Women to Women for Peace – Exchange between Cuba, the US and Wales‘, 1998-2001

Kathyrn Evans

Women to Women for Peace’ – The Mission

The mission statement of Women to Women for Peace (W2W4P) was “World Peace will come through the will of ordinary people like yourselves”. This encapsulates in a nutshell why the organisation – founded in 1984 – enjoyed thirty years of success.

“No young mother in this country or any other wants her son to go and kill the sons of other young mothers and I believe that if inter-visitations were arranged between parties of young mothers from Britain … and from other countries who chose to join in, bridges of understanding could be built … as a REAL contribution to world peace”


Lucy Behenna, founder of Mothers for Peace (later became W2W4P).

This was a powerfully motivated group of people who came together to build bridges between people from countries which have contrasting and conflicting political, philosophical, cultural and religious interests. The aim was to promote the message that war was not the answer to resolving conflict by supporting intercultural understanding on a transnational level. W2W4P had numerous highlights throughout their duration as a non-profit organisation that accentuate their success as an international solidarity movement. I will illuminate some highlights over the course of two articles about the South West and Wales group of W2W4P who achieved undoubtable success for peacekeeping from Wales to Cuba, America, Israel and Palestine, starting with their achievements in Cuba and America.

Why you need to know about Women to Women for Peace

It is my hope that when you read the articles I have written on the inspirational work of Women to Women for Peace, you will feel the same as I felt; that there are lessons to take away and how vital it is to have international solidarity movements. The work of W2W4P has left me feeling proud of Wales for being part of an amazing peacemaking organisation that strove for pacifism internationally as well as locally; they brought solidarity to our front doors. I feel positive that there is always something an individual or collective group can do to reach out and show support to other countries in distress. I am also questioning whether we are lacking this sense of solidarity and peacemaking now, which I evaluate further in a second article. I have had an uncomfortable realisation that many issues addressed over the course of these articles can be directly related to today’s struggles (inequality, discrimination, oppression, exploitation to name a few). Perhaps we are led to think about more conflicts going on around the world but we may be doing less to help now, than we were in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It is my pleasure to take you through some major turning points and highlights of W2W4P. I want to draw upon their links to Wales, explain what they stood for and to take some lessons from this organisation in the hope that you too are inspired to keep fighting to make a difference.

Women to Women for Peace visit Cuba, 1998


In 1998, four delegates of W2W4P (including a Welsh representative) were given the opportunity to travel to Cuba for the ‘International Independence, Sovereignty and Peace’ conference. There were roughly 3,000 women from 75 countries present and they were all women from dramatically diverse circumstances. This represents an amazing collaboration of peace organisations across the globe who were all striving for the same goal; peace. This was a chance to build bridges with other organisations worldwide and such links were made with peace workers from Brazil, Cyprus, US, Italy, Cuba, Ireland and many more. There were many positive far-reaching consequences from the experience; strong networks were built on cooperation and it showed that international solidarity can counteract powerful negative influences.

A highlight of the Cuba visit was a speech from Fidel Castro. In his speech he passionately explained his world view – that the world’s preoccupation with profit was at the cost of humanity … for the sake of the global economy. This statement rang alarm bells for me as it seems there are parallels with our situation in 2018, hence my view that we need a resurgence of a group such as W2W4P.

Women from Cuba and America visit Wales, 2001
The most successful outcome of the W2W4P visit to Cuba in ‘98 was the building of friendships with women from Cuba and America; this led to a reunion in Wales in 2001. W2W4P were eager to raise further, real awareness of the Cuban situation because they had witnessed first-hand the extent of the suffering that Cuba was enduring because of the blockade imposed by America; far more than had ever been published by the media. The ladies from the peacemaking organisations across the three countries all sought this opportunity to develop closer and stronger relations with each other, to deepen the understanding of the situations in each country and to bring awareness to Wales about the injustice of the American Blockade. It was the perfect opportunity for the ladies of Cuba and America, two conflicting countries, to tell their official and unofficial story of the US blockade as a method of spreading the message and fighting for peace. It was quite special to have women from Cuba and America over to Wales to enjoy and appreciate our city of Cardiff, vibrantly multicultural and home to fascinating buildings such as the Temple of Peace.

