Liberia loves radio, and so does Sadatu Konneh. And in a country with well over 50 radio stations where only one in six journalists are women, 24 year-old Sadatu represents the beginning of real change. As a reporter and producer for the Liberian Women Democracy Radio (FM 91.1), she is motivated by potential of the platform to bring “change and dignity for women and girls” in Liberia.
“Liberia is at a crossroad, from war to rebuilding the broken fabric, with many barriers hindering the…process,” she said. “These are driving forces that have pushed me to get involved,” and break through the barriers that women and girls in Liberia face.
As a student and church volunteer, she knew her calling was to empower young women to avoid early pregnancy and instead pursue their education. But she found her career when she started volunteering with the Liberia Women Media Action Committee (LIWOMAC), a NED grantee that runs FM 91.1, as a student at the University of Liberia majoring in mass communications. In January 2011, LIWOMAC hired Sadatu as a reporter and producer.
Sadatu F. Konneh
LIWOMAC was formed in response to the abuses suffered by Liberian women and children during the 2003 armed conflict. The Center empowers women in rural communities through media, skills development, research and advocacy. In 2009, LIWOMAC launched its “Enhanced Radio Development and Management Course: Promoting Democracy through Radio.”
With the low media salaries in Liberia, it is hard for radio stations to attract or retain an educated, skilled workforce. College-educated workers like Konneh represent only 12% of the radio workforce (from reporters to producers to accountants). This has a real impact on reporting: a study conducted by the Liberia Media Center found that the overwhelming majority of radio stories were event- or interview-focused. Less than 5% of reported news could be considered investigative reporting.
LIWOMAC’s Radio Management course provided an innovative way to change this by using a training curriculum that emphasized the fundamentals of radio news writing, production and presentation, as well as an introduction to the concept of radio for social change. The course showed women how to use radio effectively to promote development; how to report on social and political issues affecting the health and rights of women; and how to design programs – some educational in format – to change attitudes towards HIV/AIDS, rape, and spousal abuse. The course also taught women how to generate public outreach forums to make the station more interactive and help build women’s confidence and trust in this new entity.
This training course laid the foundation for the launch of the Liberian Women Democracy Radio (LWDR FM 91.1) in 2010, which today is available in eight of Liberia’s 15 counties – and available 12 hours a day with programing ranging from live talk shows to almost 30 pre-produced programs and music that empower and inform Liberian women. In this medium, Konneh’s talent as a journalist is regularly on display as she provides meaningful content to the station, reporting on issues and promoting policy reforms that help to build a more democratic society for Liberia’s future.