Women's Empowerment

“You have given us courage to speak”

 “You have given us courage to speak and express our views in front of men!”

One female participant’s words express the exciting outcome of a recent HCR Pakistan workshop on creating community-centred radio. Five women and nine men took part in the workshop in a rural village in Pakistan.

At the start of the workshop, the participants said they wanted to raise their voices on behalf of the poor. One woman said she wanted to be a champion for those who are marginalised.

Participant and facilitator at community-centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Participant and facilitator at community-centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

A health worker in the community is already using radio to include marginalised voices in community conversations. He goes around the village speaking to a variety of people, recording their opinions on health and development topics. He and the HCR Pakistan director, Mr Hazeen Latif are eager for the radio to be even more inclusive by building a team of volunteers within the community to help design and produce the programmes too.

The group learned the basic principles of community centred radio, how to make Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and how to interview people for radio. The quality of the practical work was very high, one team’s work reaching what we call ABS – Above Broadcast Standard.

Male participants prepare a PSA incommunity centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Male participants prepare a PSA incommunity centred media workshop, Pakistan, Jan 2019. (HCR Pakistan)

Yet a big challenge in this traditionally male-dominated culture was how to have men and women participating in the workshop together. Sitting in the same room for a public event is not the norm.

As the practical exercises began, the women’s voices were too quiet to be heard. The women realised that if they wanted to be inclusive activists, they had to overcome their fears of speaking out. As the course continued, they found more confidence. They said later that they began to see the facilitator as a friendly, fatherly figure, making the workshop a safe environment for speaking. The men were impressed at how passionately the women would argue their points publicly.

Confidence grew within the workshop, but the trust that led to this has been growing over several years. Mr Latif and the community health worker have collaborated on the Naway Saher project for about four years, facilitating a variety of community development activities. They have patiently built trust with each other and with the community.

Trust has been essential in arriving at the point where the workshop was possible. Trust was also essential for the workshop to become truly inclusive. Trust gives hope that the new team will be successful in their goal to be champions for the poor and marginalised.

Mr Hazeen Latif and Naway Saher project coordinator, Pakistan, Jan 2019 (HCR Pakistan)

Mr Hazeen Latif and Naway Saher project coordinator, Pakistan, Jan 2019 (HCR Pakistan)

'I am a resource for peace!'

Day 5 of #16DaysofActivism

By Stephanie Mooney

Radio Amani was launched in the conflict prone area of Tana Delta in the summer of 2017, ahead of the parliamentary elections in Kenya.  The purpose of the radio station is to promote peace and social development in Eastern Kenya’s conflict-affected Tana River (the northern region of Tana River County).

The station is serving a young lady called Busara* and the many women and men like her, survivors of violent conflict. Jon, the Director of HCR, met Busara during a focus group in a remote village. She kept staring at the floor, shy, almost embarrassed to be there. Many of the others in the group engaged in animated conversation, eager to share their experiences and opinions. But then her voice broke through... and the room was silenced. It was a bold, passionate voice, that was determined to speak out. "I am not a victim," she said, "I am a resource for peace!"

Busara shared how she had been a victim of violence during the time of "the massacre." She and her family had been through hell, but now here she sat in a group meeting, courageously willing to speak up. She shared how, with the support of family, community and trauma counselors, she had turned a corner and was now passionate to help others who had been through similar experiences.

In the setting up of this region's first radio station, the overwhelming message was, "this station is desperately needed and will be a vital part of helping the people of Tana Delta recover and rebuild." Dr Tecla, who runs trauma workshops among the communities of the Delta, told me that peacebuilding cannot really start until people have overcome the past, with forgiveness and grace’. Amani (peace) FM is amplifying the voices that need to be heard.

*Not her real name


Precious: Her Story

Day 4 of #16DaysofActivism

By Stephanie Mooney

I believe every person has a story to tell and it is often the people who have suffered the most whose stories can affect us the most deeply.

I met Precious* in Kenya and she is a truly courageous and inspirational woman.  She was married at fourteen and had to stop attending school as a result of her marriage. Precious wanted to return to school after she was married, which was not the done thing in her village. After giving birth to two sons, she tried to connect with other young students to keep learning from them and also asked a teacher if she could continue. 

