A proposed gender policy in community radio was presented for the first time at the regional roundtable meeting of the World Association of Community Broadcasters (AMARC) on 9 July 2008 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Informed by an extensive survey conducted by AMARC-Women's International Network Asia-Pacific, the proposed gender policy reinforces the crucial nature of women's participation in community radio.
Based on AMARC-WIN Asia Pacific survey, 45 per cent of staff and volunteers are women but only 28 per cent of them are in leadership positions and 30 per cent performing technical tasks. Among the concerns that they cited were: lack of technical skills; security and violence; less chances to present their view points; and less access to decision-making. They complained of the male-dominated radio set-up, that intimidates them and hinders their participation.
The respondents called for greater access to leadership, management and finances. They also recommended changes in the programme contents and participation in the various stages of production.
Among the recommendations of the policy include training for women; creation of an anti-sexual harassment policy; a quota of at least 30 per cent for women's leadership and representation; and special radio programmes for women. The policy also suggested more practical measures such as space allotment for child-care; flexible working hours; women-friendly broadcast schedules; adequate lighting and security at the station; and transportation arrangements for women who live in remote areas.
The policy clarifies though that task of engendering a community radio station must not be solely based on numbers and special accommodation. “Women's participation cannot be measured by number. They must be represented in the production, technical and decision-making aspects of the station. Special programmes must be allotted for women. But at the same time, women broadcasters should not be confined to these specific women’s programmes,” explained Farjana Akter of AMARC WIN and Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment (VOICE).
According to Suman Basnet, coordinator of AMARC Asia-Pacific, “I felt that there was a genuine interest among the participants to learn about the policy and the special role that women play in community broadcasting as well as the role CR can play in women's lives in communities. There is an urgent need to disseminate the gender policy to the grassroots.”
Supported by UNESCO-Bangladesh and KATALYST, the regional roundtable meeting “Ensuring Sustainable Growth of Community Radio in Bangladesh: Removing barriers, Increasing Effectiveness” was organised by AMARC Asia Pacific in collaboration with the Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) and Mass-line Media Centre (MMC).