Power FM 101 Institutional profile

Power FM 101 Institutional profile

Date: July 2, 2013
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Making gender part of the youth agenda

At Power FM 101 we use women roles models as a bridge to get different women to cross to the other side out of their situations. – Simeon Shumba-Editor

Power FM 101 is one of the leading private commercial radio stations in Malawi. It was established in 1988. With its main studios in Blantyre, Power FM 101 broadcasts to many parts of Malawi. Apart from broadcasting, Power 101 FM is involved in community projects to support street kids and orphanage care centres. FM 101 describes itself as ‘Malawi’s answer to reaching its youth culture.’ The target audience is aged between 15 – 35 years oldk thus making Power 101 the most influential radio station in Malawi. The radio station hopes to extend to other target groups in the future.

Power FM 101’s relationship with Gender Links dates as far back as 2006. This relationship has strengthened the radio station’s understanding of gender.

Gender at Power FM 101
The 2009 Glass Ceilings in Southern African newsrooms study showed that women constituted just 19% of employees at Power FM 101. The radio station says the nature of the job deters women from joining the media industry. Those who join do not stay long, as they leave for 9-5 jobs. According to Joey Mwamandi, a disk jockey at FM 101, ‘media is a 12-12 job, which most women struggle with.’

Power 101 is one of the centres of excellence (COE) for gender in the media in Malawi. The radio station developed and adopted its gender policy in 2011. The gender policy sets out clear targets for institutional practice, editorial practice and programming. The policy includes a section on sexual harassment and an action plan outlining key areas of focus. Power 101 signed an MOU with Gender Links in 2012. Since then, journalists have been involved in Gender Links’ capacity building workshops for the media COEs.

The key question, however, is whether developing gender policies is enough to transform gender relations in and through the media. This case study therefore looks at some of the qualitative changes that have happened at Power FM 101 since the inception of the COE project.

Institutional practice

Since developing a gender policy, the media house has worked to ensure that this document makes a difference in its daily operations.

As shown by the Glass Ceiling study, the proportion of female employees was at 19% at the beginning of the COE process. Since then, the radio station has made a conscious effort to increase the proportion of women in its employ. Women have even made inroads into male dominated fields such as IT and hard news. This has come because of an understanding of the need to give women and men equal opportunities.

FM 101 believes that having a critical mass of women in decision making roles will bring about meaningful change in the media. This is evident in the way the radio station’s board is constituted. There are four board members, two women and two men. As such, management gets views from a balanced team.

This practice, however, has not trickled down to other levels of the media house, with both the station Manager and the Managing Director being male. The Editor insists that gender mainstreaming at Power 101 FM is still work in progress, and the radio station is fully committed to balancing the numbers.

Whilst the radio station is aware of the provisions of the SADC Gender Protocol and other regional and international instruments on gender, they concede that change cannot happen overnight. Simeon Shumba, Editor, says that they have two female DJs now, unlike in the past where there were no women in this area. Mwamandi adds that ‘changing mind-sets takes time due to cultural practices and socialisation.’ Shadreck Kalukusha, Head of Studio, also observes that women still need to take up the challenge and realise their worth and potential in the media.

Power FM 101 has worked to create a friendly environment for both male and female employees. According to Gladys Chitera, a female Marketing Executive ‘we are treated with respect at work and are never harassed. Management recognises the potential that women have, and gives us the space to excel.’

Gender aware programming

There has however been a conscious effort to improve programming at Power 101 FM with the introduction of radio programmes that specifically address gender issues and tackle cross cutting issues like gender based violence and HIV and AIDS. Programmes include Roots and Culture, Mlato (Bridge), HIP POP for HIV and AIDS and Sankanga. This is part of the radio station’s social responsibility focus. HIV and AIDS is a challenge that Malawi, like other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, is grappling with. Power 101 FM therefore sees itself as having a critical role to play in this regard.

Roots and culture discusses the link between culture, HIV and AIDS and gender. This is because of the realisation that there are some traditional and cultural practices that perpetuate gender stereotypes thereby contributing to the spread of HIV and AIDS. This show reaches to everyone and allows listeners to contribute as well.

Power FM 101 has a show called Sankanga which focuses on HIV and AIDS prevention strategies. Following its adoption of a gender aware HIV and AIDS policy, Power 101 has come up with this show to spread the message on HIV and AIDS. What is unique about this show is that all Power FM 101 staff star in the drama.

Mlato, which means bridge, is one of the radio station’s main programmes that specifically addresses gender based violence. The radio station mainly works with women and girls who have been abused to restore their self-confidence and esteem so that they can move beyond the abuse. This is part of giving them agency so that they can ‘cross to the other side,’ as producer/presenter Alefa Lyson explains. Editor Shumba says the radio station achieves this by working with women role models who act as a bridge.

The struggle to ensure balance in institutional composition is not an easy one. Editor Simeon Shumba observes that Power FM 101 gets many female students for internships. However, when they finish their studies, they shy away from mainstream media. This, he attributes to the fact that media is a 24 hour job.

Those who are already in the profession seem to prefer lighter jobs that will give them enough time to attend to personal interests.

Shumba however says that the media COE concept is helping the radio station to overcome all these challenges by building the capacity of its personnel through on the job training and support. He is also calling for Gender Links to increase the frequency of the training engagements to ensure that the radio station keeps up the momentum.




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