Afghanistan’s airwaves of change

Durani has survived three attacks and remains determined to continue her radio station for women.


Selasa, 12 Jan 2016 15:00 WIB


Mudassar Shah

Maryam Durani in Maiman radio station. (Photo: Mudassar Shah)

Maryam Durani in Maiman radio station. (Photo: Mudassar Shah)

Over recent months, the Taliban has destroyed three radio stations in Kunduz province in Afghanistan.

But that has not stopped one brave woman, 28-year-old, Maryam Durani.

Durani has survived three attacks and remains determined to continue her radio station for women.  

Mudassar Shah met her in Kandahar to find out more.

The main bazaar in Kunduz looks deserted. 

Many people have left the city or are staying indoors after the Taliban briefly took control of the city this October. 

One local journalist, who asked to remain anonymous, says it is too dangerous to stay in Kunduz right now.

“It is difficult for men, government officials and journalists to live when the Taliban takes hold of an area,” he says, “The Taliban has taken several people from their homes and killed them for no reason.”  

The Taliban recently attacked three radio stations in Northern Kunduz. 

Militants have also threatened several prominent reporters.

But in the conservative area of southern Kandahar – also the birthplace of Taliban leader Mullah Omar – Maryam Durani has founded her own radio station for women, called Mairman radio. 

In Pashto language, ‘Mairman’ means ‘woman’ and most of the programs focus on women’s issues. 

In the four years that it has been running, the station has become very popular, says 28-year-old Durani.

“It is our great achievement that women call the radio to share their problems, to seek guidance and ask our experts. The parents, especially the fathers, also ask us for guidance, about how to create a better future for their daughters,” explains Durani, “So these are great achievements in a province where women can’t go outside without wearing a burqa, an area, where families do not allow women to work, especially in radio and TV.”

On Mairman you can hear shows about women and education, women’s rights and agriculture.

Mairman airs 13 hours of programs each day and each month more than 8 hundred thousand listeners tune in, mostly women in Kandahar.

But Durani admits that promoting women’s rights in Kandahar isn’t easy.

That being the voice of the voiceless is always dangerous. 

“It is very difficult to be a radio owner,” she says, “I have survived different attacks, my family has received threats and even my employees have received threats several times for our work.”

But the death threats sent via text message have not stopped Durani.

In fact they have made her more determined to keep running her independent radio, which is partly funded by the United Nations. 

“I have never been afraid of threats and never bothered about them,” she says, “Instead I have tried to convince my opponent of my work, and have been more focused on my work to enhance it instead of stopping or slowing down.”

And Durani’s hard work is being recognized. 

In 2012, she received the International Women of Courage Award, which is chosen by the US Secretary of State. 

In the same year the 28-year-old was included in Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world – for her efforts and courage.

And last month, Durani also took home the N-peace award for her work for peace building and transforming communities.

Seventeen-year-old Jina Popal, is a student in Kandahar. She has been a regular listener of Mairman Radio for several years. 

“I have learned about my role in society and about my rights from Mairman Radio,” she says, “I have realized the important and valuable role of women in the world. Mairman Radio is not only radio, but it is like a school for women in Kandahar.”

Hamida Muhammadi has worked as a producer and anchor at Mairman radio for the last two and a half years.

She says one the biggest issues women in the area face is family resistance. 

“Our parents and relatives have different opinions about women who have jobs, especially about those who work in media,” says Muhammadi, “Their attitudes have stopped many women getting out of the house for a job in the media or any other place.  People look down on working women, especially women journalists have many issues in our area.”

As well as her radio station, Maryam Durani is also a provincial council member, a role that she also uses to promote women’s empowerment.

And one day she hopes to extend her radio shows to other provinces.

But for now she says, radio is a great way to find a mass audience. 

“It is very difficult to gather men and women in the same place at the same time for any activity or discussion in Kandahar,” she says, “That’s why I started the radio, to convey a message to the maximum number of people at the same time.”

And here in Kandahar, women are eagerly tuning in.


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