Radios: A Lifeline to Safety for Nicaraguan Women

by MADRE, An International Women's Human Rights Org.
Radios: A Lifeline to Safety for Nicaraguan Women
Diana demonstrates how to use digital recorders
Diana demonstrates how to use digital recorders

The Indigenous Women's Forum is an annual gathering organized by Wangki Tangni, MADRE's partner organization in Nicaragua. It's a time where Indigenous women living along the North Atlantic Coast come together to discuss the main issues and challenges they face, including violence against women. At the latest forum, MADRE's Communications Director, Diana Duarte, led a training for 17 "comunicadoras", or communicators -- grassroots volunteers with Wangki Tangni. The communications training showed these women how to document stories and capture interviews to amplify the voices of their communities. The skills they learned in this training will be very beneficial to the radio program MADRE runs with Wangki Tangni. Here's Diana's reflections on the training: 

The Power of Sharing our Stories

I believe in the power of a story to move, motivate and mobilize. Which I suppose makes it no great surprise that communications is so tightly linked to my activism.

When I went to Nicaragua for our partner’s annual Indigenous Women’s Forum, I had a specific agenda in mind. There were 1,000 participants there, but there were 17 in particular I’d like to tell you about. They are a group of young women called the “comunicadoras,” or communicators. As volunteers with Wangki Tangni, our sister organization, they lend their time and energy to grassroots organizing. And they had their hands full helping to make the Forum happen.

These comunicadoras saw the power of the Forum, and they wanted to capture it. They wanted to document it so that the lessons of the Forum could live on beyond its four days. And they wanted to build their own skills to amplify their stories and the voices of their communities.

During the Forum, I held a series of communications workshops. Together, we got up early and stayed up late to make sure we had enough time. MADRE provided Wangki Tangni with a set of digital voice recorders, and I showed the comunicadoras how to use these tools to conduct interviews and record the Forum’s valuable discussions. Through the days of workshops, we also talked about how to take powerful photos and how to craft impactful messages.

Most importantly, we talked about the stories that drive their activism. They shared stories about the violence that women in their commmunities face. They spoke of the need to create possibilities for young girls instead of selling them into marriage. We talked about their fears at the environmental degradation triggered by industrial agriculture encroaching on Indigenous territories. These conversations would often turn into debates, as they mulled over the best solutions they could offer.

At the end of the workshops, I was honored to give each of them a certificate marking the effort they had made and the skills they had built. And I know that their debates and storytelling will continue.

The "comunicadoras" in action
The "comunicadoras" in action
The "comunicadoras" with their certificates
The "comunicadoras" with their certificates
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Natalia leading a workshop on the power of radio.
Natalia leading a workshop on the power of radio.

MADRE Program Director, Natalia Caruso, recently traveled to Nicaragua for the 6th Annual Indigenous Women's Forum. There, she led a workshop on the use of radio at the community level as a tool to end violence against women. Here is the blog post she wrote, reflecting on the workshop.

A central theme of the Indigenous Women’s Forum was “I + We = Autonomy.” This simple equation laid a strong foundation for the Conference. It reminded attendees of two essential forms of autonomy for all Indigenous Nicaraguan women. The first is that every woman deserves to have ownership and autonomy over her body and her rights. The second is the opportunities that Indigenous Peoples can seize if they respect and use the strength of all their people, women included.

This concept came to light during a two-hour workshop I facilitated on “Communications and Ending Violence: The Use of Radio at the Community Level.” As part of our work together, MADRE and our sister organization Wangki Tangni are using solar-powered radios as a way to prevent violence against women.

Wangki Tangni produces radio segments in Spanish and Miskito, the local Indigenous language, to reach even the most remote communities. These segments are broadcast on local stations. MADRE is providing solar-powered radios to allow women to listen to the segments.

My workshop allowed us to hear firsthand the experiences of the women who benefit from the program.

We talked with a group of 35 women about how radio can promote women’s rights. As in other rural communities worldwide where MADRE works, radio is the primary means of mass communication.

Many women told us that they listen to radio programs on women’s rights to empower themselves to stand up and say “no” to violence. The workshop proved once again that the radio can do more than broadcast community events, entertainment or soccer game stats. It is also an educational and empowering tool for communication about women’s rights and the right to live free of violence.

As one woman said: “I learned about my rights by listening to the radio.”

The radio is also a way of educating and engaging with men and boys about violence. A middle-aged Miskita woman from Ulwas at the workshop told us a powerful story. She told us that her husband is abusive and has physically attacked her. One evening, she found herself listening to the radio with her husband, and a program about women’s rights came on. After it ended, he turned to her and said, “I am afraid of you.”

What did he mean by that? She understood that he was beginning to recognize the capacity that she had for leadership. He was beginning to understand that what he had done was a violation of her human rights.

Wangki Tangni knows that we must include men and boys in conversations about women’s rights, and the radio is one powerful way to reach out to them.

During the session, I was seated next to a young woman from the Alto Bocay community who had traveled for two days, by boat, with a one-month-old newborn, to get to the Forum. She told me: “I came with my baby. I couldn’t miss it.”

It is exchanges like this that reflect the dedication and power that these women have to transform their communities. They will remake them into places where they have full autonomy over their bodies and their rights, and into places that are free of violence.

Impassioned workshop participant sharing her story
Impassioned workshop participant sharing her story
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MADRE, An International Women's Human Rights Org.

Location: New York, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @madrespeaks
Project Leader:
Yifat Susskind
New York , NY United States

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