Station destroyed during occupation to reach listeners in three provinces with mix of women’s and youth programming
Kunduz, 08 March 2016 – Kunduz hit the headlines after the city fell to the Taliban last September. Over the next 15 days, schools closed, governmental institutions were looted and burned, and development organizations left the city. More than 160 people were killed and 1,300 injured.
Women stayed at home, silenced and afraid. Many are still there.
“The city was retaken after two weeks, but the effect on women continues until today,” says, Zarghona, founder and editor of Shaesta, a local women’s radio network that provided a key voice for women in Kunduz before the takeover. “Women were targeted during the violence and some still don’t dare to return to work.”
For Zarghona herself, the experience was terrifying. “The Taliban attack began early in the morning,” she recalls. “I had to hide in my relative’s house for three days, and then escape from Kunduz hidden in a burka.”
Zarghona had been threatened, even before the fall of the city, by extremists who didn’t like the idea of a woman working – or even worse, working to amplify the voices of other women. They even announced in advance the day she would be killed.
When Kunduz fell, men came looking for her as they conducted house-to-house searches for women with jobs. “They would definitely have killed me if I had fallen into their hands,” she says.
But Zarghona refuses to be cowed. With the support of UNDP, she is about to reopen her radio station. UNDP is providing new equipment and Zarghona is providing the courage and skill to get things up and running again.
“Our network is important for women because we provide information on education, healthcare and their rights,” she says. “We raise awareness and encourage women to take part in politics and join the national security forces.”
Only 15% of women in Kunduz are literate, making radio stations like Shaesta critical for reaching out to them.
Shaesta’s resumption of broadcasting on International Women’s Day symbolises how free speech and women’s rights have to be upheld in every part of Afghanistan – even in Kunduz and other conservative areas.
“All women have the right to work and speak out in safety, no matter where they are” says Douglas Keh, UNDP Afghanistan’s Country Director. “UNDP calls on everyone in Afghanistan to respect media freedom and the freedom of women in the media.”