel Ellison, the creator of a BBC radio show aimed at giving support and advice to women in Afghanistan has been awarded the prestigious Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. The Afghan Women's Hour was honored for promoting human rights and female empowerment in its mission to “celebrate, inform and entertain women”. The weekly show gives advice on gender issues, features female role models and offers solutions to everyday problems. The weekly magazine show is broadcast in Dari and Pashto via BBC World Service. Past shows have focused on story telling, cooking, and Afghan music and culture.

"This program is changing people's lives for the better," said Ms. Ellison upon receiving the award. Ms. Ellison sees the show as giving women a route to self empowerment in areas where they have little or no access to education or support networks.

San Francisco NGO Equal Access is similarly using radio to foster development and education in rural Afghanistan.  Their Human Rights and Women in Islam Initiative uses radio drama to reinforce democratic principles and support civil society within existing social, religious and cultural traditions. The program, My Rights, Our Rights, Others’ Rights in the Light of Islam, combines presenter led chats, engaging interviews and exciting serial dramas in Pashto and Dari to encourage discussions about rights within an Islamic framework. Focusing on families from a fictional rural village, the drama weaves vital human rights themes such as violence against women, access to education and employment and gender discrimination into each radio episode. With dynamic characters, including traditional as well as more liberal family members, a young widow, an Afghan commander, an Afghan Mullah and his “haja” wife, a respected older woman of the community, My Rights… portrays the diversity and complexity of Afghanistan society.

My Rights… is broadcast on our Radio Danesh, reaching over 5 million people in 7,000 underserved rural communities via satellite and FM stations. Equal Access also partners with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Women’s Campaign International and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission to educate rural women in community mobilization leadership training.

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