Veronica Alvarez, of the Cuban peacemaking organisation that visited was warmed by the kindness and concern of W2W4P because it showed a humbling sign of solidarity, that other countries and people care for peace in societies other than their own. One of the American visitors Robin Melavalin had some encouraging words about W2W4P; that they were impressive and showed an excellent model for peacemaking. Robin was able to meet people from Cuba in a neutral country and have time to get to know them. It really helped build bridges, relations and gain a key understanding of an array of perspectives on international issues confronting them.

Lessons we should take away from Women to Women for Peace movements
The W2W4P delegates who attended the conference in Cuba witnessed a multiracial society with no visible signs of prejudice or discrimination. This ought to be a lesson that many countries and communities today could take away with them. Cuban citizens also held a political and economic view about the blockade which was very reasoned and factual; the people showed no signs of aggression or bitterness towards their political oppressor America; another lesson that some nations could learn.

The ladies from W2W4P who spent time in Cuba noticed that partly because of the blockade Cuban streets were visibly deteriorating and crumbling due to lack of resources and materials, yet the atmosphere was still vibrant with a huge amount of culture that was itching to be shared. It was moving to experience a country who was suffering terribly but who still stood strong, where people were passionate and proud to be who they were. Isn’t this the kind of lens through which we need to look at Palestine, Iraq, Yemen or Afghanistan, for example? Each have their own cultural and political background yet are under immense pressure to conform to a particular version of democracy. The work of W2W4P brings me to the daunting conclusion that we still don’t seem to be capable or accepting a multi-faceted world.

One thing that is apparent here is that media has a powerful influence over international conflicts and issues, by promoting often superficial views. W2W4P’s visit to Cuba, and the return visit to Wales made it possible to witness and understand the true impact of the American blockade – aspects that weren’t seen in the media. What Cuba and America’s differences came down to and what we still witness today is that they have different political systems, a different ideology and different priorities which is part and parcel of a multipolar world. The government and organisations in Cuba were able to create solidarity with organisations across the globe, and it is in my belief that every country still needs to fight for this. Today, we are still witnessing vicious cycles of exploitation and suffering and although peace may be unattainable to many, the situation could still be improved. The first step is perhaps to create awareness, as is shown in the story of W2W4P.

For more information and stories from the Women to Women for Peace successes, please read my other article about the time when women from Israel and Palestine came to visit Wales!

Mothers for Peace report on International Encounter of Solidarity among Women: Havana, Cuba – April 1998.
Jane Harries, ‘Pesar de todo…’, The Friend, 31 July 1998.
Emma James, ‘Mothers rise above the arguments of nations’, The Western Mail. 22 August 2001.
Sheila Ward, ‘A Most Remarkable Old Lady: Mother For Peace: Lucy Behenna’, Quaker Home Service, London, 1989

The Orlando Mass-Shootings: Homophobia or Terrorism

Megan Griffiths

On the morning of the 12th of June, the world woke up to the news of a mass shooting in a LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Another mass shooting. As the death toll in the Orlando shooting has increased to 49 people, debates on homophobia, terrorism and gun control have been stirred up. Mateen’s homophobic and religious motives are not mutually exclusive but entangled, and the events resonate painfully with both recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Ankara and Beirut but also, attacks on gay men and women in New Orleans and London.

In the next few days and weeks, as is the case with every act of violence, messages of solidarity, prayers and love will be sent from all over the world. Yet the range of different controversial issues will no doubt spark debate and will lead to an array of different perceptions of the deeper rooted issues in American society. It’s easy to point the finger towards terrorism, especially considering the inherent American fear of radical Islam. This crime cannot be simply ascribed to being an act of terrorism but as Obama pointed out, also an act of hate. According to Mateen’s father, Mateen became completely enraged when he and his young son saw two men kissing in Miami a few months back, and according to media speculation, it seems his sexuality may be more of a motivation for his actions than his religion. Statistics show that US Muslims are actually more likely to support same sex marriage (42%) than US evangelicals (28%) and are just as likely to support it as general US Christians, suggesting opposition to same sex relationships may not necessarily be a product of any particular religion but of their extremist factions.