Precious was told she needed to enrol at the education office far from her city. She found a way there and persuaded them to enrol her. By the time that she was registered she had given birth to her third child. She was the first married woman in her village to continue going to school and was the talk of the town. Precious’s husband challenged her and made her suffer for the humiliation. She was beaten, raped and was made to sleep outside. 

Precious had a fourth child and when her fourth child was seven months old she became pregnant again.  Despite all her difficulties, she completed her secondary school education. Precious did eventually leave her husband because her life was in danger. She started running a small business to provide for her family and now all her children are in school. She continues to develop her self and she wants to do more study. She has been a real example to other women in her village. 

At HCR we are creating opportunities for women from different parts of the world to speak about their lives and the issues they face, so that their local communities become aware of these challenges and as a way of creating positive change in both the lives of women and the community as a whole.

*Not her real name

If this article raises any personal issues please contact your local professional services or contact the helplines below.

In Australia: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

In UK: National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247

Everyone has a story. At HCR we strive to empower women to share their story.

Everyone has a story. At HCR we strive to empower women to share their story.

Amplifying Voices

Day 3 of #16DaysofActivism

By Stephanie Mooney

HCR is working with a large Christian Radio station and counselling centre in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the “Amplifying Voices” Project.  This project, which was launched by Feba UK, is increasing the engagement of local people in conversations with their communities, which are amplified by radio broadcasts that address the health and wellbeing concerns of local people to promote positive long-term change. The project is giving space for people who are marginalised. People who have been waiting to be heard for too long.

Mr Kariou, started his own business and development organisation in 2013 called Friends of the Poor. He came to Freetown from the provinces.  He built a pushcart and started to do door-to-door waste collection to improve sanitation and cleanliness in the area. He shared money and got a tricycle – and more young people came on-board and he helped them into employment.

Mr Kariou cares deeply about women’s empowerment and wants to create jobs for women. In the slum areas where he does his collection, over 50% are unemployed. Many are single mothers with no opportunities to go back to school. Mr Kariou teaches tailoring, soap making and micro-finance to start a business. He believes by doing this that he can help empower these women and the local community.

Mr Kariou was able to go on the radio through the Amplifying Voices project to share the good that is happening in his community and to encourage other people to get involved in his work. Since the radio interview, more people are showing an interest and getting involved: ‘More people are coming together to share the concerns of their community. We meet more and are now working together’.

In Sierra Leone and across Africa, radio is a powerful tool to raise awareness of gender violence and give women a voice.

In Sierra Leone and across Africa, radio is a powerful tool to raise awareness of gender violence and give women a voice.

Ending Violence Against Women


By Stephanie Mooney

Violence against women and girls is one of the most devastating and widespread human rights violations in the world today. Sadly, it usually goes unreported due to the impunity, stigma and shame surrounding it.

Sunday 25th November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The day marks the start of 16 days of ‘Activism against Gender Based Violence’, a global campaign that has run for over 25 years to galvanise action to end violence against women and girls.

At HCR, we seek to provide a media platform for women and communities to share stories and experiences in order to stimulate positive change. In honour of the brave women that we have met, over the next 16 days we will share stories from women and communities that show how they are responding to the challenges of discrimination, stigmatisation, abuse and marginalisation. We will look at how women and communities are seeking to change cultural norms and perceptions of women’s identity - how we can be and what we can do and achieve as women.

This year, as I have travelled to different parts of the world, I have met with strong and remarkable women who have been affected by violence and who are advocating for the protection of women and girls.  These women are horrified at the level of abuse that is ignored by their communities – often because it is accepted as the norm and seen as ‘just the way it is’.  There are numerous women trapped in violent situations and who feel unable to speak out, living in fear, shame and silence.

Progress is being made, but UN figures are still reporting that one in three women experience gender-based violence. Violence against women is a global issue and in each programme that HCR is involved with worldwide, this has been raised as an issue that needs to be talked about and addressed.

Photo Credit: Feba  Stephanie chatting with street-living children in Kinshasa

Photo Credit: Feba

Stephanie chatting with street-living children in Kinshasa

Standing up against family and domestic violence

By Celeste Larkins

1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their partner in their lifetime (World Health Organisation, 2017).

