The Magic of Community Radio: Powerful Change


Community Radio Capacity Builder, Communications Specialist

Name of Job?

Director EMPOWERHOUSE. senior communications specialist.

What type of projects do you do?

Support development of community media; organizational development of community media, public media, journalism training institutions – including strategic, business and communication planning; evaluations of media development and community media programs and projects; planning and implementation of capacity building of community and other media. See my IAWRT bio here.

Why did this sort work interest you, and how did you get started?

From my early 20s I have had three building blocks, or corner stones, in my life – including my professional life: (the declaration of) Human rights; Feminism (have been engaged in movements, working groups, women’s stations since I was a young girl); belief that people should speak for themselves (as out lined in the principles for feminist journalism). Building on those values has led me to work with community media, press freedom and media development; and as a part of all this, women’s use of and role in media and communication.

What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging?

Working with small communities within their process to develop their own media. And especially (!!) working with women’s role and engagement here. I have seen the kind of powerful change this can generate!

What do you like and not like about working in this industry?

I know the power of media and communication, and I am dedicated to use my good experience to develop and promote effective use of community media/communication. With the Sustainable Development Goals highlighting of the commitment to ‘leave no-one behind’ I see a particular role for community media: they can be established by people themselves, be in marginalized communities and can engage all. They are a powerful platform for empowerment (see much more in my book about this). What I don’t like? A real challenge now is that funding to develop and work with people and the realities around the issues I present above, is now organized in bidding processes, where big companies ‘run with’ the assignments, and from what I have seen, the perspectives I believe in are often not presented. I don’t like international development actors, who pretend to develop community media without involving the community! Hence I have worked up material to ensure that communities setting up radio understand how to make it work for all of them.

My strongest assets/skills, areas of knowledge, personality traits and values are….

Aside from the broad insight and experience within my areas of specialization after 30 years of work –  some of the inspiring and important personality traits, that people I have worked with have highlighted, are that I am passionate, open, friendly, warm, kind and hard-working. I am recognized as able to ‘walk my talk’… bringing what I am engaged in to a full conclusion – to walk that extra mile.

Has IAWRT’s network of media women around the world helped or inspired you?

Having been a member since 2015 on the side-lines, I am now just returning from my first active engagement with the IAWRT at the CSW62, and can’t help but to wonder: Why only now? I belong in the IAWRT as the issues I care about the most are at the core of IAWRT action, including working to secure an equal space for women – in freedom – everywhere. I have so enjoyed being intensely engaged with CSW62 activities. And I have been so gracefully received and integrated by this amazing group of women from all over the world that I do feel as if I had been a part of it all along, connecting back to my engagement around Copenhagen, Nairobi and (at a distance, having just given birth) Beijing. It has been a truly inspiring experience, and I look forward to continuing to tap into – and to contribute to – all that the IAWRT is and stands for. And a warm thank you for the invitation and push to get engaged by Frieda Werden, whom I met when I was interning at Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press in 1982-83. We have kept in contact and I have been supported by her over the years (see Wings interview below). In the past month she and Sheila Dallas-Katzman (USA Chapter Head) have helped me get into the IAWRT for real. All this is warmly appreciated!

What are your long-term goals?

To pull together my own experience with that of others about what it is that makes community media sustainable, inclusive and a community platform for debate and dialogue that includes the perspective of ‘leaving no-one behind’; and (i) ensuring that national and international decisions makers understand and have tools to make use of the potential ‘magic’ of community media – not least in the lives of women; and (ii) developing (compiling what exists and filling in gaps) easy access to tools for communities and their friends to develop and maintain such community media.

What special advice do you have for young women seeking to qualify for this type of work?

Listen to yourself and be true to what you really believe in. Then find groups, networks of women, or individual women, who work in your area. Ask for advice. I have done this a lot all along my 30+ years in this area, and all along I have received requests for advice, suggestions – and I have always readily and happily shared. And I know that there are so many more out there ready to help!
What I usually recommend is to find people doing what you want to do,  – if not possible to get a paid function, then get engaged as a volunteer. 
My own five first years, after my graduation, I worked in part time, poorly paid jobs and as a volunteer in a variety of different functions. At the end of the five years after graduation (Master in strategic communication, civil society and culture) I had worked as:
* a (volunteer) community radio broadcaster and trainer for 5 years
* a TV producer for 2 years (paid – based on education and community radio experience)
* a paid trainer of unemployed women in my home-country of Denmark, doing video productions about their dreams (really empowering)
* an editor of the magazine of our women’s movement in Denmark (partly paid)
* organizing a cultural centre for kids’ culture for the Nordic Cooperation (paid).
On this basis I began to get good and exciting jobs.

links to some work.

Empowerhouse (under each of the 7 professional specialisations, you find (i) a description of how I work, (ii) an overview of assignments in this area and (iii) a listing of publications by me, covering this particular area. I have, furthermore, on that website developed a special “community media universe”, with – again – 7 specialisations thereunder, presented. One of these are here: on women and community media, and you here see a description, again, of how I work and links to related documents / documentation.
Personal profile online
Birgitte Jallov audio profile on Wings