T Lt. Governor Dan Patrick tweeted early on Sunday morning a bible verse from Galatians 6:7 ‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.’ The very fact that a prominent political figure can take such an anti-gay stance in such a public way illustrates perfectly the depth of homophobia amongst certain Americans, and how, in some ways, it is actually accepted. A pastor from California gave an impassioned sermon on the shootings, lamenting that “The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!” He went on to add that “I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out.” If a member of the Muslim community used these words, they would likely be used as newspaper headlines to inspire shock amongst people. But due to his supposedly ‘Christian’ faith, the effect is not the same. What is more, Trump’s use of the attack to forward his ideas on banning Muslim immigrants shows the extent of his ignorance on the state of his own country. Mateen was born in America. Whilst he undoubtedly had outside influences on his ideology throughout his life, he was also brought up in an American society where there is often some form of negative stigma on being gay. Politicians such as Trump will use the attack to ignore the flaws in society and place the blame on anyone but straight white Americans.

Of course, America has made real progress in legalising same-sex marriage and equality for homosexual and transgender people, and indeed does not see this as a crime unlike some countries around the world. Still, the fact that this took place in a LGBT club, during the national pride month, needs to be observed and we should reflect on the homophobia and transphobia that evidently still exists. We should not become complacent in how far we have come. An attack directly on LGBT people has shattered the security that many people had come to accept and has revealed the deeper roots of hate, prejudice and insecurity that have evidently been bubbling under the surface of society. Through the juxtaposition and intertwining of terrorism and homophobia in this particular case, it is impossible to extract one from the other.

Indeed, to some, it is easier to simply place the blame for his homophobia on his radicalisation. It is easier to continue our debates on ISIS and terrorism strategies than also consider our attitudes to gays and lesbians, often a slightly taboo subject at the best of times. Owen Jones’ reaction live on air on Sky News shows just how sensitive the situation is and how people’s perceptions of the attack differ. But this totally ignores the fact that Mateen was brought up in America and was therefore exposed to home-grown ignorance and anti-LGBT rhetoric in American society and government which itself leads to marginalisation and violence against the community on a day-to-day basis. He may be Muslim, but is this actually relevant when we consider how anti-LGBT policies are a fundamental mainstream in many parts of America, regardless of faith.

It would be interesting to ask ourselves if the dialogue surrounding the shootings would be different if Mateen was not a seemingly radicalised Muslim, but an anti-gay Christian acting in the name of God. Where does the fact that, completely aside from his faith, he is cited to be a violent and perhaps mentally unstable individual fit in? Would the event have taken on the shape of a less high-profile hate crime? Or merely another mass shooting? By solely labelling it as a ‘terrorist attack’ and linking it to ISIS, it inspires a specific response in us due to recent events attributed to ISIS. The fact that homophobia is not exclusive to a single religion or belief system means that we cannot allow ourselves to simply focus on this as an ISIS inspired terrorist attack. Much focus has been placed on the fact that the attack marks the deadliest domestic terror attack since 9/11 yet it is also the largest targeted attack on the LGBT community since the holocaust.

Increasing acts of terrorism around the globe, coupled with the European refugee crisis, have led to general negative shifts in attitudes towards immigrants and often, islamophobia, ordinary peaceful Muslims are tarred with the same brush as radicalised extremists, leading to ill-conceived fears of Islam itself. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in the US and the rise of right wing movements in Europe have led to a general increase in ‘hatemongering’. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al- Hussein warned that ‘Hate is becoming mainstreamed’. We cannot afford to allow this latest attack to inspire yet more hatred and fear by using Mateen’s Muslim faith as a scapegoat and exploit his faith to forward political agendas on terrorism. To do so blatantly ignores the cracks in tolerance and acceptance within our society and towards the LGBT community. Homophobia, Transphobia and Islamophobia all come together under the same umbrella of hatred and it is not until we have dismantled them all that we can be completely peaceful.

The shows of humanity in Orlando as people go out of their way to help and the messages of solidarity and vigils for the victims and the LGBT community held all over the world show us that love can indeed win. But love will only win if we don’t allow tragedies like this to inspire yet more hatred towards other innocent people. We owe it to the 49 individuals who lost their lives and their families.


A Little Goes A Long Way

The march towards gender equality begins with small steps

The march towards gender equality begins with small steps

Advancement of women in almost any aspect of the country is often linked to pages and pages of parliamentary statutes which effectively take women’s rights more seriously or thought-provoking speeches by female celebrities at the UN headquarters. While such movements are to be applauded, much of women’s march to total gender equality is actually made possible by the people behind the scenes, such as female office clerks who come into office to earn a living and female teachers who continue to do what they love to do even if their salaries are not much to be bragged about.

