WASHINGTON -- In recognition of March 8, International Women’s Day, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) continues to promote and celebrate the contributions of women who make headlines.
“Our female journalists are central to our work,” said RFE/RL President Jamie Fly. “Across our coverage area, they are reporting from the frontlines on issues as diverse as economics, war, and extremism. They are leading many of our language services and helping to ensure that we shine a light on human stories that will hopefully inspire future generations of women to be leaders in their societies, and perhaps even become journalists.”
To reflect this mission, RFE/RL this week published a set of videos in which successful women offered Advice to My Younger Self. The series includes testimonials from women from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
“Media tend to portray women as victims. But they're much more,” said RFE/RL Vice President and Editor in Chief Daisy Sindelar. "They are leaders in their fields -- entrepreneurs, scientists, athletes, and artists. They are moral standard-bearers in RFE/RL's communities and countries. Connecting with our female audience is a priority not only on March 8. It is our mission every day of the year."
In Bulgaria, for example, where RFE/RL resumed reporting last year after closing its bureau in 2004, women journalists have led the Service’s efforts to investigate high-level corruption. The Ukrainian Service’s Schemes team is led by a courageous group of women who have for over five years withstood threats and harassment to uncover abuses of public office in Ukraine.
RFE/RL women journalists are at the forefront of programs by the Balkan Service to combat extremism -- and they contend with a constant onslaught of cyberbullying and harassment as a result. In Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, they have been vilified online and labeled with expletives when their reporting has challenged official narratives or revealed policy failures, corruption, and cronyism among powerful elites.
RFE/RL’s Russian-language services have reported extensively on authorities' lack of commitment to combating violence against women and domestic abuse. Current Time, the 24/7 Russian language network, has used its unique documentary film platform to promote independent women filmmakers and tell women’s stories for global Russian-speaking audiences.
Persistent coverage by the Georgian Service of domestic abuse and gender-based political violence in the country’s patriarchal society has earned it a Facebook audience that is 65 percent female, with overall female engagement on the Service’s digital platforms commanding 63 percent.
RFE/RL’s services to Afghanistan and Pakistan have long placed women’s rights at the center of their journalistic mission. Both have numerous programs dedicated to women’s health and education, and platforms where women can engage each other on issues that they choose. While active on digital platforms, both services rely on radio to reach women who may live in remote areas without internet, or who lack the money or status to have access to an electronic device. The Afghan Service is monitoring current negotiations with the Taliban to discern their implications for the country’s women, and has launched a new fellowship to mentor young Afghan women journalists in Kabul.
Radio Farda, RFE/RL’s Iranian Service, continues to break down gender stereotypes while breaking through the government’s information blockade with reporting on women professionals, women protesters, and women political prisoners.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 37 million people in 26 languages and 22 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed over 3.6 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2019. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.