“Sometimes rural women do not know the power of their voice and this is where community radio comes in to be the link between the women and the policymakers.”
~ Sulueti Waqa
Sulueti Waqa joined FemLINKPACIFIC in 2008 as a radio producer and broadcaster. Seven years on, Sulu, as she is commonly known, manages most of the technical aspects involved in producing radio programmes and broadcasting for the feminist community media organisation. She shares her motivation for working in this area as a Community Media Officer.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I am originally from Nadroga/Navosa and moved to Ba in 2003. Before coming to Suva for university studies and work, I attended Kamil Muslim College. At university I studied Bachelor of Science majoring in Biology and Chemistry and then went on to the Fiji National University to Study Media, Journalism and Public Relations. This decision was inspired by working here at FemLINKPACIFIC and also seeing the challenges faced by rural women when it comes to accessing information.
On joining FemLINKPACIFIC…
I first heard about FemLINKPACIFIC through my mother, when they came to the Ba Senior Citizens Centre. I was still in university at the time and joined the Generation Next Team, which is the core team of young women producers and broadcasters. When I started with Generation Next, my first production was the compilation of a market report, which involved interviewing women market vendors. Before joining FemLINKPACIFIC, I had never used a recorder before and had never interviewed anyone before. It was a totally new experience for me. We used a buddy system when we went out to do the interviews, which was good for me. It was a learning experience; not only in terms of using technology but also learning more about the challenges that women face. I come from a rural area and these are the kinds of issues we face every day.
Before joining FemLINKPACIFIC I didn’t know that if you joined an NGO or a CSO working in this area, you could actually make changes on certain kind of issues by advocating for policy change. When you are in the rural areas and don’t have much information you tend to just go on with the challenges but when you have access to information, you know how to deal with those issues.
Over the years I have learnt a lot about lobbying to change national policies and the different platforms used in advocating for issues that I as a young person, feel strongly about, such as equal access to information, education and health services.
On the importance of community radio…
I have been working in community media for the last seven years and I really enjoy it because it allows me to be creative and to hear women’s voices and concerns. During my post-production work I not only edit audio for quality control but also analyse the content, determine the main issues raised in the interview. It’s very important for FemLINKPACIFIC, as feminist organisation, to produce and air content that upholds its feminist values.
I also undertake digital Promo and the production of some FemVids [short video productions] once a month based on the different theme of the month like World Radio Day, International Day of Peace and other issues. I assist my colleague Mere [Moto, one of FemLINKPacific’s Community Media Officers and host of the CSO Hour] with her program, which focusses on highlighting the work other local CSOs do and also the Young Women Producers and Broadcasters interviews.
The expansion of the coverage and marathon broadcasting for World Radio Day was an achievement for the whole organisation. The positive feedback from people really showed that community radio is important.
For me, listening to the stories of women and seeing changes at the policy level, seeing development, is encouraging and rewarding. National policies affect everyone. Women from the urban to the rural areas. Sometimes rural women do not know the power of their voice and this is where community radio comes in to be the link between the women and the policymakers.
Whenever I go back home and talk to my mum and friends or people in other rural communities, I always talk about the importance of access to information and the power of community media.
FemLINKPACIFIC: Media Initiatives for Women is a Fiji-based feminist community media organisation. It was founded in 2000 by a group of women and men who came together through the Blue Ribbon Peace Vigil. The organisation emerged in the aftermath of the 2000 political crisis in Fiji, as a peaceful way of speaking out against what was happening in Fiji.
On 5 May 2004 it launched Fiji and the Pacific’s first women led community radio station – now known as FemTALK 89FM.
In February 2015, the organisation added another milestone to its growing list when it celebrated the technical expansion of FemTALK 89FM Suva to cover the Navua to Nausori corridor of Viti Levu by boosting the transmission power to 300 watt (it used to be 100). This enables FemTALK 89FM Suva to reach communities in some of the most densely populated areas between Navua and Nausori.
Pacific Women is a strong supporter of the critical work FemLINKPACIFIC engages in to ensure the women of Fiji, especially rural women, have a voice in national decision-making. As part of its long-term support to increase gender equality in the Pacific, Pacific Women was pleased to invest a grant of AUD 186,000 to FemLINKPACIFIC, which contributed towards this technical expansion.
Following this year’s weekend marathon broadcast held to mark World Radio Day (themed ‘Youth and Radio’), the organisation’s young women staff and volunteers reflected on their journey so far.