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Investing in Girls

Currently, one third of girls in the developing world will be married before the age of 18, and one in seven before the age of 15.[1] These forced marriages can even see girls as young as eight married to middle-aged men, leaving them subject to a host of problems that, if avoided, could make drastic improvements to the country. Forced marriage happens as a result of gender inequality, girls being viewed as an economic burden, negative religious practices that cause families to push girls into early marriage to safeguard against ‘immoral’ behaviour, failure to enforce laws and conflicts.[2]

Girls that are married as children have a pregnancy rate double that of women in their twenties,[3] contributing to the rapid increases in population that bring devastating effects to the country such as lack of land and food. However, that’s not all. Girls aged between 10 and 14 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women aged from 20 to 24.[4] If they manage to live through childbirth, a huge proportion of them will face poverty, mistreatment, disease, and may even have to sell their bodies to support their family, putting them at a higher risk of acquiring HIV.

In marriage, these adolescent girls will face other serious issues in regards to their safety. At this young age, they are more likely to be subject to abuse from their partner, both mentally and physically. Female genital mutilation may also be a horrific consequence they have to face. Around 100-140 million African women have undergone FGM worldwide, and it’s estimated that three million girls are subject to it every year in Africa alone. Older women with no medical training are traditionally the ones to perform the procedure. Pieces of glass and scissors can be some of the most basic, but most common tools used and normally there will be no anesthetics and antiseptic treatment. We need to be aware, however, that these issues are happening in our country too. It’s estimated that around 6,500 girls are at risk of FGM within the UK every year.[5]

Nevertheless, there are still ways we can overcome these problems. One of the most powerful means of doing this is by keeping these girls in education for longer. It’s been proved that a girl in the developing world that receives seven years of education, will most likely marry four years later and have 2.2 fewer children, than without that education.[6] Girls who continue in school are less likely to be subjected to forced sex and more likely to use contraception than girls out of school. This contraception would also reduce their chance of getting HIV and AIDS, lowering the current statistics that see five million people worldwide between the ages of 15 and 24 living with HIV, and more than 60% of these being girls.[7] Yet, currently only one in five girls make it to secondary school in sub-Saharan Africa and secondary school completion is below 5%.[8] It seems that the tradition of keeping girls shut away in their homes, caring for the family and doing the housework, means that most will not have a decent education.

This desperately needed education could yield serious benefits for the economy of the country. It’s thought that an increase in 1.2% of the GDP, just in a single year, could be achieved by giving girls their education and closing the joblessness gap between men and women. Not only that, but an additional year of primary school education would raise the girl’s eventual wages by 10-20% and an extra year of secondary school adds 15-25%. Yields on women’s land can be increased by up to 30%, simply by letting them have access to the non-land resources and facilities that men get. This could even lower the number of starving people in the world by 100-150 million as a result of their agricultural output being raised by up to 4%.[9] Keeping girls in education has the potential to make a huge difference, not only by allowing the females themselves to earn a living, marry when they’re ready and lead a healthy life, but for the rest of the country too.

As a result of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations’ work, in the Kanem region of Chad, land-loan agreements lasting five years were signed, enabling women’s groups to work on the fertile and irrigable land that they previously didn’t have access to, and farm it in their own names. This access to land has allowed the families of the women to have a more balanced, nutritious and varied meals, and a greater and steadier source of income. In addition, child malnutrition has dropped to 12.6% in these households, compared to 31.1% seen in non-involved households.[10]

Awra Amba, a small community in Ethiopia, is another example of change being made. Set up around 40 years ago by a man named Zumra Nuru, Awra Amba is a small village where gender equality is present, casting aside the beliefs of the rest of the country. In Awra Amba, a woman may ask a man to marry her and having too many children is seen as harmful. Work is not differentiated between men and women: Women plough the fields and handle money, while men are not ashamed to sew clothes, cook food and carry water.[11]

Therefore, even though the current situation for many girls is shocking, there are ways to change it.

Alicia Cook is a volunteer at the Welsh Centre for International Affairs.


