This June, one of the first all-women radio stations in the Arab world was launched from the most unlikely of places, the West Bank. Appropriately titled NISAA FM, (nisaa means “woman” in Arabic) this station is by women, for women.
Maysoun Odeh, founder and manager of NISAA FM, describes the aims of the station:
“NISAA FM motivates women through success stories and interaction, while at the same time creating employment, particularly for women. We also plan to introduce training on broadcasting techniques and journalism to enhance women’s professional participation in the field of information and communication.”
She adds, “We broadcast success stories of women regionally, internationally, or locally in which they [women] can take example from, and they know that they can do something and they can achieve something regardless of the situation.” The “situation” refers to living in Palestinian territories under occupation.
The former statement by Odeh speaks to the need for Palestinian women to be employed in order to support their households. Even more pressing is the need for Palestinian women to participate in professions which will give them a voice and at the same time give them the skills necessary to project their voices beyond women-centered spaces and into broader international spaces.
Newly launched, NISAA FM currently offers only two live programs. Nisreen Awwad hosts the morning show, titled “Qahwa Mazboot” (meaning “coffee that is just right”), which discusses important issues for women such as decision-making in the workplace or how to eat properly during pregnancy. Awwad also hosts guests, most of who are extraordinary women, excelling in the fields of art, literature or as leaders of service based projects and organizations.
In between these two shows are short news segments and a wide array of classical Arabic music for the listener’s pleasure. The majority of the songs are also by women–among them are the legendary voices of Fayrouz, Nibal Malshi, and Umm Kalthoum.
It is still too early to determine whether NISAA FM can survive the shifting Palestinian sociopolitical landscape. Nonetheless, the station is a testament to the autonomy of Arab and Muslim women living within Palestinian territories, despite the austere reality of occupation. This is a step toward positively altering the international perceptions of women living in Palestine.
NISAA FM allows Palestinian women’s voices to reach global audiences. Perhaps more importantly, it reaches across the wall that separates the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Talk about breaking down walls and building bridges!