On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner in Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience violence at higher rates than non-Indigenous women (Our Watch, 2017).

With family and domestic violence a major issue worldwide, in Australia, and the area we work in the Mid West of Western Australia, we jumped at the chance to help a local women’s health organisation with a community campaign. The local project called Community, Respect and Equality, run by women’s health organisation, Desert Blue Connect, identified local champions in the community who wanted to speak out against family and domestic violence.

We worked with the champions and helped them develop radio messages that were broadcast on local community and commercial radio stations. I also had the privilege of working with one of the champions to record a video for social media (see below).

There is something very powerful when community come together and work towards positive change.

A mother, but still a child

Early marriage is a major obstacle for girls in acquiring education and has many physical, social and psychological implications. The girls are forced into this cycle of poverty, inequality and illiteracy.

One of the solutions to assist girls to escape discriminatory customary practices like early child marriage is providing education and skill building opportunities. Education is the most valuable asset and ultimately empowers the girls to reach their fullest potential.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which define global development include target 5.3 ‘Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilations’ (under Goal 5 ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’).

HCR faces these issues in some of the communities in which we work. Recently, in a village in Pakistan, an HCR associate was confronted with child marriage at a women’s empowerment session. A girl, aged 15, had an eighteen month old baby and was married to a 45 year old man. She is a mother, when she herself is still a child. In a culture that tends to be patriarchal, the birth of a son is celebrated as boys are considered assets who will provide support for ageing parents, whereas a daughter is often considered a liability. This traditional culture, along with poverty, reinforces practices like early child marriages.

At HCR we continue to work towards the education of girls and women all over the world and target many of the underlying issues that keep them in a cycle of poverty.  



Of spectacles, discrimination, women and empowerment

By Ross James, founder of HCR

Renovation work underway at the place where I am staying in Pakistan is screened from the lobby by a huge temporary wall of plywood sheets. Photos of famous Pakistanis and their memorable quotations decorate the screen, although I notice the Alvi brothers are absent: they’re acknowledged for creating ‘brain’, the first computer virus, which they created for a moral purpose, not anticipating the malicious havoc to be wrought by later descendants.

Abdus Salam (bottom of picture) was a theoretical physicist who was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work on electroweak unification, which predicted the Higgs Boson, the so-called ‘god particle’, decades before its 2012 discovery in the Large Hadron Collider, a part of the CERN particle physics laboratory located in a tunnel, deep beneath the Swiss-French border.

Salam founded the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy and it remains one of the world’s influential hubs for scientific research. He played a pivotal role in the development of nuclear energy and the atomic bomb project in Pakistan.

All this a remarkable achievement for a person who graduated from the Punjab University at the age of 14 and, although obeying his father’s wish to apply for a government job, was rejected for employment by the Pakistan Civil Services because he wore spectacles (!) and his young age. Salam ignored advice to become an English teacher and decided to pursue mathematics, a decision that eventually led to being the Chairman of Mathematics at the University of Punjab. Ironically, Salam’s attempts to include qantum mechanics (the field that he excelled in) as a part of the under-graduate curriculum failed, so he taught the subject in his own time to anyone interested in the subject.

Later, when the Pakistan government introduced legislation to declare that his Ahmaddiya sect was non-Islamic, Salam moved to England where he died in 1996. According to one report, despite his achievements, Salam's name appears in few Pakistani textbooks and is rarely mentioned by Pakistani leaders. His body was buried in his ancestral village in Pakistan under a gravestone that read 'First Muslim Nobel Laureate'. Pressured by authorities, the word 'Muslim' was scratched out.

There are multiple layers to Salam’s story, but HCR resonates with one layer that relates to the potential of human empowerment; although overlooked because he wore spectacles and discriminated against for his religious beliefs, Salam took advantage of his opportunities to effect transformation. At the heart of it, that is all we do in the marginalised communities we partner with. We encourage strategies that neither overlook nor discriminate against the powerless, but create potential for their empowerment. Qaid e Azam (Muhammad Ali Jinnah), the “father of Pakistan”—whose quote about women appears above that of Abdus Salam, and who strongly advocated freedom for every citizen of Pakistan to go his place of worship and action against social evils—would have approved.