1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 – Girl Effect (accessed July 8, 2014)
2. Plan UK (accessed July 8, 2014)
5. Forward UK (accessed July 8, 2014)
10. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (accessed July 8, 2014)
11. Visit Awra Amba (accessed July 8, 2014)

#BringBackOurGirls: Millions More Missing

UNIC persons in Nigeria rally for the Nigerian schoolgirls.

UNIC persons in Nigeria rally for the Nigerian schoolgirls.

The abduction of over two hundred Nigerian schoolgirls this April has received overwhelming international attention. The US, UK, France and China have sent expert teams to help with the search, the UN Security Council has condemned the act absolutely, and the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign has gone viral. Thanks to the admirable efforts of these girls’ families and friends, the whole world shares the agonizing wait for further news, and hope for their safe return.

But how many more women are missing whose names don’t make the papers? Twenty-five years since Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen first claimed there are 100 million women missing in the world, the United Nations Development Programme concedes that the global issue of missing women is ‘increasing in absolute terms’.[1] This calculation of 100 million missing refers to the number of women who have died due to discriminatory treatment, including abortion, unequal access to nutrition and healthcare or severe neglect.

Sen argued that excess female mortality due to gender discrimination was one of the worst catastrophes of the last century; subsequent debate, refutations and revisions ensued.[2] More recently, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book Half the Sky has attracted publicity to the issue. Today, whilst the culture of ‘boy preference’ found in all corners of the world is well known, the repercussions of such a phenomenon remains largely unacknowledged. The sheer scale of Sen’s estimate is enormous – equivalent to the entire population of the Philippines, the twelfth most populous nation in the world.

Reports show that the most recent threat to the natural gender balance is the aborting of female foetuses – a particularly serious problem in the Asia-Pacific. Here the male-female sex ratio is suspiciously high, instead of 105 males being born for every 100 females, in some countries there are as many as 118 males born. As ultrasound technology becomes increasingly available in both China and India, (the two countries responsible for over 80% of the world’s missing women) this gender imbalance can be expected to escalate.

There are many factors that could account for this serious discrepancy in the normal sex ratio. For one, China’s one-child government policy places a huge amount of pressure on families to have sons in order to continue the ‘family line’.[3] In India the culture of providing dowries for brides compels many to abort female foetuses to avoid crippling future expenses, recalling the notorious advertisement suggesting parents abort females to ‘spend 500 rupees now and save 500,000 later’.[4] The market for sex determination is estimated to be worth at least £70 million annually, and is still growing.

The second, and most long-standing reason for the millions of missing women worldwide is their neglect in education, nutrition and medical care. UNICEF claims that in India, for example, the mortality for girls under 5 years old is 40% higher than for boys of the same age.[5] Numerous studies confirm that in many developing countries, girls are admitted to hospital at a far later stage in their illness than boys. Thus not only are females are more likely to be malnourished, their families may also act with less concern when they’re taken ill.

Thus the fight against extreme poverty and hunger, and the fight for universal gender equality remain intertwined. These two issues have proven to be a mammoth task for the UN. Gender based mortality, similarly to endemic poverty and deprivation, go ‘largely unnoticed’ because they seem to be too large an issue; too overwhelming to tackle. They simply do not generate ‘the moral outrage and flurry of activity and intervention that the more ‘‘sensational’’ catastrophes such as famines, floods, earthquakes, wars, and refugee crises typically create’.[6]

Moreover, in the case of sex selective abortions, murders, and death due to severe neglect, the families of the missing women don’t want the loss to be recognized. A combination of these two factors might begin to explain why these women who are missing in their millions are not making front page news.

Half the Sky goes so far to claim that ‘more girls were killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they are girls, than men killed in all the wars of the twentieth century’.[7] Armistice Day, memorials and history lessons will continue to recognise the losses incurred by the tragedy of war: and more than ever as the centenary of the First World War approaches. Press coverage, celebrity appeals and political discussion will, we hope, continue to fuel a successful search for the missing Nigerian schoolgirls. But when will something be done for the millions of missing women across the globe, who should exist, but don’t?[8]


[1] UNDP, ‘Power, Voice and Rights’, (Macmillan: 2010) [http://sites.asiasociety.org/womenleaders/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Powervoiceandrights.pdf] p. 34.

