Community Radio Waves Empower Rural Guatemala

by Creative Action Institute

ArtCorps Artist Monika Navarro finds a way to talk about sex on public radio waves in Guatemala.

“I would love to do a radio program on sexuality,” Rosy told me, on my first day observing her at Radio Ixchel, the community radio station in Sumpango, Sacatapequez. “But the town would lynch me.” In between sets of classical marimba, we talked about how she felt constrained by the conservative values of her town, and how strongly she felt that women be informed about their choices. I made it my personal goal that day to give Rosy an opportunity to do a program on sexuality, even if it was just for one day.

Four weeks later, the women of Radio Ixchel and I are in the final planning stages of a special day of programming for International Women’s Day on March 8th. From 8am to 8pm, the radio station will be celebrating women, and focusing on issues important to Guatemala women such as education, the traditional art of weaving (tejido), women in politics, microcredit and… of course, sexuality.

When I first met with the women to talk about how Radio Ixchel could celebrate International Women’s Day, I already had a list of ideas and topics. But that’s not the ArtCorps way. So after brainstorming with the women about different forms of discrimination, I asked them to share a personal story of when they had felt discriminated against, using one of the examples listed by the group. Out came heart-wrenching stories of being told they were not worthy of being educated because they were girls, being teased for the color of their skin, being tormented by their peers for being indigenous. After we listened to each person’s story, we talked about the importance of using the radio as a platform for change. Over the next few weeks, we solicited local women in the community who were leaders, organizations who worked for the education and reproductive health of women, and fingers crossed, a live interview with “La Flor de Sumpango” (the town beauty queen).

Rosy and her colleague Angelica will be interviewing WINGS, a non-governmental organization that is working to strengthen Guatemalan families through sexual and reproductive health. They are also planning a special call-in session, where folks can text message or call the radio station to ask the WINGS staff questions about sex. So let them come with their pitchforks and crucifixes. Our mics are ready.

Rosy, a Volunteer at Radio Ixchel
Rosy, a Volunteer at Radio Ixchel

ArtCorps Artist Monika Navarro is taking a multi-media approach to strengthening the network of community radio stations throughout Guatemala. ArtCorps Artist Monika Navarro knows film and storytelling. She's a documentary filmmaker, after all. And although she has been in Guatemala for less than two months, she's already collaborating with Radio Ixchel in Sumpango, Guatemala, to use these tools to bolster their work and the community radio station network.

As part of the effort to formalize the network of community radio stations, Monika is working with other international and local film makers to create four 30-second video shorts on the importance of radio. They will be broadcast on Guatemala’s Vea Canal, Vimeo and YouTube, while the audio version will be broadcast by the community radio stations. In addition, this project will train local radio broadcasters to create broadcast training videos that will be disseminated throughout the 175 indigenous radio stations; train key indigenous constituencies to create radio social dramas and other creative oral activities to engage listenership and share critical information; and engage youth as multi-media journalists and stewards of indigenous knowledge.

The first training video will focus on the importance of indigenous women’s voices and will look at the role of women at Radio Ixchel, a topic selected by the radio station. The goal is not, of course, just about the final product. It's about transfering skills to staff and volunteers at Radio Ixchel so that they will be able to produce additional training videos on their own. As a result, Monika is facilitating bi-weekly workshops for eight men and eight women radio broadcasters to produce the first in many training videos.

For more on Monika's efforts on providing space for indigenous women's voices, check out the ArtCorps blog!



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Organization Information

Creative Action Institute

Location: Ipswich, MA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Louisa Trackman
Ipswich, MA United States

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