A new radio station being operated from the Gaza Strip wants to be the voice of of Palestinian refugees. But most importantly, it wants to be the voice of women first.
Hawwa has been on the air since early August, Al-Monitor reports. Its director, Bahaa Abed, says that since he didn't have money to work with, he didn't pay for an FM broadcast band, opting to go online instead. For years, Abed saved his money so he could afford the equipment and the headquarters. By Aug. 5, the radio station went on air for the first time.
Some of the station's most discussed subjects include political and social issues, but emotional and personal stories are also covered. After all, Abed said, these stories are the ones that aren't being covered by the media.
Most importantly, Abed told reporters, is that other refugee camps like Nuseirat have access to the station's content.
“We want to broadcast to all refugee camps, especially since most camps are in low-altitude areas where the service is usually bad,” he explained.
During their daily broadcasts, Hawwa reports on issues faced by residents of the Gaza Strip, as well. Now that the region is suffering tremendously due to power outages, Abed said, Gaza residents rely on radio stations for their news.
“Despite the daily power cuts, people can still access the news via radio applications through their cellphones. Radio devices are relatively cheap and only require a couple of batteries to function,” he said.
In the first week of its existence, Hawwa's show host, Ibtisam Abu Shamala, said over 1 million people visited the website to listen to the broadcasts.
“Our shows alternate between social and cultural topics, entertainment, health and sports,” she said.
“We broadcast three hours in the morning, three in the afternoon and three in the evening — during all of which we tackle different and important topics,” she added.
Refugee women are given special coverage at Hawwa as they often deal with harsh living conditions.
In order to help inspire others who are listening, Hawwa focuses on hosting strong women who go through great ordeals to be productive members of the Palestinian refugee community.
One of the issues many of Gaza's women suffer has to do with legal matters as they often face problems with inheritance disputes and other difficulties before biased courts.
But perhaps one of the most interesting shows Hawwa features is hosted by Rawan Issa, who discusses stories depicting women who break the stereotypes.
“Some women do not dare talk about crucial family issues, thinking they have to follow their husband’s opinion. This is one of the most important topics I address, and I try to host guests with powerful opinions who express their readiness to take charge and change some of the negative aspects of our society,” Issa told reporters.
With so much to discuss and so many eager listeners ready to absorb the content, it's important that more entrepreneurs in Gaza and other Palestinian territories under occupation are able to amplify their voices like Abed has done with Hawwa.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Flickr user Lisa Nessan