[2] Amartya Sen, ‘More than 100 Million Women are Missing’, The New York Review of Books, (December 20, 1990).

[3] Siwan Anderson and Debraj Ray, ‘Missing Women: Age and Disease’ Review of Economic Studies (2010) p. 1293.

[4] Fred Arnold, Sunita Kishor and T K Royd, ‘Sex-selective abortions in India’ in Population and Development Review 28 (December 2002) p. 783.

[5] UNICEF, ‘The State of the World’s Children: South Asia Edition’ (2007) p. 10.

[6] Stephan Klasen and Claudia Wink, ‘“Missing Women”: Revisiting the debate’, Feminist Economics 9 (2003) p. 264.

[7] Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky, (Hachette UK: 2010)

[8] BBC World News, ‘Killed for being female?’ (25 April 2014) [http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/moreorless

Radio Survived the Video Star and it’s still Number 1

Why the UN is correct to choose radio for communicating ideas of gender equality

Benjamin F Owen

buggles On 1 August 1981, as MTV flickered for the first time over televisions screens, the synth-doctored voice of Trevor Horn heralded the death of radio. ‘Video killed the radio star’, whined his backing signers. ‘Pictures came and broke your heart’, yodelled Horn.

In an article on this blog this opine of late 70s synthpop has been adopted as part of an assertion that women are ‘being notably encouraged and pushed into expiring public platforms’ under the pretence of feminism. ‘Radio’, argues Cole, ‘is a notably dying platform … and won’t expose female voices to any new global audience.’

‘Why then’, asks Cole, ‘does the UN deem radio a significant platform for women?’ It is a good question, providing the assertions are correct, how or why an institution that has for decades researched and campaigned against gender inequality has formed an agenda so rudimentary and out of touch with the modern world. Why is the UN not encouraging women into ‘current and more important’ public platforms?

The article’s assertions are, however, unsubstantiated and its criticisms have a developed world centric bias.

For billions of women, what we in the west would consider current public platforms are just not accessible due to economic and developmental barriers. For those living in developing patriarchal countries, there is next to zero internet access. In Timor-Leste, less than 1% of the population have access to the internet. Facebook and Twitter, giant platforms of social campaigning in the west, are all but unknown. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 98.3% of the population do not have access to the blogs and articles that disseminate ideas of equality across Europe and North America. In Iraq, the English language and internet based TED talks, lauded by Cole, are available to barely 7% of the mainly Arabic speaking population. Only 40% of the world’s population, estimates the UN, has internet access, with speeds and prices varying widely.

Equally, television is not universal. In Tanzania, figures for 2004 showed that only 6.1% of households had a TV and in 2002, 95.5% of Ugandan households had to make do without an evening sat in front of the box. The comedy panel show, let alone the debate surrounding the sex of its participants, is an alien concept in Ethiopia.

Radio, on the other hand, holds many advantages over these so called ‘current’ mediums in spreading the ideas of gender equality. Firstly it’s cheap. In societies where it would take many lifetimes to save up enough money for an ipad or a laptop, the radio offers an affordable receiver of information. Using your body as the antenna, at a cost of pennies, the most basic radio can be made out of nothing more than a diode and an earpiece. Better reception can be acquired by the addition of a length of copper wire. Secondly, it’s cheaper and easier to broadcast than television. No expensive cameras and lighting needed; just a microphone and a transmitter.

Further, radios use less electricity than the up and coming public platforms. To use the arcane language of the British Empire, even in darkest Africa, a wind-up radio can still enlighten minds to new ideas where mains electricity is non-existent. Further still, where modern platforms often require at least basic literacy and a knowledge of European or Asian languages, Radio provides the best opportunity for poor, illiterate vulnerable women and their societies to receive information and ideas of equality and liberty in a form they can understand.

Even taking the western centric view taken in Cole’s article, it is worth noting that Radio is not a dying medium in more developed countries. In the UK, for example, the radio audience is actually increasing!

In 2013, 91% of adults in the UK listened to radio, up 1.4 million since the previous year, with an average listening time of 21.3 hours per week. 2012 listening figures were up 340,000 on 2011 and although 2011 radio experienced a marginal decline in audience from 2010, there were still 709,000 more tuning in than in 2009. Likewise, in the USA, radio increased its weekly audience by 700,000 in the year up to 2013, to 241.8 million listeners aged 12 and above (91% of the population). Since 2009, the United States has seen over 5.3 million more people tuning in regularly. Contrary to the assertion that ‘very few people listen to radio anymore’, very few people don’t.

