Voices of Palestine

Maysoun Odeh Gangat

When we started Radio Nisaa FM my goal was to eliminate the image of women as being oppressed by certain religious beliefs and traditions, both inside Palestine and outside in the Western world. My colleagues at the radio station are empowered women, who come from various towns and villages in Palestine. Political, economic and social restrictions have not been an obstacle to their advancement. I want to show this image of the Palestinian female reporter outside Radio Nisaa FM. I want to show the image of Arab women as strong, energetic, and empowered.

There were radio stations with programs for women before we launched, but it was programs about cooking and health. We don’t want to undermine these topics, because they are important, but we want to show a bigger picture. We came up with the idea of portraying the positive role of women in our society instead of always the gloomy side, and that it could be an inspiration for other women.

We are always looking for positive stories and success stories. We address the challenges of women in Palestine, but we also want to show the potential. When we cover stories about women, we look at them through human rights topics. We do a lot of stories on women in the rural areas. Recently we did a story on olive picking and the role of the women. This is very important to us, because there are so many good examples of strong Palestinian women in the rural areas. They are very self-empowering. They work in the field. They make a success. They become economically independent. Sometimes they are part of the village councils. There might be some political hindrances such as roadblocks and settlements, but they still manage to get to their fields every day.

Another part of the idea behind Radio Nisaa FM is having women in the staff, and in this way train and empower women in the media. We now see more women in senior media positions than we did six years ago, when Radio Nisaa FM started. We want women to be the producers and not only the consumers of the media outlet. Eventually we also got men as part of our team. I think it is also important to have men involved with women empowerment. Right now, we actually have slightly more male listeners than female. Which is good because men are in a position to make change. In a patriarchal society like ours, if you can reach a man’s mind and change him a little bit, then you can make greater changes.

A radio station under occupation

Like every Palestinian media outlet, we have challenges because of the occupation. Sometimes we are not able to do a full story or a full investigative report. Because of societal issues female reporters might not be able to go out at night, and it can be difficult to operate in an unstable political situation. So, the occupation affects us professionally.

The occupation also affects us personally. I have to travel every day from Jerusalem to Ramallah to go to work. I cannot predict what the situation is at Qalandia. One day I can be there on time and be able to follow my agenda and another day I can be late for a meeting. Every day, when I cross, I pray that a stone or a bullet won’t hit me. I also have some colleagues who live in villages and have to pass checkpoints every day. Some days they cannot make it to work or to the places they are supposed to report from. Their villages are exposed and they never know what will happen.

The occupation also affects our economy. As a commercial or non-profit radio station, it is difficult to operate in a situation where the economy is unstable, where the economy is dependent on Israel, and where the economy is dependent on funding which cannot come. During the last few weeks we have had a situation where a lot of private enterprises and advertisers had to stop their campaigns. This affects our revenues, so we are obliged to make some changes and difficult administrative decisions in terms of staff and cutting down on expenses.

Maysoun Odeh Gangat holds an Economics degree from the American University in Washington D.C and has among other things worked at the South African Embassy as the Advisor to the Ambassador. In 2005, she set-up and managed an English Radio Station 93.6 RAM FM and in 2009 she founded Radio Nisaa FM, the first all-women Radio station in the region.