Although not comprehensive, these figures are hardly implicative of a media platform on its way to being confined ‘to the obscure fringes of society’, as asserted by Cole. In comparison, the number of UK households with a TV has only been increasing around 200,000 or 300,000 year on year for the past ten years with around 93 or 94% of the population tuning in. Only 83% of the UK households have access to the internet.

Thirty years after The Buggles’ tuneful(ish) declaration of the death of radio, far from surviving on its death bed drip fed by nostalgics and hipsters, radio has seen the demise of MTV’s video jockeys and is finding new and larger audiences, going toe to toe with television and annihilating the internet in the battle for ratings.

It is a medium that is less susceptible to economic, developmental and educational barriers. Unlike more recent and emerging public platforms, to listen to, or to even own, a radio, you don’t have to be rich, you don’t need electricity and you don’t even have to be able to read.

This is not a case perpetuating, as Cole argues, an ‘age of accepting mediocrity’ in which women are made to accept substandard and obscure platforms on the basis that ‘it’s better than nothing’. By looking at the figures and the wider global picture, one will see that, instead, the UN are encouraging women to use a strong, enduring and truly universal platform that, in large parts of the world, in societies where, generally speaking, women are at their most vulnerable, where people don’t have computer tablets and smart phones, reaches more people than both internet and television combined.

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Women Encouraged to Embrace Dying Platforms Under The Pretence of Feminism


World Radio Day 2014. Credit: UNESCO

In the last year there have been many who have finally chosen to engage with feminism as a recognisable cause. Articles by Owen Jones have prompted the hashtag #MenStandingWithFeminism and in the UK the Say No To Page 3 campaign to eliminate unnecessary displays of youthful breasts has gone national. The world is starting to understand that being a woman is still a cause of casual discrimination and intimidation.

Many people in high places have deemed to commit themselves to equality by creating platforms for female exposure. This is undeniably progress and an aspect I hope will continue to develop.

However, I feel that although exposure is being boosted, women are only being notably encouraged and pushed into expiring public platforms and not the current and more important ones.

February 13th was UN World Radio Day. The main rhetoric coming from the UN was promotion of radio and that we need more women on radio. Sure, great! But is this the significant triumph that will expose more women to the global public?

Quite simply, no. It’s a nice idea but radio is a notably dying platform. The first point of World Radio Day is that very few people listen to radio anymore and it’s trying to boost it’s use. Why then does the UN deem radio a significant platform for women? I predict the medium of radio will soon be subjected to the obscure fringes of society and won’t expose female voices to any new global audience.

Secondly, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has declared recently that the comedy platform of panel shows will no longer showcase male only panels, with a woman on every panel being compulsory. BBC boss, Danny Cohen, said of male dominated shows, ‘You just can’t do that. It’s not acceptable.’ and he’s right; it isn’t acceptable. But why come out and just declare male panel shows unacceptable. Why not other platforms such as sports shows or other comedy shows that don’t consist of an ‘improvised script’ for a panel of guests.

I think it’s because panel shows have dominated British television for the past 5-10 years and it’s flagging. It’s become boisterous, cliched and predictable. Many male and female comics even refuse to do them because they dislike the concept.

I could be highly cynical and claim that in a few years the panel show concept will predicably decline and women will be blamed for these shows becoming obsolete because of the age-old stigma that women ‘just aren’t as funny as men’.

Some may argue that these efforts are better than nothing. They are better than nothing. But why do women constantly have to accept ‘it’s better than nothing’. The age of accepting mediocrity continues.

That is not to discredit all the wonderful efforts that display feminist values such as TED lectures and positive discrimination in some institutions such as the Welsh Assembly. However, there is too much media exposure to those publicly claiming more opportunities for women, such as these two examples, when in fact they are a very disheartening effort toward gender equality.

Find out more about UNA Wales’ core aim ‘to promote a greater equality of opportunity for all men and women across Wales and the World’ and discover ways that you can get involved. UNA Wales has created a petition calling for the appointment of a minister for Gender Equality and provides a list of useful resources to aid the proliferation of this important message.